Ken Hush was named Emporia State’s 18th president by the Kansas Board of Regents (KBOR) on Wednesday.
“I want the Regents, the community, our faculty and staff and, most of all, our students to know that I and our team are committed to making ESU a university of excellence,” Hush said in his first speech as president. “A university where the foundation is solid and whose future is bright.”
Hush took on the role of interim president in November 2021 when former president Allison Garrett became chancellor and chief executive officer for the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education.
KBOR relied on the goals in their strategic plan to guide them in their search for a new president, according to KBOR chair Cheryl Harrison-Lee. These goals included serving Kansas families, helping business and advancing economic prosperities for all Kansans.
“Coincidentally, those made perfect sense for Emporia State University,” Hush said.
Hush will bring a business background to the position. He graduated from ESU in 1982 with a business administration and marketing dual degree. He also served as CEO of BLI Rentals, president and executive officer of Koch Minerals and Carbon LLC and general manager and director at Senior Commodity Company, according to Regent Cynthia Lane.
“The landscape of higher education is constantly changing and we believe this is an opportunity to take some of the best practices from a business world and bring them over to higher education,” Harrison-Lee said. “And we see that as a strength.”
Hush and Harrison-Lee both emphasized adaptability and flexibility as an important aspect of a business background.
“With my background, we adapted to change every hour, every day, every week,” Hush said. “We had no choice. If we didn’t adapt, we may not be in business next week. And by the way, hundreds and perhaps thousands of people and their families would be affected if you didn’t adapt. So bringing that whole aspect here, I think it’s a new way of thinking.”
Since Hush became interim president, there have been several changes to ESU including the closure of the Center for Early Childhood Education (CECE) and restructuring in student affairs and the marketing department.
“My philosophy is simple,” Hush said in his speech. “And expressed by Thomas Edison when he says ‘If there is a way to make it better, find it.’”
Hush continues his role as president amid decreasing enrollment and several changes in administration with resignations and retirements. The university is also still searching for a provost to take over for former provost George Arasimowicz, who resigned in February after only a year in the position. Hush admitted that professors are leaving for “higher paying jobs elsewhere” and that the university has a “talent drain.”
“We do have a lot of changes, those have been going on in the last seven months,” Hush said. “A lot of people have made decisions accordingly but, again, one of the first things we did was put together, through a long analysis and interview process, put together a leadership team that would try to discuss these things before they happen and so, if those type of individual decisions happen, we don’t have as big of a gaps perhaps as what we may have.”