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Opinion

Chancellor position requires specific qualities

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April 23, 2008

It was with sadness that I heard that Chancellor Don Betz was leaving to return to one of his old haunts. Though in the position for only three years, Betz has brought a great deal of energy and vitality to a campus that sorely needed it. I must say, however, that the relationship must be regarded as unfulfilling, if only because it was too short.

Every person must do what is right for them at any given time, and this means that we must all take into consideration the various factors in our lives and do what we feel is best. Obviously, there will be times when tough calls have to be made.

Chancellor Betz made a call that I’m sure is what he feels is right for him and his family. Now we are left to make a decision that will be best for the UW-River Falls family—namely, who will be the next UWRF chancellor.

I’d like to make some recommendations to the powers that be (or at least the committee that gets chosen to pursue filling this position) about the kind of person I think we need to successfully lead this University.

Having worked at five different colleges, I have some experience with meeting and getting to know the heads of the institutions I taught and coached at, but more importantly, I saw the personalities and the intellects that I felt made these individuals competent or not so competent leaders. So, here are my recommendations:

1) The new chancellor must truly be committed to being UWRF’s leader for at least 10 years. This means settling in, digging in their heels and making a commitment to helping this institution grow and prosper in uncertain times.

This person must be a recognizable face that students, faculty and staff are able to see as someone who has the University’s best interests in mind and will continue to pursue those interests for years to come.

2) The person chosen as the new chancellor, though certainly a vocal and forceful representative in Madison of this University, must spend the greatest part of their time as Chancellor right here on campus.

Though there are certainly things to deal with that will require our new leader to leave the cozy confines of River Falls, we have many issues that necessitate the new chancellor spending the majority of their time in North Hall and on campus.

3) Now, this next recommendation is one that I feel Betz was quite good at, and that is being a very good listener.

More than that, he was a very good questioner. On more than one occasion when we spoke, Don took the time to ask my opinions and listen carefully to my answers (though I wish he would have made this campus a non-smoking campus). My recommendation then is that the new chancellor be a person who asks questions and listens intently to the answers.

4) My final recommendation about the kind of person who should fill the position is that this person should be a keen judge of character and capability, and use this judgment to promote current faculty/staff or bring in quality newcomers to administrative positions that are key to this institution’s future.

I’d like to write in closing that I admire and will miss Betz.

I’m betting that the university in Oklahoma that Don is relocating to will prosper under his guidance. I just wish his stay had been a little longer.

Finally, to the powers that be who are still here helping to run this campus, some words of advice: stop meeting so much, make decisions and get things done.

Don’t forget to take a few minutes each day and just breathe.

Bill Henderson is the head coach of swimming and diving at UWRF and serves as the athletic department’s equipment manager. He received his bachelor’s degree in journalism and his master’s in physical education from Sacramento State in California.