As the 2017-2018 academic year comes to an end, Ashish Vaidya won’t be sitting atop the Administrative building starting in the fall. The interim president of SCSU has accepted a job with Northern Kentucky University.
Despite his departure, Vaidya said he has mixed feelings about leaving his fellow Huskies behind.
“It’s become a part of my life,” he said. “At the same time, I’m excited to start a new journey, but I have to admit, it’s not easy.”
After he made the announcement last fall, SCSU has been on the hunt for a new president to fill his shoes, but the search hasn’t happened overnight. As of right now, there are four finalists in the running to become SCSU’s next president.
They include former Tuskeegee University President Brian Johnson, University of Northern Colorado Administrator Robbyn Wacker, Bloomberg University Student Affairs President Dione Somerville and University of Nebraska-Omaha Vice Chancellor Daniel Shipp.
As the saying goes, with great power, comes great responsibility, and for Vaidya, he wants to make sure his successor shares a mission and vision similar to his and that they engage with the campus.
“You need to spend time with our students,” he said. “[They need to] find multiple ways to get engaged with the students. Go to athletic events, cultural events. These students are resilient, determined and just wonderful.”
Vaidya isn’t the only one with high expectations for the next leader. Students are also wondering about how the next president of the university will deal with issues relevant to them. One of the biggest concerns they have is the cultural communication between student groups on campus as the lines are blurred between free expression and hate speech on campus.
“We need someone who’s good at dealing with cultural and racial issues here,” said Jacob Parker, a first-year engineering student. “We need someone who is a good problem solver, especially when it comes to student communication on campus.”
Another concern that students have is recognition of all student organizations on campus and having a president that understands their importance.
“We want [the next president] to be visible on the campus and the surrounding community,” Graduate Assistant Bory Chhunn said. “We want them to show interest in different departments and groups here.”
One issue which has acted as a curmudgeon for the University in the last three years is the continuing decline in enrollment. In 2015, St. Cloud State had over 15,000 students, but in 2018 that number dropped to just a little over 13,000 according to the U.S. News and World Report. That’s one of the largest drops in enrollment in the MnSCU system.
Vaidya said the challenge goes two ways. The first is getting new students in the door. The second issue is keeping existing students from transferring or dropping out.
“That continues to be the number one issue,” he said. “The next president is going to have to keep an eye on that and make sure everyone is engaged, involved and focused.
And while he is leaving, Vaidya said it’s the community that made his time at SCSU worthwhile.
“It’s the people. I mean, you can have places, you can have cities and other things, but you really miss the people you end up becoming close with, the students, the faculty and staff, people in the region,” he said.
Vaidya is officially done at SCSU in late June.