Sharon P. Smith, vice chancellor for academic affairs, provost and vice president for academic affairs and special projects adviser for National University and for the National University System, has been chosen to succeed UPG President Frank A. Cassell. Jem Spectar, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Western Oregon University, has been selected to succeed UPJ President Albert E. Etheridge.
Cassell and Etheridge will retire June 30 and the new presidents will assume their positions July 1.
The announcement, made by Pitt administrators March 20, wraps up searches that took 10 candidates to UPG and nine to UPJ for interviews.
Robert F. Pack, vice provost for academic planning and resources management who chaired the search committees, said the two were drawn from a pool of very competent candidates. He noted that none of the final candidates withdrew from the process, indicating that these were desirable positions that drew significant interest.
Pack said both new presidents have a range of experience he believes will be effective in continuing to develop the regional campuses. “Both have predominantly an academic perspective,” he said. “They’re committed as well to representing the University in the external communities.”
The committees placed an emphasis on strong academic leadership backgrounds because the campus president is the chief academic officer on campus, Pack said, noting that Smith served at Fordham University for many years, including as dean of its business school, and Spectar was associate provost at the University of Scranton prior to becoming provost at Western Oregon.
Pitt administrators, in prepared releases, commended the new campus presidents.
Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg said, “Sharon Smith is an accomplished administrator, a distinguished researcher and educator, and an experienced member of the financial services industry who has the talent and ability to lead the Greensburg campus to even higher levels of attainment and impact.”
Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor James V. Maher stated, “Dr. Smith has an established record of distinguished performance in strategic planning, reinvigorated academic programs and administration. That background, combined with her strong interest in a team-oriented environment and her experience in working effectively with community leaders, will stand in her good stead as she helps to shape an exciting future for our academic efforts in Greensburg.”
Smith served from 2001 to 2006 as professor of management systems and dean of the Colleges of Business and the Faculty of Business at Fordham University. She also was dean of Fordham’s College of Business Administration from 1990 to 2001.
Smith’s non-academic experience includes service as an economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and as a district manager for American Telephone and Telegraph Company.
Smith received her bachelor’s degree summa cum laude, and master’s and doctoral degrees — all in economics — from Rutgers University.
Smith told the University Times she is looking forward to working with UPG faculty, administrators and staff to further advance the institution’s quality and recognition.
“There is nothing more important right now than higher education,” Smith said. “We’re in an information age. What we’re doing in higher education is creating a roadmap for the future,” she said, adding that universities are in competition for a shrinking pool of the best students.
Quality and accountability to all constituencies are the issues most at the forefront, she said. Administrators must tackle rising costs while considering access and affordability for students and ensuring their institution is able to provide quality services.
“We’re competing for students, for faculty talent, and for resources for the faculty,” she said.
Deferring specifics until she arrives this summer, Smith said she also sees the campus president’s role as one of working in partnership as a key player in the Greensburg community.
The New Jersey native said that she was impressed by the campus and people at UPG, adding that the conversations and ideas kept flowing during her interview visit. “It feels like a really good fit to me. I’m thrilled.
“It’s an exciting time to take on the challenge of a lovely school and help that school shine as it deserves to,” she said.
UPG faculty president Sayre Greenfield said that he had not been able to meet Smith during the interview process, but that her background appears to be very strong. “I’ve heard very good things about her from a number of different units of the campus,” he said, adding that UPG has been abuzz with the news since Smith’s appointment was announced.
Noting that Cassell has done a good job of energizing the faculty, Greenfield said he looks forward to Smith’s arrival on campus “to keep the energy going.”
Greenfield said many of the visiting candidates commented on the limited number of majors at UPG. “We could use a greater diversity of programs,” he said. Adding that there are many new-generation professors at UPG, he said that it is “important to have someone to work with the faculty to develop new directions and new programs for the campus.”
Spectar, the new Pitt-Johnstown president, has administrative experience beyond his positions at the University of Scranton and Western Oregon University. He served as director of studies at Princeton University and assistant dean of students at the University of La Verne, in La Verne, Calif.
An international law scholar, Spectar’s teaching experience includes positions as associate professor of law at the University of La Verne, lecturer in political science at Princeton University, and professor of political science at the University of Scranton.
A native of Cameroon, Spectar earned a bachelor’s degree in international studies from the University of La Verne, an MBA from Frostburg State University, a master’s degree at George Washington University, a JD at the University of Maryland Law School, and a master’s degree in politics and PhD in political science from Claremont Graduate University.
In a separate statement, senior administrators also had high praise for the new Pitt-Johnstown president.
“As a senior administrator at several institutions of higher education, Dr. Spectar has established a leadership style marked by an emphasis on consultation, collaboration and transparency,” stated Maher. “His outstanding academic and administrative leadership as well as his capacity for fundraising, friend-making and fostering positive community relations make him the ideal president for our Johnstown campus.”
The chancellor stated, “Jem Spectar is a visionary leader and celebrated teacher. He has the skills and experience necessary to build effectively upon the strengths of our Johnstown campus and to enrich the lives of students, faculty, staff and administrators.”
UPJ Faculty Senate President Richard Ulsh told the University Times he was impressed with the quality of the candidates who interviewed for the position. Each met with faculty members and Ulsh said he was impressed with Spectar’s presentation outlining a strategic plan for the campus.
While some candidates were philosophical in their remarks, others were nuts-and-bolts oriented, Ulsh said. “I thought he had a good balance between both,” he said, adding that Spectar’s presentation was comprehensive and “showed evidence that he’d really looked into who we were.”
Ulsh said Spectar’s appreciation of the value of undergraduate research came across strongly and that he emphasized and illustrated his ability to work with faculty.
Ulsh cited Spectar’s success in targeting and drawing students from China to a program at Western Oregon as a potential aid in helping UPJ with its goal of becoming more international and diverse.
Spectar told the University Times he looks forward to the opportunity “to lead an excellent institution to a higher level of excellence” and that he plans to emphasize undergraduate teaching and learning, stronger ties with the Johnstown community and the relationship between UPJ and Pitt as a whole. Having lived and worked in Pennsylvania previously, Spectar says he views his new job as an opportunity to come back home.
“I’m honored to be selected and I appreciate the support and confidence of the campus community and University of Pittsburgh officials,” he said.
—Kimberly K. Barlow, via University Times