In 16 years as president, Ken Dobbins has worked on building partnerships with alumni, donors, business owners, parents, students and legislators. With so many moving pieces, it might be easy to let those on-campus partnerships suffer. However, the people who have worked most closely with Dr. Dobbins make a case for just how powerful a partner and an advocate he has been for Southeast’s faculty and staff during his presidency.
Being a leader means making tough decisions. While Ken Dobbins accepts that as president the buck stops with him, his administration has always been focused on having all interested parties at the table for discussion, debate and decision-making.
“The one thing that stands out in my mind is the importance of shared governance,” says Brady Barke, senior associate to the president and Board of Regents’ secretary. “As a leader, everyone will not always be happy with the decisions that are made, but the ability to ensure the appropriate people are at the table for the discussion goes a long way to ensuring not only a proper decision but also that people trust and respect the process.”
“There were several times during my early days in the President’s Office, when I thought the President would just arbitrarily make a decision and institute change,” says Diane Sides, associate to the president. “But Dr. Dobbins taught me that being a leader is about guiding constituents to garner buy-in and leading them in making the best decision for the organization.”
Dr. Susan Swartwout, professor of English and director of the Southeast University Press, says the respect of Southeast’s process is known beyond the campus.
“When I was Faculty Senate chair attending the annual meeting in Jefferson City, several of the University of Missouri campuses’ senators expressed their envy at how much information Southeast faculty are given by our president and how much our faculty is involved in the University business. They had no such privileges.”
The privileges cannot be just described as simple sharing of information. Swartwout, and anyone who’s participated in that shared governance, says debate was welcome.
“I challenged him on a variety of issues as a faculty member, and he always heard me out, even when we continued to disagree,” says Dr. Allen Gathman, professor of biology and associate dean of online learning. “He will change his mind if you present a good argument for it.”
Good arguments will be one of Dr. Diane Wood’s favorite memories of Dobbins. And, Wood, a professor of biology and immediate past chair of Faculty Senate, says there are plenty from which to choose.
“We have an interesting relationship,” she says. “We truly like each other; we’re not always happy with each other, but we do respect each other. I don’t always agree with him, but we’re okay with that because he doesn’t always agree with me.”
Wood says she tends to be pretty passionate and the president has learned how to “push her buttons” and finds it entertaining to get her going in executive committee meetings. Despite passionate discussions, she says his loyalty to the University and its employees is his most outstanding personal trait.
“He has had a deep commitment to improving faculty compensation,” says Dr. Walt Lilly, professor of biology. “Time and time again, he worked to provide the largest compensation increases possible for faculty, despite low budgets and many competing and higher profile priorities. His support of the post-professorial promotion process has probably done more to reward senior faculty for their service than any other merit-based compensation system that could have been implemented.”
Dr. Ed Leoni had the difficult task of leading the committee to transition Southeast from Indians to Redhawks, and while he knew the path would be rocky, he says he couldn’t have done it without Dr. Dobbins.
“He was great leader,” says Leoni. “He didn’t mandate, it was ‘explore, I’ll give you all the support you need.’ My job was very difficult on the front lines, and I know without his style of leadership, it would have never worked because he was not forceful but quite supportive.”
Dr. Jim Dufek, professor of mass media, says at its core, being a capable president takes leadership. “You have to have someone who has the means to address issues of fiscal responsibility; the well-being of students (personally and academically); infrastructure; maintaining a leadership team that translates to a competent faculty and staff, which makes a quality student body. Leadership. This is a pretty big ship to navigate, and you need a competent captain that can keep us on course—Dobbins did this.”
Dr. & Mrs. Dobbins visiting with Dr. Vijay Anand, Dr. Bruce Skinner and Lt. Ken Gullet during their retirement reception.
June 18, 2015
June 16, 2015
June 11, 2015