An Open Forum with Dr. Margaret Madden. Recorded April 6 by WOU Digital Production Services.
MONMOUTH – Higher education isn’t just about getting someone a job, said Margaret Madden at an open forum at Western Oregon University on Monday.
“I’m not saying getting employment after college is not an important thing,” she noted. “It’s important for students to feel like they’re going to make a living, especially in a climate where students accumulate debt. But when it’s described as the main reason for attending college, it misses a lot of things that happen at this institution that are in some ways more profound and longer lasting.”
Madden, 62, is the provost and vice president of academic affairs at State University New York-Potsdam. She is the third of four presidential finalists to visit WOU’s campus for interviews, and student and public forums. Whoever is chosen will replace President Mark Weiss when he retires at the end of June.
Each candidate has been asked to answer, “What is the role of a midsized, public comprehensive university in a changing world?”
She said midsized liberal arts universities make a greater impact on students than just getting a job.
“We know that a strong base in liberal arts with a strong base in common core leads students to have good speaking skills, good writing skills, to be able to read deeply, be able to problem-solve in different disciplinary ways, different strategies lead to a variety of answers,” Madden said. “Most people will be working with teams in the new economy. Most people will have to work with teams from different perspectives.”
A liberal arts education helps people do just that, Madden said, giving students an appreciation for critical thinking and, ultimately, making better citizens because of it.
“We have to make a case for our value,” she said. “We are developing a workforce that meets the needs of the region. The product of this university is individuals that will cause the state and nation to thrive economically.”
Madden praised Western’s efforts to “bridge the gap” for Latino, as well as first-generation and low-income students.
“I get a lot of satisfaction talking to students about how their experience in college changes them,” she said. “It changes the trajectory of their whole family.”
The new president at Western Oregon will need to continue a good relationship with the community at large, Madden said.
“You have to get to know the people in the community, get to know what their needs are and find out what would be helpful,” she said. “One of the things I love about being in a small community is there are a lot of connections here.”
Madden acknowledged the potential for tensions, and said the community should feel it can work with the university to make things work.
If you attended the presentation, give feedback to Western Oregon here.
Rex Fuller will be on campus Tuesday. He will answer questions at an open forum from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at Rice Auditorium followed by a community reception from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the foyer.
Fernando Delgado toured WOU April 1. Christopher Ames visited Thursday.
Check www.polkio.com for details on Fuller’s forum Tuesday night.
Polk County Itemizer-Observer
by Emily Mentzer