Saturday, February 09, 2013

Turner Brings Can-Do Entrepreneurial Spirit to New Role as Chair of Board of Regents

Nothing about EKU's new Board of Regents Chair strikes me as timid. Craig Turner held the Chair for about ten minutes when he called together campus leadership and directed that they find $23 million in the budget to "set aside." Presumably, this will allow the new president a platform for making forward-looking changes in the university's business plan.

The campus is well-past incremental savings on paper and photocopying. A cut of this size will necessarily impact programs and people.

Some have remarked that Turner may still need time to to learn the inner workings of university programs, and without that knowledge, well-intended decisions might produce undesirable results. For example, KSN&C was told that he presented data that was targeted toward programs with small enrollments. But Turner apparently did not know that programs and titles change all the time, and many of the students he identified were really part of larger programs with a new name. When campus leadership provides its budget feedback we will learn how well he can listen and learn.

He has already proven that he can pull the trigger. The question is whether he can aim.

This from Eastern Kentucky University:

His family roots run deep at Eastern Kentucky University.

When he crossed the EKU commencement stage in 1975, Craig Turner was following the footsteps of both his educator parents, Floyd County natives who later moved to Michigan. His wife, Madonna, who grew up in Pikeville, also earned a degree from Eastern.

Craig Turner photoBut the newly-elected chair of EKU’s Board of Regents and chair of its Presidential Search and Screening Committee isn’t looking backward. Mindful and appreciative of the University’s rich heritage but not bound by it, Turner says his alma mater must be open to change as it strives to become “more financially self-sufficient.”

As a highly successful Lexington-based businessman and entrepreneur, Turner knows a thing or two about taking on challenges. As the founder, CEO and chairman of MedPro Safety Products and founder and CEO of CRM Companies, he has welcomed and embraced change rather than merely reacted to it.
“I’m a risk-taker,” he said. “Challenges excite me.”

It’s how this EKU political science graduate (1975) with an already successful career in public service and industrial development – he headed the Commmonwealth’s efforts under Govs. John Y. Brown and Martha Layne Collins – explains his move to launch a firm in the mid-1990s that manufactures and distributes medical devices that protect the healthcare worker and the patient. When the federal Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act was passed in 2001, MedPro, now publicly traded, was positioned to capitalize on change.

In addition, CRM Companies, a commercial real estate development company, manages  more than 3.5 million square feet throughout the U.S. The company owns and operates a variety of properties, including hotels, restaurants, and its facilities management group, and employs more than 400 people.
Turner attributes his business success on both fronts to “determination and self-confidence, a strong inner belief in my ability to be successful and make a difference,” as well as an insistence on transparency.

And it’s those very qualities that Turner carries into his roles at EKU.

“My goal as Board chair is to help Eastern run more efficiently … create resources that give people the tools to do it better,” he said. “We have to figure out ways to be better stewards and concentrate on what we do best. We want to be sure our hallmark programs remain centers of excellence … and take the programs that aren’t working well and re-evaluate them.”

As he struggles to help the University cope with dwindling state support, it’s hardly the first time he has tackled adversity. Turner arrived at Eastern in 1971 on a basketball scholarship to play for then-Coach Guy Strong, but a motorcycle accident his freshman year shattered his right leg and, with it, his dreams.

“Like everybody,” he said, “I assumed I would be playing in the NBA. I had to learn to walk again. I came back and played, but I wasn’t the same.”

So he settled into academic life at Eastern, where he found the small classes and personal attention to his liking. “I found the faculty to be more like step-parents,” he recalled. “I was at a school that still took roll call, which, for my personality, was needed. I needed the structure. Somebody once told me my mind was like a NASCAR race because it never stopped. It’s very difficult for me to stop and think about process.”

In much the same way, Eastern must keep re-inventing itself to stay on top of its game, Turner said.
“Our tradition is something to build upon … but we must continue to be innovative, continue to be resourceful. We are surrounded by outstanding (educational) institutions. The competition is stiffer, so we have to figure out how we prove we can make a difference. This is a transformational time for us and if we pull the right lever, we’ll head down the right path.”

As chair of the University’s Presidential Search and Screening Committee, Turner is leading the effort to find the perfect leader for his alma mater.

“I’m looking for a leader who is dynamic … who has the ability to get people to follow.”

Whatever the future holds, Turner is certain it shouldn’t mirror the past.

“We must be accepting of change,” he said. “The unknowns are what scares everybody, but if we are transparent about our direction, people will buy into it.”

That’s why Turner took the unprecedented step recently to address academic and institutional support leadership of the University at a campus meeting. His remarks included a call for collaboration and cooperation in identifying where 10 percent of the University’s budget (or approximately $23 million) could be set aside, partly for salary improvements – he believes EKU employees are the institution’s greatest strengths – and strategic purposes.

Turner believes significant advancements and realignment are needed in EKU’s development efforts to establish a more robust financial base, including increasing fundraising and gifting to the University.

