On a shelf to the right of Cheryl Schrader’s desk at Wright State University sits a piece of Native American artwork depicting a “warrior woman.”
It’s a fitting metaphor for Schrader — Wright State’s first female president — who starts her job as the university faces battles on multiple fronts, both financial and legal ones.
Just before Schrader arrived, Wright State slashed $30.8 million from its 2018 budget in order to correct years of overspending. The university also faces multiple lawsuits over its canceled presidential debate and investigations into possible H-1B visa misuse that occurred around two years ago.
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Schrader, who started Saturday at WSU, didn’t shy away from the university’s troubles in her first public address as the school’s leader.
“I know these last four months have been especially challenging for you and I must compliment you on your hard work, your fortitude and your progress,” she said. “While all of us would probably prefer to be on more sound financial footing at this time, I know that we can’t afford to dwell on the mistakes of the past…Rather we must learn from them and we must move forward.”
Schrader spoke to an audience of hundreds at a welcome reception in WSU’s student union atrium on Thursday.During her speech Schrader echoed statements of other WSU leaders and trustees, saying the university can no longer afford to be “everything to everyone.”
She told listeners that the university will undergo a program prioritization process in which officials will gauge the value of not just academic programs but operations and other services as well.
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Thursday’s welcome ceremony was the culmination of nearly a year’s work for Doug Fecher, chairman of the WSU board of trustees who also led the university’s presidential search.
“I think she’s exactly what Wright State University needs so I’m very excited to have her finally start,” Fecher said. “Now the hard work begins.”
In her first week on campus, Schrader has started meeting with campus leaders to plot the course of her presidency. She allowed the Dayton Daily News to sit in on some of those meetings, including one with faculty senate president Travis Doom.
Doom encouraged Schrader to get out and meet with department chairs and faculty members as soon as she could and invited her to attend faculty senate meetings. He also cautioned her that some faculty are fearful they could soon lose their jobs because of budget constraints.
Schrader tried to calm Doom’s concerns, saying “moving forward, we’re not going to lose sight.”
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While budget cuts were implemented before Schrader arrived at Wright State, trustees and state officials have said more may be necessary if the school cannot boost enrollment or open new lines of revenue. Officials have said WSU needs to boost its reserves by around $45 million over the next few years in order for finances to stabilize.
Schrader said she’s ready to take on Wright State’s problems and do whatever needs to be done to bring people on campus together.
“I think there is a warrior mentality in that because we might be doing things differently,” Schrader said. “We might be forging partnerships that had never occurred before and we might also be standing up very proudly and showing the value…that is Wright State University.”
The Dayton Daily News is your best source for information about Wright State University’s new president and ongoing issues at the school For continuing coverage, follow our higher education reporter on Twitter at @MaxFilby.
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