Robert Frank, former president of the University of New Mexico, discussed topics such as diversity, international students and his initial plans if selected as Ohio University's president.
Speaking to more than 100 attendees in the third presidential search forum, Frank fielded multiple questions about diversity and international students, most of which were about attracting a diverse student body, including first-generation students and underrepresented minorities.
He cited his work with a program for Native American students that offers them an enrichment program to help with writing, math and adjusting to a different environment.
“A lot of student success programs have to focus on who the students are (that) you want and what kind of support they need,” Frank said. “Despite this heterogeneity of New Mexico, we’ve tried to look at each group and break down their needs and understand.”
Hashim Pashtun, president of the International Student Union and a graduate student at OU, said when international students are looking at universities in the U.S., rankings play a major role.
“That’s the first thing that a … student outside of the United States will look at if they want to choose Ohio University,” Pashtun said. “146th means 145 universities (are) better.”
Frank stressed the importance of international partnerships and university programs, so international students can learn about OU through means other than rankings.
He also outlined some of the main priorities he would address in the next five years if he were to become OU's president.
One of those priorities includes focusing on student success measures, such as retention rates, which he would like to increase from about 79 percent to 85 percent.
He also said he would emphasize the importance of innovation, corporate partnership and the investment in faculty.
“I have to hear your experiences before I can refine that vision tighter and say ‘here’s where we go forward,’ ” he said. “What I can pledge to you is listening and hearing what you’ve done, where you think there are opportunities, where we can find successes and going out to the community and asking questions and not coming in and prescribing.”
Lois Whealey, an Athens resident, said it's important for the next president to continue to develop OU’s relationship with the community.
"I think OU does important things for the community, and we have things like Rural Action," she said, adding that she used to work for the organization. "I could always appreciate the people who were active with Rural Action who were also associated with the university."
Frank also discussed his decision not to seek a second term as the University of New Mexico’s president after recently having a conflict with the university’s Board of Regents, according to the Albuquerque Journal. He is currently on sabbatical after he left his office at the university in early January, a situation that he addressed during the forum.
“Most things about the University of New Mexico have been phenomenal. The faculty is phenomenal, the staff is phenomenal, the students amaze us every day," he said. “The Board of Regents is a tougher issue. They haven’t had a two-term president in more than 30 years there. I think I told the search committee that they eat presidents for lunch and spit them out and I was a very tasty morsel, so I’ve had my difficulties … it was clear there was not a future there.”
He previously served as provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs at Kent State University. He holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of New Mexico, the same university he earned a master’s and bachelor’s degree.
Duane Nellis, former president of Texas Tech University, kicked off the forums Tuesday by discussing diversity, transparency and athletic spending. At the second forum, Dean Bresciani, president of North Dakota State University, described his experience as a first-generation college student and discussed initiatives focusing on issues of sexual assault and tensions with campus activists.
None of the three candidates spoke to the media. Pam Benoit, executive vice president and provost, will speak at the final open forum Jan. 17.