An Open Forum with Dr. Fernando P. Delgado. Recorded April 1 by WOU Digital Production Services.
MONMOUTH – Western Oregon University should not be a hidden gem, but rather a revealed one, said Fernando Delgado during an open forum at Rice Auditorium on Wednesday.
Delgado, from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, is the first of four finalists to visit campus for interviews and public meetings. Each candidate will be asked to answer the question, “What is the role of a midsized comprehensive university in a changing world?”
First and foremost, survival is the primary role of Western Oregon University as a midsized comprehensive university, Delgado said.
At the same time, Western will need to continue to be a source of higher education, economic development and personal growth, in spite of limited funding, he said.
But how will he work to bridge the gap between survival as a university and being a “revealed gem,” one audience member asked.
“The sad fact is, that our lessons in Wisconsin is you might not get there,” Delgado said. “You might not be able to become that revealed gem. You might just have to survive. But if you’re willing to make hard choices about what is essential to core identity, core values, we might.”
Delgado said Western’s primary goal of midsized comprehensive university is students.
“It’s taking students from different walks of life, bringing them into this space and developing them as professionals, scholars, or employees,” he said. “It’s my job as a lobbyist, as a provost now and possible president in the future to remind legislatures, alumni and donors that what we thought of as ‘the good ole days’ were good because we had more money to do more.”
As a first-generation, underserved student, Delgado shared how important the TRIO program was to him.
“What I experienced in the midst of the chaos (of the university campus) was a small group of faculty who reached across the tables, who reached across the desks, who said, ‘son, if you are willing to take us seriously and engage us, we will move you forward,’” he said.
That kind of communication happens each term on Western’s campus, Delgado said.
Asked about town-gown relations, Delgado said he believes in working with the community pre-emptively.
When his university recruited large numbers of international students whose primary goals were to learn English, he reached out to the community to let them know how to communicate with these students who would know very little of the language.
He is looking for ways to partner with the community before things get complicated, Delgado said.
“Let’s assume they might be complicated, and try and have those conversations before the students show up,” he said.
Delgado wrapped up by noting that he did not earn a Ph.D. to become a university president.
“I got a Ph.D. to change the world, one student at a time,” he said. “I want to leave an institution better than I found it; that I would be proud to be a faculty member of; that I’d be proud to send my daughter to.”
If you attended the presentation, give feedback to Western Oregon at Survey Monkey.
Christopher Ames will be on campus Thursday. He will answer questions at an open forum from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the Pacific Room at Werner University Center, with a community reception to follow from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Check www.polkio.com for details on Ames’ forum Thursday night.
Margaret Madden will be on campus on Monday. Rex Fuller will visit Monmouth on Tuesday.
Polk County Itemizer-Observer
by Emily Mentzer