Newly appointed President Michael Shonrock sat down for an interview with The Bulletin last Tuesday to discuss his first week on campus and his plans for the future of Emporia State.
What has surprised you the most in your first full week as president of Emporia State?
I am not sure there were any surprises. Maybe the one surprise was the weather. It has been sunny and warm. Other than that it has been what I anticipated.
In the fall, ESU’s enrollment was down 4.6 percent, the highest loss in the state. How concerned are you about enrollment?
I am very concerned. As you know, enrollment is a major part of building an institution. Not only in terms of the number of students living on the campus or going full time or online, so if you looked at the information that was in the prospectives for the 16th president of Emporia State University, clearly if it wasn’t number one, it was number two. The first day on the job I had the opportunity and privilege to meet with the entire enrollment management staff and we talked about where we are and where we are going.
What are your plans to help increase enrollment?
It is something that is important for all of us to engage in. I have already talked to our student government about putting together a task force on student recruitment and student retention and ways of engaging our student leaders more. Thanks to Gwen (Larson) and Dr. Williams and others, I will be on the road trying to contact both alums and prospective donors and get as many opportunities as I can to interact personally.
The Faculty Senate recently passed a resolution calling into question the salaries of KBOR presidents. What are your thoughts on presidential compensation? Is it out of line with faculty and staff salaries?
I have not had a chance to look at faculty and staff salaries. Give me another week or two so I have a chance to review a few things. I will certainly work with the Faculty Senate. I will appreciate the compensation that my wife and I will have and the opportunity to be here. From my experience I think it is consistent with comparable types of positions and comparable types of institutions. But remember, every institution is different and every state is different. We came because we absolutely fell in love with Emporia State University and Emporia.
In light of the recent tragedies in the Chinese community here at ESU – a double fatality fire last semester and a suicide on the interstate last week – do you have any concerns regarding the international student population? What should the university’s response be?
Well, first our thoughts and prayers are with the families even though I wasn’t here in the fall. I know they were on the campus and it is certainly a loss for our community. We should be concerned for any students. As you know, when you have a transition from one country, in this case culture, to another you have to be sensitive about those types of things. I have talked to the senior leadership to get a post-review and ask what better things we could look at in the future. I think the folks did a very good job in terms of responding but I am always interested in finding out ways we can enhance communication and enhance the experience for students. I am always concerned when there is a loss.
Should the ESU president be furnished a luxury SUV to drive, as in the past? What’s your style?
Well if you go out and look you will find a Ford, not an SUV, in the parking spot, which is saving $222 a month (and) it gets much better gas mileage. I did read your staff editorial (in The Bulletin’s Dec. 12 special issue). I feel very comfortable with the vehicle I now have and I feel it is much more cost efficient.
Anything you would like to add?
We are just thrilled to be here, my wife and I. We certainly want people to have the opportunity to visit the residence. We turned around pretty quickly and our stuff is still in Texas and it may be until about March until we get everything here, but we are settling in a little bit. We want to have an open house and have people come by. Everyone in the community and the campus has been very gracious and we really appreciate that – it makes us feel at home. We just look forward to the future. I tend to be an optimist and I look at the future very brightly and I see a bright future for Emporia State University and all I ask is if things come up, let’s talk.