A Southern Illinois University Edwardsville graduate may soon take the reins as the ninth chancellor of SIUE.
Randall Pembrook, currently vice president of academic affairs at Washburn University in Topeka, Kan., has been named as the next chancellor following a nine-month search that considered 65 candidates. His appointment is tentative pending approval by the SIU board of trustees.
“I am absolutely thrilled to be selected as the next chancellor of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville,” Pembrook said. “For me, it truly feels like coming home.”
Pembrook has served as the chief academic officer at Washburn University since January 2011. In his time at Washburn, the university has implemented more than 15 new programs, including a doctorate of nursing practice, masters programs in addiction counseling, health sciences, law and other programs, and new bachelor’s degrees in entrepreneurship, environmental biology and forensics, among others.
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Pembrook began his own academic career with an associate’s degree from Lewis & Clark Community College before earning a bachelor’s and masters degree in music education and piano performance from SIUE in 1978 and 1980 respectively. He earned his doctorate in music education from Florida State University in 1984.
I’m returning to my alma mater, which has grown significantly in national stature as well as student enrollment.
Randall Pembrook, SIUE’s next chancellor if approved by board of trustees
He has previously served as department chairman, division chairman, associate dean and eventually dean of the Conservatory of Music and Dance at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He then served in several administrative capacities at Baker University, including interim vice president for enrollment management and provost.
SIUE made the informal announcement via Twitter and press release Monday morning, with a statement from SIU President Randy Dunn thanking the 21-person committee of faculty, staff, students and alumni that worked on the national search for a new chancellor. He sais he was excited about Pembrook’s selection.
“Randy’s extensive background and experience in higher education, in addition to family ties in southwestern Illinois and his two degrees from SIUE, make him an outstanding fit with the necessary skills to lead the campus toward even greater successes in the years to come,” Dunn said.
Committee chairman Gireesh Gupchup, dean of the SIUE School of Pharmacy, said the committee was dedicated to the task of selecting a chancellor who fit SIUE’s mission, vision and values.
“The talented candidate pool was fully vetted,” Gupchup said. “We are extremely pleased that Dr. Pembrook has agreed to lead SIUE as we continue our success.”
SIUE’s previous chancellor was Julie Furst-Bowe, who served three years before leaving to become vice president of instruction at Chippewa Valley Technical College in her home state of Wisconsin. Since then, Stephen Hansen has served as interim chancellor, but indicated from the beginning he had no desire to seek the position in a permanent capacity.
“I’m returning to my alma mater, which has grown significantly in national stature as well as student enrollment,” Pembrook said. “Because of SIUE’s people and its location, there are many amazing opportunities ahead. There are also challenges, particularly at this moment with budgets, but with the help of outstanding individuals at the institution and in the community, I know we will continue to achieve great things as a university.”
A metro-east native, Pembrook and his wife, Mary Jo, have two daughters, Sarah and Rachel.
“I will be within an hour of my hometown and family in Greenfield, and look forward to working diligently for the citizens of southwest Illinois, the state in general and the region to continue SIUE’s standing as a valued higher education partner,” Pembrook said.
Pembrook’s compensation is still being worked through, Dunn said, but the proposal to the board will be a standard administrator contract with an annual base salary he estimated “in the $300,000 range.” Furst-Bowe’s base salary was $302,500 when she left, at which time she was the lowest-paid university chancellor or president in Illinois.
There is no longer a housing allowance or bonus and incentive clauses included in SIU administration contracts, Dunn said, and the retirement and insurance coverage will be the same as provided to all other full-time employees.
The SIU Board of Trustees next meets on July 14 in Springfield and will vote on Pembrook’s contract. Assuming he is confirmed, Pembrook will begin his term as chancellor in August.
Q&A with SIUE’s Next Chancellor
- Q: What do you see happening during your first 100 days as chancellor?
- A: It will be an amazing balance between meetings on campus and off campus. One of the challenges is getting to know the people who know what’s going on; it’s like jumping on a moving train… (There will be) a series of meetings with leaders on campus to make sure I understand what they’re wanting to do. But as I said in my presentation (during the interview process), I think the key is making partners in the community and finding areas that serve both the community and higher education. I kind of know the geography of the area, but the people have changed in the last 30 to 40 years. It’ll be exciting meeting them.
- Q: What experiences can you bring from your other positions to SIUE?
- A: What we’ve tried to do is work very hard in terms of building the partnerships: our forensics program works closely with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, working with hospitals and community engagement projects. If there’s one thing that would be very important, it would be to move the university forward in connecting to the community. I like to think of the community engagement part as students practicing what thy’re learning to address community challenges and problems.
- Q: What are the biggest changes you’ve noticed since your time at SIUE?
- A: It had been 25 to 30 years since I’d been on the campus, so when I (visited) in the first week of May, it was a trip down memory lane. Many of the buildings were there when I was there in 1976 to 1980, but it was a skeleton of the buildings I remembered. Many of the gaps in between have been filled in with new buildings. At that time, only 400 people could live on campus, but to drive the perimeter now and see the student housing and all the people who can live on campus was incredibly exciting.
- Q: SIUE is currently undergoing a potential unionization of the faculty. What are your thoughts about that?
- A: It is a decision that the faculty will have to make. It would be best for the chancellor not to be involved in that, or be a proponent one way or the other. I’m just waiting to see what happens with that process.
- Q: SIUE has a long history of transfer students; you yourself were a transfer student from Lewis & Clark. What can be done to help transfers and nontraditional students over the age of 25, which are an increasing part of college demographics?
- A: One of the reasons I ended up at SIUe after starting at Lewis & Clark was that the process was very clear and expectations were very clear. (At Washburn) we’ve done things like fall and spring workshops with the community colleges so our faculty and staff get to know them… People develop relationships, so they know who to call if they have a question. Dual advising… allows students to be advised from the beginning at Lewis & Clark, so the classes (have) a seamless transfer. The main key is to make sure the completion institution is talking to community colleges and building those relationships.
- (Nontraditional students) are an emerging part of the college population. There are additional things that come from that; a nontraditional student may have a military background or be a veteran, may have certain benefits. A part-time student might be working to finish their education. What formats are things being offered in? Not just online vs. face-to-face, but are all your models based on 15 weeks three times a week? Or do you try an intense period of three to four weeks, or weekends across a semester? One thing we’re talking about at Washburn is what support systems might be needed for nontraditional students, such as child care and food services. What are the unique needs of nontraditional students and how can we help meet them?
- In Kansas, one thing we did that we think may grow our economy is look at certificate programs. They’re 12 to 18 hours that provide people with a level of expertise in a given field… It’s another part of the continuing evolution in higher education.
- Q: How would you describe your leadership style?
- A: I tend to ask questions and then spend a lot of time listening, because I think it’s important to get the perspective of the people who are there. The people I’ll be working with have done a great job for 10, 15, up to 30 years, so I’ll listen and ask questions. What do you think is important, and what resources do we have to address this? If people are making a case for a new direction, I tend to ask for data; believe it or not for a musician, my PhD had a lot of statistics in it! Listening and reviewing data are important for a leader.
- Q: What attracted you to return to SIUE?
- A: One of the things that attracted me was a wonderful combination of a liberal arts education and the number of graduate and professional programs has continued to grow… I’m incredibly excited to return home.
This Q&A was compiled from a conference call with area journalists Monday afternoon.