Goals as President
First of all, I believe that a president is only a first among equals at a university. To some extent, a university is an organization or even an organism I would say, sort of an ecosystem where many people take individual decisions, have their own creative ideas. And in very, many cases, they don’t even need to have a lot of KPIs and objectives, they know what is needed to be done. They’re intelligent people. Our faculty, our senior management—they know what to do. What I believe is my role is ensuring that they know where we go, sort of having—I don’t even call it a strategy—I call it a vision, and that’s the Vision 2025 that guides their decision-making, that gives them the broad context in which they have to move and where they have to go. And so I hope that over the years, by repeating my Vision 2025, by putting the incentives sometimes there where I can nudge people to go in that direction, that I have been able to succeed in growing this university in the right direction. It could have grown in all kinds of ways, but that it has grown in the right direction to become a great social sciences university in this part of the world. So that’s my first point, that is as a president for the university—I think it’s very different from a CEO of a company, where you go for a very detailed strategy and that is then translated in all kinds of sub-objectives and sub-strategies and KPIs, and I personally don’t believe too much in that for a university. As I said, I believe in that broad framework.
The second driver in my management of the university is that I hope that people find this a pleasant place to work and all people. Now I know, I look at some of those websites that tell us of how displeased people are sometimes with their employers. I know that some people leave us and are unhappy. I always see that a failure for the university. We should create an environment in which people feel welcome and feel that they can develop themselves, and that they can actually use their best competencies in the best way. So, I hope that we can create that environment for our staff and faculty here at the university.
The third principle that I have is that I hope that people will collaborate. Now that is not easy at SMU. Universities all over the world are organized in a functional way—per school, per discipline. It’s actually the nature of how we are organized. We are, if I would exaggerate a bit, we are universities—I say not SMU in particular, but all universities—we tend to be organized in silos, and it goes to the DNA of what a university is all about. But this is reinforced at SMU by our architecture where all the schools are in different buildings. And where, if you’re in the School of Law, and I’m talking about faculty and staff now, they very rarely probably get into the School of Social Sciences and Economics at the other side of the campus. Perhaps, students move a bit more around because they take classes in different buildings and whatever. But overall, our architecture tends to reinforce this silo. So there is a big challenge, and I’m not sure I’ve always been very successful in ensuring that people collaborate across the different departments in the different schools.
But those I see as my three goals, that is clearly creating a vision, so that people can take initiative can be intra-preneurs, internally to the organization, ensuring that people know where they have to go and setting a vision. Secondly, ensuring that employees who come here feel that this is a welcoming environment, where they can deploy their capabilities and their competencies. And thirdly, hopefully working closely together with each other.