On Jan. 6, the board of trustees named Dr. Carol Cartwright BGSU’s 10th president and the first woman to lead the institution. With the stability provided by a proven, effective and highly regarded leader, the University can move ahead into its second century with confidence, said board Chair John Harbal.
“We are blessed and lucky to have her as our leader in what can only be described as choppy waters,” Harbal said following the vote.
The move changes Cartwright’s interim status and extends her contract past the original June 2009 conclusion date for an additional two years, until June 2011.
In accepting the position, Cartwright said, “I have felt very welcome at BGSU, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to continue working with a committed team in serving the University’s mission.”
Cartwright wasted no time in looking forward to the next steps BGSU will take in charting its course through the challenges posed by the current budget and enrollment declines, the important work with the University System of Ohio and the next steps in developing our strategic plan.
“Out of challenges come opportunities, regardless of the circumstances,” the new president declared, exhibiting the enthusiasm for positive change that has made her such an effective leader throughout her career and in her six months at BGSU.
“From day one, she has embraced the process of strategic planning and of working with the University System of Ohio,” Harbal said. Her familiarity with Ohio gained during her tenure as president of Kent State University, her stature in the higher education community and her extensive leadership experience position her especially well to lead Bowling Green, he added.
“While the challenges are significant,” Cartwright said, “they also present an opportunity for Bowling Green to think about what kind of university we are and the kind of university we will be going forward. With our centennial on the horizon, we are looking toward the next century, and how the University might redefine itself to meet the needs of future students. This is a time when we must begin to launch the initiatives that will help us prepare our students for what is to come.
“It will be important to make decisions that reflect our strengths and identity and are responsive to Ohio’s needs and expectations. We will need to make strategic investments that position us to realize our goals and solidify our base.
“I am privileged to be asked to lead us toward achieving those goals,” Cartwright said.
The best fit
Following the special board meeting, search committee member Jill Carr, dean of students, said that the process was “always about finding the best candidate to meet the needs of faculty, staff and students.” In developing the profile for the next president, she said, “we realized that profile fit Dr. Cartwright.” The interim president was exceptionally well received not only on campus but in the greater community, Carr said. Keeping her was “definitely in the institution’s best interests but most especially for our students,” she added.
Harbal said the interim president’s personality and firm leadership of BGSU through myriad changes at the university, state and national levels kept prompting the committee, the campus and the outside community to ask if she would be willing to stay on. But until recently, her answer had been a decisive no. “The conversations that began in early fall became a chorus,” Harbal said, adding, “We kept asking, and this time our persistence paid off.”
Cartwright explained that she had always been firm in her resolve to stay only a year, “but the world has changed a great deal since I made that announcement last June.”
There were several factors at work, from the national economic crisis to Bowling Green’s biennial budget and enrollment challenges and continuing leadership for strategic planning—but “the tipping point that made me rethink my decision was the resignation of the provost,” she said. While no one could have foreseen that development, Cartwright said, “it changed my thinking about staying.
“As you may know, I’ve always been called to public service, and I am committed to this community and the opportunity to make a difference.”
Engagement with the task
Known for building strong teams that work together to solve problems, Cartwright’s eagerness to continue grappling with Bowling Green’s challenges and opportunities was apparent as she discussed some of the next steps that must be taken.
She explained that there are two cornerstones of successful leadership and decision making. First is keeping your eye solidly on the mission and priorities of the institution, and second is working closely with a leadership team that has a good grasp of all of the issues and details.
“Our University’s leadership team is working extremely well together,” she assured, “and that bodes well for the future.”