Jul 122011
Authors: Allison Sylte

Editor’s Note: Question Authority is a new feature where Collegian editors get up close and personal with CSU figures. Have any ideas about who you’d like us to talk to next? Send us an email at news@collegian.com.

Q What was your motivation for stepping down?

Blake: It really is two-fold. Part of the reason is to recapture a bit of my own personal life. As you can imagine, this is more than a full-time job.
I don’t get much time off, and it’s an opportunity to step down from the day-to-day responsibilities, but continue to take advantage of the wonderful, serendipitous opportunity to continue the passion I have for CSU.

Q: In what ways?

B: This new role will allow me to do things I like doing: working with alums, working with donors, working on public policy issues.
I’m also looking forward to doing some teaching at both Fort Collins and Pueblo.
I’m looking at teaching subjects like leadership and public policy, issues that I’ve been involved with my whole life. Both institutions have president’s leadership classes that I want to work with. I’ve spoken to them before and it would be great fun to have a more consistent relationship with them.
I would also love to do some teaching in the business school.

Q: Looking back on your two years as chancellor, what do you think was your biggest accomplishment?

B: The fact that the system grew and flourished in terms of the relationship between our three institutions. Specifically, we have a fabulous Board of Governors and incoming chair [Joe Zimlich] and I think working with this board and seeing the further development of the system has been a great experience.
These past years have brought entirely new waters to chart, and as I look back, I think that all of the institutions are thriving and going in the right direction.

Q: How so?

B: CSU has a wonderful relationship with Colorado that is unique among higher education in the state because we are in 59 out of 64 counties through our extension offices. We expand even further with our 4H outreach.

Q: During your tenure as chancellor, you’ve been in the midst of a pretty tough economic climate. What sorts of challenges did that present?

B: It’s about balancing the realities of cost with the realities of diminished state resources. Not just for CSU but for all of higher education.
During that process of balancing, you get into very difficult and thoughtful discussions around the need for increasing tuition at both institutions, as you know. And along with it comes that balance, between keeping college affordable and maintaining the strength of a CSU education.
On the plus side, it’s clear that we have great leadership on our campuses. Tony Frank is the preeminent leader of a university in this state, in my opinion. He’s done a magnificent job, and is one of the best communicators who I have ever had the privilege to be around.
CSU-Pueblo has magnificent leadership as well, particularly in interim-President Julio Leon.

Q: Speaking of CSU-Pueblo, you mentioned that you wouldn’t be stepping down until their president search was over. How’s that going?

B: Well, the CSU-Pueblo search is a very important part of the operation. The Board and I have had long discussions about that, and it’s something that I’m quite focused on. We don’t have a set date in making the decision, but I don’t see it happening until early fall.
And I want to add that, whatever date it ends up being that I officially step down, it’s not a cession as much as a transition, and I’ll continue to serve CSU, just in new and different ways.

Q: How will the Board go about replacing you, when the time comes?

The Board has created a Chancellor Search Committee, to be chaired by former BOG chairman Pat McConathy. We’ve agreed that process will get started at the appropriate time, whenever that may be.

Q: What’s your advice for your replacement?

B: Lately, I’ve been taking a lot of notes to capture as much of this experience as I can. It is, as I’ve said, a tremendous privilege to serve as CSU system chancellor, and its been very, very interesting and enjoyable, and I’ve been certainly learning something new every single day.
Because of that, there are many different aspects to the advice I would give, and I’ll be sharing it with the board when the moment comes to begin the search. I’ll be sure to share it to you line by line when that moment comes [laughs].

Q: How would you describe, in one sentence, what exactly the chancellor does?

B: My job is to constantly add value to our three institutions and find ways for us to work together so that we are greater than the sum of our parts.
And financially, that’s a big balancing act, but between our great presidents and strong operation in Denver, I think that it’s something that we’re pretty successful with.

Q: But still, a 20 percent tuition increase hurts. How does that factor into the balancing act?
B: That decision evolved over a good period of time last year. There were lots of discussions with students, and plenty of communication from President Frank, as you well know. It’s not a decision that we made lightly, but it was a decision that we had to make.
You can’t diminish the opportunity to have the highest quality faculty and standards in the industry. We can make cuts to other areas, but those things are non-negotiable in my book.

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