Dr. Jonathan Gibralter is currently president of Frostburg State University in Maryland. He went to Northern Kentucky University Thursday afternoon to interview for the position of president.
During his time on campus, he sat down with 9 News to give us some insight into his background and perspective. Below is a set of questions we asked the candidate.
Q: As a university president, what are your priorities?
Dr. Jonathan Gibralter: "As President of any university, obviously my top priority is establishing what those priorities would be and coming in to any new university, I think what's most important is to understand the culture of the university and to understand the relationship the university has with a lot of the local community and to develop priorities around those, what is most important to the citizens, what is most important to the faculty staff and students."
Q: In your short time here have you noticed anything that stood out to you regarding the relationship between the community the students and the professors?
JG: "It seems, my observation honestly, is that there's an incredible synergy in the relationship between the community and the university. And that as a major metropolitan university, NKU has really opened its doors and embraced the community in a way I haven't seen in higher education in quite some time."
Q: How do you hope to manage budget cuts?
JG: "There are different ways in thinking about budget cuts, and I see that NKU under Dr. Votruba's leadership has looked at how to be a more efficient university and looking at it in every way from cost savings, to how long it takes to get students through to a degree, student retention rate, they've looked at all of these issues and because of the success of this university, and the growth of this enrollment and the stability of the university in the region, I think they've been able to endure the budget cuts as well or better as most universities in American higher education."
Q: You've spoken about the high risk of drinking on college campuses. Could you elaborate?
JG: "Last year, 1825 American college students died from binge drinking, high risk drinking. That is drinking in a short period of time more alcohol then they should ever consume. That does not include the numbers of assaults and sexual assaults and other issues that go along with high risk drinking. At Frostburg State University, in 4 years we've been able to reduce our high risk drinking rate more than any other college in the United States, and we've done that by a broad based collaboration of people both in law enforcement, landlords, students, members of the local community, faculty and staff. We've really worked on a broad based solution to high risk drinking. Sometimes students misunderstand and think that I'm a prohibitionist, and against alcohol, and that is not what this is about. In fact, I really feel very strongly that students have to make choices about their lives. What matters most to me is that students don't put themselves in a situation that they may regret, that causes harm to them, or harm to somebody else."Q
Q: By doing that, have you noticed a higher graduation rate or more success for the students?
JG: "Well, I can't say that there's an absolute correlation, but I can tell you that in the last five years, we have gone from the lowest enrollment we've had in 17 years, to the highest enrollment we've had in the history of the university, and our retention rate has gone from 67% to 74%. And at the same time that I've been really working on high risk drinking, sometimes people are concerned that if you do anything about alcohol that alumni are going to stop giving, we've successfully completed a 5 year campaign in 3 years and went $1.7 million dollars above our goal."
Q: What sets you apart from the other candidates?
JG: "I think what sets me apart from other candidates, honestly, is that I've been a university president for ten years. I'm good at what I do. I'm a very good listener. I really am very thoughtful about my job, and I think that I would be a really, really strong candidate, a strong next President for Northern Kentucky University."
Q: And why Northern Kentucky?
JG: "This is a world class metropolitan university and I can't imagine a better place for me to spend the rest of my career in higher education."
Dr. Gibralter will be followed by Dr. David Eisler, the president of Ferris State University in Michigan, and Geoffrey S. Mearns, who is the provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Cleveland State University as NKU's Search and Screening Committee continues to interview the candidates.