“Today is an example of the change I’ve been talking about,” he said shortly before the meeting. “I want the university community to see that this Board is involved, that it really knows what’s going on. I want everybody to understand that this Board is stepping forward to talk about ‘the elephant in the room.’ And if we don’t know what’s going on, then tell us.”
This from The Herald-Leader:
Eastern Kentucky University will lay off employees as it seeks to reallocate 10 percent of its budget, outgoing President Doug Whitlock announced this week.

News of the work-force reduction was included in the last paragraph of an email Whitlock sent to faculty and staff Thursday that explained how and why the university intends to alter spending. A statement that included bullet points from the email was released to media outlets Friday.

The university has not determined how many or which employees will be let go, or when they might be notified. Whitlock said employees who are eligible to retire will be encouraged to do so.

"I am committed to this being a fair and humane process, but it must also be one driven by our decisions relative to (our) core mission," Whitlock's email said. "One of the most pressing tasks at hand will be the development of a process to govern a reduction in force."

The expected staff cuts come as EKU evaluates programming and services in an attempt to free up about $23 million for new priorities, including employee raises, program improvements and new strategic initiatives.

Craig Turner, chairman of the EKU Board of Regents, said the reallocation of funds was intended to shore up the university's hallmark programs.

"I've used the example that we need to shed weight and build muscle," he said.

A recently appointed Strategic Budget Reallocation Task Force will examine all aspects of EKU's spending by April 1 and then make recommendations on where cuts can be made by May 1, Whitlock said.

Whitlock, who will retire July 31, said his successor will help figure out what core programs and services to imbue with the freed-up funds.

The overhaul stems from a budget shortfall caused in part by reductions in state funding to all public universities, Whitlock and Turner said. State funding for EKU has dropped 16.4 over the last five years, they said.

Officials from the University of Kentucky also partially blamed a reduction in state funding last year when they laid off 140 employees, about 1 percent of its work force.

"Financial support from the state isn't getting any greater, so we need to be proactive in finding out how we can be more self-sufficient," Turner said.

Whitlock also noted that student enrollment had declined by about 400 students in the last two years to about 15,300. EKU has developed a plan to increase enrollment, but "you can't bank on unrealized tuition revenues to bail you out," he said.

The university has dealt with previous budget shortfalls by upping tuition for in-state students and instituting a hiring freeze. Faculty and staff have not received significant raises "in quite some time," Turner said.

Whitlock's email to faculty and staff was prompted in part by concerns from some faculty that they were not represented well enough on the Strategic Budget Reallocation Task Force.

Professor Christiane Taylor, president of the Chair's Association, a group of department heads at EKU, sent an e-mail to Whitlock asking him to explain how the task force differs from the standing Strategic and Financial Planning Council, which has several faculty representatives.

"The next day, the Chairs' Association received a reply from President Whitlock, which was identical to the letter sent to the rest of the institution," Taylor said in an email. "In that letter, he explained his rationale for Task Force membership and clarified the relationship between the Task Force and the existing university committee."

Whitlock explained in his email that the Strategic and Financial Planning Council will review all of the task force's recommendations.

Messages seeking comment from the chairman and vice-chairman of the EKU Faculty Senate were not returned Friday afternoon.

Whitlock, 69, announced his retirement in August. He indicated that pending budget restructuring played a role in his decision to retire.

"I'm proud of what we've accomplished on my watch, but this institution needs a new capital campaign, and you have to have the same president from start to finish," he said at the time.

Turner, who is chairman of the Presidential Search and Screening Committee, said he couldn't reveal much about the search for Whitlock's replacement. He said the committee will narrow the field to eight or 10 candidates at a meeting Feb. 20.

"Right now we have a really strong-looking pool of candidates," he said.
ead more here:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ok enrollment is a little down and state has decreased their committment, but 23 million reduction? EKU leaders may insulate their consciences by claiming to be victims of decreasing enrollment and state reductions but seems to me that this also a management issue. Regardless of the argument that funding came from other buckets than the general operational funds, the reality is at the same time it was divesting itself of the Arlington money pit, it was creating new ones on campus.

The campus got cultural and operational stablization for the last few years but it didn't get the revolutionary vision which it is going to have to embrace.

If we are not going to creatively redesign the university's financing and instructional delivery systems instead trudge down the industrial era path of managment then I would propose that as they start handing out pink slips to facilities and clerical staff that they consider expanding teaching loads by one course for each faculty member and release time from instruction only when that time is compensated by equivalent grant research funding. If you can't increase your enrollment then provide more classes for them to enroll in now that we are on a credit hour system. Faculty are going to have to accept some of the collective reponsiblity for the instutition they have thrown their lot. Instead of belly aching about low salaries do something to increase tuition intake other than raising the prices on students.

Funny how under the same state reduction in support conditions all the other unversities are able to float bonds for construction except EKU and K-state. (Are we really functioning at a K-state operational level?) I hope this guy can help get us on a new path.