WSU presidential finalist visits campus

WESTFIELD – At the end of a day of meetings that started 12 hours earlier, WSU presidential search finalist Linda Vaden-Goad met with a small group of alumni and community members in an open forum on Monday evening in the Horace Mann building.
“It’s been a good day,” Vaden-Goad said. “I’ve been treated to a beautiful tour of the campus, and I got to meet this morning with the SGA (Student Government Association) leadership and the Board.”
Vaden-Goad introduced herself to the group, saying she was born in Houston, Texas, where she went through school, receiving a M.A., B.S. and Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of Houston where she also became a professor of psychology. She said the student body there was very diverse, “one-third Hispanic, one-third African-American, and one-third everybody else,” and she enjoyed being a part of it. She said they did a lot of thinking about bringing students forward there, and created a leadership team that she called “very professionalized.”
She was then hired as the dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Western Connecticut State University, where she spent eight years in what she called “a very exciting environment.”
The past six years, Vaden-Goad has served as provost and vice president of Framingham State University. She talked about some of the new programs established in Framingham, such as “Science on State Street,” to which 500 people from the community showed up to interact with people in the science department at the University. Part of being good in an institution, she said, is “creating community.”
In response to the question of what she might do to bring the community to the campus, Vaden-Goad said she would start with a celebration to get to know people. She said at Framingham, they have also created an exciting speaker series, an international film festival, a community read, and a booklet of University events.
“The nice thing about a public university is it does belong to the public,” she said.
Vaden-Goad is interested in becoming president of WSU because “it’s a very solid university in so many ways.” She said she likes the mix of programs, especially the amount of “applied, practical programs.” She called the new wildlife leadership program very interesting.
“I hear there are some skill gaps,” Vaden-Goad said. “I’m a problem-solving kind of person.”
“Students are a part of everything I’ve ever done,” she said.
At WCSU, she created a program for students wanting to withdraw called “Wait a Day,” in which she would have them fill out their papers, then sit down with them and talk about what was going on. Sometimes it was about roommate problems, sometimes problems at home, sometimes problems in class.
“I was surprised at how many problems we were able to solve,” she said.
Asked about her priorities as president, she said, “One of the most important is to bring in funding, but one doesn’t do it alone. Being the face of leadership is very important. I have a lot of experience being the face of academic programs.”
Another alumna asked what Vaden-Goad would do to continue diversity progress on campus. She responded that at Framingham they have a very strong plan of diversifying the faculty, and have increased its diversity from 8 percent to 18 percent in three years. She said they have also raised the diversity of the student body up to 24 percent. She added that it is also important to diversify the staff at a university.
Vaden-Goad said one important quality of being a president is being “at” everything, and being a significant part of the community itself.
“I love to see what the students are doing. If they’re performing,” she said. “I love theater!” She said her husband, Robert Vaden-Goad, who is a professor of mathematics at Southern Conn. State University, likes to join her at events. She also spoke about a son who is an architect, a daughter who is a TV producer for Steve Harvey and a step-daughter who is a family therapist.
“I’ve been very fortunate,” Vaden-Goad said, in response to a question about weaknesses she has seen in presidents she has known. “I’ve worked with some very good people.”
Vaden-Goad said, as a publicly educated person herself, she would love to have the opportunity to take that next step, and “see what we could do. I’m ready for it,” she said.
When asked about the long-standing civil suit filed by Rosalie Appel, a tenured professor at WCSU, in which Vaden-Goad was named as one of the defendants, she said, “People can sue if they want to. That’s the right of every citizen of the U.S.” She said the suit was adjudicated in 2014, and found in the university’s favor.
“Every policy was followed correctly,” she said, adding that these kinds of things happen in every work setting. “There was no wrongdoing found. No counts.”

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