One year in, UD president says job has exceeded his expectations

The biggest surprise for Eric Spina in his first year as University of Dayton president is that there wasn’t one.

Today marks Spina’s first full year as UD’s leader and by most accounts, it’s been a successful one.

Spina has faced few issues during his short tenure at the top. Instead, he’s announced several major projects and partnerships for the university.

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“I haven’t had any big surprises,” Spina said. “It’s been quite natural. I think it’s been a good fit for me and I think I’ve been a good fit for the university.”

Spina said that he went into his job as president “without any dreams” but that his time in the job so far has exceeded all of his expectations.

In the last year, Spina announced that UD would jointly buy the 38-acre Montgomery County fairgrounds with Premier Health for $15 million, would become the anchor tenant of the renovated downtown Dayton Arcade and that UD Arena will undergo a $72 million transformation.

Spina’s first year is evidence that he was the right choice for the job, said David Yeager, chairman of UD’s board of trustees who also led the college’s presidential search.

The university started off with 100 applicants for its president’s job before whittling the pool down to 16 or so, Yeager said. Spina was the first candidate the search committee interviewed and Yeager said that afterward he joked “do we need to do anymore?”

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“That does not happen often,” Yeager said. “I think that Eric has integrated and embraced the Dayton community with tremendous zeal. It’s been a great first year.”

While each announcement was made under Spina’s leadership, he credits the people who came before him and those who currently serve in his administration.

Spina pointed to the success of UD’s tuition guarantee program, as an example.

The program, which started under former president Dan Curran, guarantees that a student will pay the same price for tuition all four years of college. This year it resulted in a record number of undergraduate degrees being awarded by UD.

“If I had to come in and fix some things, I would not have been able to come in and immediately begin moving forward,” Spina said.

What’s next?

In the next year, Spina said the university will further develop its plans for the Dayton Arcade and by June 2018 UD and Premier will narrow their list of ideas for the fairgrounds property.

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During his first year, Spina went through what he called a “visioning process” with the campus community to determine what UD’s future should hold. UD administrators are still determining where that “visioning” will take the school but Spina sees a future with an expanded brand for the university.

Since the start of his presidency, Spina has said he’d like to build UD’s national reputation. Soon the university will begin to test advertising and marketing techniques as well as ways of communicating through social media, Spina said.

To get to that point though, Spina said school leaders had to first conduct research and get a good understanding of UD’s people and the best ways of “telling the UD story.” That’s something Spina took a hand in personally too.

“I’m very happy with this year,” Spina said. “Most importantly, I got to know the institution and its people.”

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