Solving Wright State University’s problems has proven difficult over the years, but incoming president Sue Edwards knows how to take on unexpected challenges.
Shortly after leaving her position at Appalachian State University to become Wright State’s provost in July 2018, Edwards was diagnosed with breast cancer.
With the support of students, family and others, Edwards was in remission by April this year and on Saturday, she was named Wright State’s eighth president.
Edwards will become the university’s eighth president Jan. 1.
Boosting enrollment and further stabilizing the school’s finances will be among several things on Edwards’ to do list as president, she said. She also wants to improve relations with the community and “be very vocal about telling the Wright State story.”
“My philosophy is that we just have to continue to move this university forward,” Edwards said. “It’s got too much going for it to allow it to wane.”
Edwards plans to get involved with the university’s forthcoming master plan, which she said a faculty group is currently working on.
“After carefully considering the best options for the university and after discussing the matter with employee and student leaders, we believe Dr. Edwards is the right person to take the university forward,” Sean Fitzpatrick, chairman of the board of trustees said in a prepared statement. “We are confident Dr. Edwards will keep the university focused on providing an excellent education for our students and position Wright State to better serve the economic needs of the region.”
The Board of Trustees decision Saturday to name her president, Edwards said, came as a “surprise.”
Edwards said she thought the university’s board of trustees would use the remainder of the year to decide how they would fill the job. Outgoing president Cheryl Schrader announced earlier this month that she plans to step down Dec. 31.
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But, trustees convened Saturday for an executive session, after which they voted to name Edwards as Schrader’s successor.
“I was called to a meeting on Saturday morning and I guess they decided what they were looking for,” Edwards said.
Although Edwards will formally become president at the start of next year, trustees have yet to sign off on a contract, spokesman Seth Bauguess said.
Edwards has already taken over most of the day-to-day operational duties of the president while Schrader will continue to serve in a ceremonial capacity. Schrader will still preside over the university’s winter commencement in December.
Edwards joked that she was feeling a little “dazed and confused,” at how fast trustees moved to hire her. One factor in the board’s decision to select Edwards was that they believe she will help the university connect with area employers, including those in the health care, technology, business and nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
Another likely factor in the timing of Edwards’ hiring, she said, was wanting to build momentum and keep WSU on track.
“We have so much going for us. We are committed to providing a high quality, high outcome education,” she said. “And I’ve enjoyed my opportunity to engage with faculty, staff and students and continue conversations this semester so that we may work together to move the university forward.”
Edwards will become president after a tumultuous few years for the school. Wright State has faced multiple financial and legal issues, including a federal investigation into the misuse of H-1B visas which the university settled for $1 million late last year.
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Though Schrader inherited much of Wright State’s issues, it may be good for the university to get a fresh perspective on its issues with Edwards, said Justin Hill, a freshman from Ashville studying electrical engineering.
“She’s probably going to have to pick up a lot of problems that were already there,” Hill said. “Sometimes new perspectives are good.”
Under Edwards’ predecessor, Wright State started to regain its financial stability but leaders have said there’s more to be done.
Wright State has doubled its cash reserves over the last two years, increasing them from around $31 million in 2017 to more than $60 million as of this fall. The university’s financial trouble was the result of six years of overspending from 2012 through 2017.
Edwards will also have to help the university continue to heal from a 20-day faculty strike that concluded in February.
Wright State’s enrollment declined in recent years and this fall reached a more than 37-year low. Around 13,742 students are enrolled at Wright State , around a 11.7 percent decline from last year.
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relations with the community and being very vocal about telling the Wright State story.
“She’s probably going to have to pick up a lot of problems that were already there. Sometimes new perspectives are good.” -Justin Hill, a freshman from Ashville studying electrical engineering.
“I wasn’t shocked that the Provost turned into the president… to make some of those decisions you have to know quite a few students to know what the students want out of you (and) what changes they’d like to see.” -Alexis Rheyne, Hilliard, freshman studying neuroscience
“I think it’s important for her to get out and meet people. I don’t know if it’s going to affect me in any way. But, that’s something you should do as the president.” -Nathan Allgeyer, Wilmington, freshman studying nursing
“It’s not necessarily going to fix the issues, but I think it’s a good idea.” -Andrew Newcomer, Troy, freshman studying electrical enginnering
About Sue Edwards
• A biology professor.
• Started as WSU provost in July 2018.
• Left Australia in 2007 to come to the U.S.
• Served as VP for faculty affairs at Appalachian State prior to WSU.
• Previously worked at Georgia Southern and James Cook University in Australia.