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Davies press conference

Student focus, academic rigor … and cats with surprising names

An interview with President-elect Davies, Board Chair Weideman, Vice Chair Keith

Contact: Heather Smith

When Bob Davies was appointed president of Central Michigan University Friday, he became just the 15th individual during CMU's 126-year history in the leadership role. 

He joins such individuals as Charles Grawn, Eugene Clarence Warriner, Charles Anspach, and most recently, President Emeritus George E. Ross.

Davies, Board of Trustees Chair Bill Weideman and Vice Chair Tricia Keith, who led the presidential search advisory committee, shared the following insights last week in talking about the board's selection and about CMU.

Why did you choose CMU?

Davies — Central Michigan University is a nationally recognized research university that is 100 percent committed to student success. That is a unique niche most research universities don't fill, because they outgrow the ability to focus on students as individuals.

Relationships between CMU faculty, staff and students create an environment, a culture, an ethic, an ethos. I'm excited to be at CMU because we're all here to guide students through their career choices. To give them educational experiences they wouldn't have at a larger university.

I am impressed and inspired that a value of CMU is overtly working with students to help them understand their responsibilities as leaders. This sets CMU apart. I can't wait to be involved in the process. 

What do you most anticipate President-elect Davies will bring to CMU?

Weideman I want to see Bob come to CMU and, working with the university community, set a bold vision going forward. A vision with clear strategic plans and the initiatives to get there. CMU is a great university, recognized nationally. Bob will help us get to the next level and further set ourselves apart.

Keith — A continued focus on student success. Experience across the university setting. An emphasis on rigor, relevance and excellence. Fundraising expertise. Strategies around recruitment. Ability to ensure we are distinctive. Competence in forging relationships with legislators, donors, alumni, community and business partners.

What should people know about you?

Davies — I am extremely approachable. It's important a university maintains a constant conversation about how we become better. I enjoy walking around. I enjoy talking with students and visiting with faculty and staff in their offices and areas to learn what they're thinking and gather ideas on how we can build on our strengths. I encourage people to see and pursue opportunities to improve, grow and expand.

What made Dr. Davies the board's choice for Central's 15th president?

Weideman — His style and personality. His 100 percent focus on student success. We had excellent candidates, yet when Bob talked, he spoke in terms of 'we, the team, collective accomplishments' and always, 'the students.'

You talked about not commanding, but leading through service. What does that mean?

Davies — One of the great facets of a university is that it's a collection of many communities. Students. Faculty. Staff. Alumni. The community at large. I make it a priority to engage all of those in the decision-making process and in implementation. We need to work together to bridge gaps for students. I'm proud to work for you. You don't work for me, I work for you.

What was it like to grow up in a university setting?

Davies — You've heard the term 'military brat?' I'm a university brat. My father was a professor and worked his way up to dean, provost and interim president. We had two cats; their names were 'Tenure' and 'Promotion.' In 1980, when I was 13, Dad became provost at University of Nevada, Reno. That summer, Dad and I lived in a tent trailer inside the UNR football stadium until we sold our house in Flagstaff and my mom and sister, Jenny, who was a rising senior in high school, moved to Reno. It was a great summer, as I literally lived on a college campus! 

What one comment or story during the interview process stood out the most for you?

Keith — Dr. Davies talks about rigor, relevance and excellence. He wants to make sure we have rigor in evaluating what we're doing, relevance in the education we deliver, and excellence in the outcomes we achieve for our students and community and business partners.

We as trustees recognize the critical role faculty play in the success of students and the university as a whole. Bob understands that. He told a story about growing up and talking about university business as a family. That deep knowledge will serve CMU well.

What should we know about your family?

Davies — I'm a protective father! Cindy and Katie are extremely important to me. We are each other's best friends. You'll see them often across campus. They'll be engaged. We've had an open house for students. We've hosted a snowman-building contest for students. We've served hot chocolate from the house. Cindy, Katie and I — we're a team.

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