If Dr. King Banaian, the new permanent dean of the School of Public Affairs, could describe his 31 years of experience at SCSU in one word, it would be “fulfilling.”
Throughout the time spent here, he has worked as a professor, former state legislator, head of the economics department, research director and the interim dean of the school of public affairs, to name a few.
Most recently, Banaian landed the permanent position as the dean for the School of Public Affairs. He said his love for teaching, research and impacting others is what has kept him here all of these years.
“He has a passion for research, having published numerous high-quality academic articles, he has traveled to foreign countries to help them strengthen their economy and banking system, and he ran for political office, having represented this district in the state House of Representatives,” said Eric Hampton, the interim chair of the economics department. “Plus, he is always going from one event to another talking to people all the time, with a big smile on his face.”
So how exactly did the northern Boston native make it to the St. Cloud area?
After attending graduate school in Claremont, Calif., he was expecting his son around that time and he needed a job. After interviewing a bunch of places, he noticed St. Cloud State had an opening for the chair of the Economics Department. He met with the dean, who sat in the very office Banaian is in today, and convinced him to make the move to Central Minnesota.
“We chose this place and moved up here in 1984, and we just decided to never leave,” Banaian said.
Banaian said one of the few things that argues against the position of being the permanent dean is that he would not be in the classroom. When he took the position as interim dean, he wasn’t able to teach anymore, but his drive to help others carried over with the job.
“Honestly what keeps me here, and what kept me here, is that I love this area and being in the classroom. The worst part of my current job is that I don’t get to teach,” Banaian said.
He still remembers job offers that he turned down in order to stay at SCSU. One specifically paid well, and involved traveling internationally 25 to 30 weeks of the year to foreign capitols, and it was a non-academic job. While contemplating the offer, Banaian taught a summer class.
“I remember walking down to my office, picking up the phone and calling the people back who made the job offer, and said, ‘I thank you so much, you have been very generous and it’s a great offer, but I just spent the last hour and a half in a classroom and I remembered why I got my Ph.D, thank you, but no,’ then I hung up the phone,” Banaian said. “I didn’t even tell my wife, so I had to go home and tell her that I gave up a job that would have paid us about 60 percent more than what we were currently making a year,” he said with a laughed.
To name some of the best moments he has had at SCSU, he recalled becoming the research director for the School of Public Affairs. He said it was a good time because he was able to represent graduate students and help support their education through research opportunities.
But, he said that having the opportunity to strip the ‘interim’ from his title when offered the permanent position was a pretty great moment too.
Throughout his many years here, Banaian said he has gotten to know his colleagues very well. And, according to Hampton, Banaian is not just a smiling face among SCSU’s staff and faculty, but is known all over the nation.
Hampton remembered a time him and some team members were in New York City’s Central Park and met some people there as they were discussing St. Cloud. The first thing the people asked was, “Do you know King Banaian?”
“That is what King can do – he can connect people and bring them together,” Hampton said.
His colleague Richard MacDonald, an associate professor of economics and interim director of the School of Public Affairs said, “King is probably the most dedicated professional I have ever known. His energy for the considerable amount of work we do together continues to amaze me. His work ethic and dedication to quality in everything we do is driven by a passion for excellence.”
Banaian said the school’s decision for wanting him to stay longer is very meaningful to him.
“I will go wherever I am asked to be here. This is where I want to be and the folks here know who I am. The rest of it is really up to God, and I think he wants me to stay here at this university,” said Banaian.