Administrative changes bring ‘new day’

Tessa Duvall

For students, the beginning of a new school year means new professors, new books and a new schedule.

For President Gary Ransdell, this year brings new leadership and a renewed resolve to focus on the university’s priorities.

At last week’s faculty and staff convocation, Ransdell ushered in “a new day” at WKU.

In the past year, WKU has replaced four members of the 12-member administrative council, and a fifth search – for the vice president for Development and Alumni Relations – is expected to be completed this fall.

Ransdell said he is energized by the presence of the new administrators at WKU.

“I’ve got great confidence in the new leaders we are hiring,” Ransdell said.

Gordon Baylis, vice president for Research, has only been on the Hill since Aug. 16, but said he has spotted “enormous opportunities” on campus.

“There’s so much potential here,” he said.

Baylis said he hopes to make research opportunities more widely available to faculty who may not currently have the time or facilities to do so.

Gordon Emslie, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, began his new role July 1. Since then, he’s been busy transitioning into his job and meeting new people, an experience he said has been very positive overall.

Emslie said he sees the university continuing to brand its degree so that a degree from WKU becomes synonymous with critical thinking and engaged students.

Athletics Director Ross Bjork officially began his job at WKU on April 26 after serving as senior associate athletic director at UCLA for the last five years.

Ransdell said Bjork is well-connected and has done a great job so far.

Also new to WKU in the last year is Robert Owen, vice president for Information Technology.

In Owen’s time at WKU, the university has released an iWKU iPhone application, switched to NetIDs and most recently upgraded the wireless networks for students and visitors on campus.

Ransdell said Owen has brought great innovation and ability to the executive leadership at WKU.

The administrative council won’t be complete until a vice president for Development and Alumni Relations has been hired to replace Tom Hiles, former vice president for Institutional Advancement. Hiles left WKU after 12 years this summer for a similar job at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio.

Ransdell said a national search of private and public institutions is currently underway to find a replacement for Hiles.

Because there is less than two years remaining in WKU’s ongoing capital campaign, there is a greater sense of urgency to fill this position with a seasoned professional, he said.

“There’s a lot at stake,” Ransdell said.

The new vice president will inherit an operation that already runs well, and their main focus should be how to grow the current baseline in the future, he said.