Forum editorial: The right choice to lead MSUM

Published 04/24/2014, INFORUM

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead

Anne Blackhurst is the right choice to take over as president of Minnesota State University Moorhead on July 1. The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities board of trustees Wednesday named her to replace Edna Szymanski, whose tenure included the unenviable task of presiding over painful program and staffing cuts required by declining enrollment. Blackhurst has served MSUM as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

Because Blackhurst has been in the No. 2 position since August 2011, she is well-versed in the strengths and challenges of the institution she soon will be charged with turning around. She has been Szymanski’s right hand and was heavily involved in the campus reorganization at MSUM, a difficult transition she now will steer.

Both as a candidate outlining her vision and in her public comments after being named president-elect, Blackhurst spoke of her plans for sparking a cultural shift that will ignite passion and pride for the university that will spread beyond the campus to important constituencies. Certainly Blackhurst has important work to do to mend relationships and instill enthusiasm among faculty, staff, alumni and supporters.

“I really see my role as president as setting the tone and being the face of the university,” she said after being named. Although enrollment has dropped more than 11 percent in the past five years – a result of demographic trends and more selective admissions standards – Blackhurst is right to reject the “gloom and doom” message that has taken hold in some quarters and asserts that the foundation has been laid for a brighter future.

It all sounds good, and there is no doubt of her passion and commitment to the university. Soon Blackhurst will be working to carry out her vision. Her performance over time will answer the question of whether she will be able to take MSUM to the “next level of greatness,” as she aims to do. As provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, she has a met with and listened to students, faculty and staff. Her style is personable, inclusive and pragmatic.

All of which made her the obvious and appropriate choice to serve as the 11th president of MSUM. We applaud that choice and wish her well in leading an important higher education institution that has a promising start toward a better future.