University of Dayton President Eric Spina chats with members of the Breaking News Team during a visit to Cox Media Group Ohio on Tuesday. BRIAN KOLLARS / STAFF

Spina’s vision for UD includes boosting national reputation

Eric Spina has been the University of Dayton’s 19th president for just over four months and has another five to determine his “vision” for the university, which he will outline during his April 4 inauguration.

“We’ve heard a lot about what makes UD special and what we need to hang on to in the Marianist character,” Spina said during a visit with managers at Cox Media Group Ohio on Tuesday.

UD president has a constant reminder on his right wrist.

Spina and his administration are working on developing a road map for the university. The plan will look at what is already working for UD and areas where “academic initiatives” should be added to enhance the college.

Spina said that his vision for the university will offer “a menu of possibilities.”

To develop his vision for UD, Spina has sought opinions from community leaders and students. UD officials also have interviewed more than 1,200 people, seeking input, while another 1,700 have provided thoughts online about what the university should focus on.

“Whatever I say on April 4, I want people to be able to hear that and say, ‘I had input,’ ” Spina said.

The process Spina is going through to develop an outline for the university’s future could mean it will add programs or simply augment existing ones.

Part of Spina’s vision is to expand UD’s “national reputation.”

Broader appeal is needed to thrive in higher education’s “hypercompetitive environment,” he said. UD officials will be charged with elevating the university’s national brand while observing the “Marianist virtue of humility,” Spina said.

“We’re going to have to figure out how to be humble and tell the truth about how good we are,” he said.

Boosting UD’s profile starts with the students, faculty and staff on campus, he said.

“We don’t know how good we are,” Spina said of the university and Dayton community. “Therefore if we don’t know how good we are, I think other people don’t know how good we are.”

Some of the other topics Spina discussed:

UD’s programs: “We’ve had tremendous growth in programs related to health sciences over the last number of years and lots of people are asking the question: Should we do more? Should we be focused in some additional areas? So I think that’s an example of one (area that could grow). Another is the idea of innovation, entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial thinking. Those are conversations we’re having on campus.”

General Electric and Emerson partnerships: “Obviously it’s one of the first things I began to dig into as an engineer and someone who really believes in innovative partnerships where people aren’t afraid to do different things. I’m really happy with both.”

Future business partnerships: “I always want more … I’m looking for the next great company. I don’t have a company today, but I would absolutely love to think about who else can really be part of a partnership that is mutually beneficial. But, that’s absolutely on my list.”

Student housing in Oakwood: “I have a meeting coming up with the Oakwood mayor, next week, and I imagine that will be a good conversation. You know, we’re Marianists so we want to be good neighbors. We set expectations for our students and especially students who are not living in our apartments or houses or residence halls that we own and control.”

UD’s strengths: “The thing we’re best in is supporting learning. I would say the faculty and staff on campus have kind of a fraternal love for their students that’s exhibited inside and outside the classroom that leads to student outcomes …We can talk about probably 30 different experiential learning opportunities that I’d say together make us one of the best in the county.”

College rankings: “I’m a realist. I realize rankings (such as U.S. News & World Report’s) influence some people — (for) many people, it’s the only thing they look at … They do recognize it as a flawed science; they take it with a grain of salt but they’re still looking at it. That said, I’m not going to make academic decisions, leadership decisions based upon will this move our rankings forward or not.”

UD students: “They come here thinking, ‘I’m going to get an education and while I’m getting an education I’m going to make a difference locally or nationally or internationally in some small community. Then, when I’m done with my education I’m going to make a difference in the world.’ That’s how they think about their education.”

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