Looking back on his days at the Maxwell School, Mark Emmert recalls his career aspirations coming sharply into focus. "Maxwell was where I fell in love with the serious scholarship of public policy and public administration," he says. "It was where my education and professional goals came together. That time forced me to assess how I did things and why."
Emmert is now in his first year as chancellor at Louisiana State University (LSU) and A&M College at Baton Rouge. His appointment at LSU followed a five-year tenure as president of the University of Connecticut, and administrative appointments at Montana State University and the University of Colorado. He also served during the mid-eighties as a fellow at the American Council on Education.
A native of Tacoma, Washington, Emmert says his varied experiences at universities across the country helped him develop a diverse leadership style. "By moving as much as I have, I have acquired a pretty clear sense of the challenges faced by research universities in particular," he says.
Emmert shares several beliefs with his administrative peersparticularly the importance of developing strong relationships with faculty. "You have to take into account the local context of an institution and adapt your style to the faculty's needs," he says. "To achieve that, it is critical to know your own strengths and weaknesses, and let your staff know what they are."
Emmert says his transition from the University of Connecticut to Louisiana State showed him how much his leadership skills had evolved since his graduate-school days at Syracuse University. "I can say, with confidence, that the University of Connecticut was in significantly better shape than it had been. It is very gratifying knowing that," he says. "As you gain administrative experience, you develop a keen sense of where the university is on the quality curve. We charted a good path, with good people, so I was ready to move on."
Deborah Stanley arrived on the SU campus in 1968 as a 19-year-old mother married to a College of Law student. But by the time she left nine years later, she had earned two degrees and established a clear sense of self. "I came to Slocum Heights and found a deeply supportive atmosphere," says Stanley, now president of the State University of New York College at Oswego. "It was an incredible time fueled by the issues of the day. There were many Vietnam vets living there with their families. We were a generation looking for intellectual exploration and association."
The interaction with students inspired Stanley to embrace education as a means of personal growth. When she began taking classes, she selected them thoughtfully, gradually working toward a bachelor's degree in English. "I was interested in what I considered relevant to my own intellectual development," she says. "I am so grateful I had the opportunity to do that."
Later, as an SU law student, Stanley taught at Onondaga Community College and found she enjoyed sharing knowledge as much as she enjoyed acquiring it. After earning a law degree, she intended to go into practice. But she accepted a teaching position at SUNY Oswego and decided to remain in higher education. "SU immersed me in the atmosphere of academia," she says. "Quite frankly, I did not want to leave."
After teaching for several years, Stanley became an administrative assistant to then-SUNY Oswego president Stephen Weber. She saw the job as an opportunity to use her legal background to benefit the college. When Stanley was appointed president in 1997, she brought her analytical perspective and optimistic approach to solving problems. Still a scholar at heart, Stanley strengthened the college's academic standards. She established a Presidential Scholars program to honor academic standouts, and constantly evaluates degree programs to ensure that the college attracts talented students and faculty.
Stanley believes everyone should have educational opportunities, and has become a proud champion of public higher education. "The more people have access to higher education, the more value it has to the world," she says. "Public higher education, for me, is a cause as well as a commitment. It has its own set of challenges, but there is much room for optimismnow and in the future."
Stanley also maintains a strong interest in campus life at Oswego. She regularly seeks students' opinions during problem-solving and strategic planning sessions. Such connections keep Stanley enthusiastic about her role as an academic leader. As a result, she doesn't mind if her law books remain closed indefinitely. "I recently got a letter from a student I taught here 19 years ago," she says. "It always amazes me when I hear from students and they tell me what they have been doing and how their lives have evolved. I don't think any other professional environment can give you that kind of lift."