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WIU interim president promises ‘collaborative, kind, and open’ leadership

WIU Interim President Kristi Mindrup (center) flanked by Board of Trustees members Kirk Dillard and Polly Radosh after Dr. Mindrup’s speech at the COFAC Recital Hall. Mindrup said “It’s time for action” to move the university forward.
Rich Egger
WIU Interim President Kristi Mindrup (center) flanked by Board of Trustees members Kirk Dillard and Polly Radosh after Dr. Mindrup’s speech at the COFAC Recital Hall. Mindrup said “It’s time for action” to move the university forward.

Western Illinois University Interim President Kristi Mindrup has outlined her priorities as she begins leading the institution.

“We are the right community at the right time to move this institution forward,” Dr. Mindrup said during a speech on Wednesday, April 10.

She delivered her remarks to the university and larger communities in the College of Fine Arts and Communication Recital Hall on the Macomb campus.

Mindrup became interim president on April 1, but noted she has “the benefit of 27 years of listening, learning, observing, and doing.”

Mindrup hopes she has earned trust through her many years at WIU, and hopes to strengthen that.

“I intend to maintain and build trust through a leadership style that is collaborative, kind, and open.”

Mindrup establishes key priorities

The interim president outlined four priorities to create “positive, impactful growth, and to promote our ability to succeed and evolve into a new era.”

  • Promote a thriving and inclusive environment
  • Financial stability with a future focus
  • Align resources with growth opportunities
  • Focus on innovative academic programming and student development initiatives

After her address, TSPR noted those are rather broad and general goals. Mindrup pointed out she’s been on the job for just ten days, and said she needs to get into the details with faculty, staff, and students to have a better understanding of growth opportunities and the financial situation.
TSPR also asked about the consulting firm hired by the previous administration to help WIU work through its challenges.

“I think that the tools that they give to our academic programs will result in ‘the look within’ that we need to make at Western Illinois University that will inform our planning and decisions moving ahead,” she replied.

Representatives from the consulting firm were on campus this week to share strategies for departments to look at.

Mindrup noted Western is not alone in facing challenges. She said there have been major shifts in the higher education landscape that affect colleges and universities across the nation.

During the speech, Mindrup said Western has patched together strategies to address “financial bruises” inflicted by the state budget impasse of 2016-17

She believes the momentum is shifting at Western.

“Yet, we know there’s still important work to do,” she said.

She wants the institution to focus on student development that aligns with industry demands, state priorities, and student interests.

She said WIU has a budget deficit, but told reporters it’s difficult to pin down the exact figure right now.

“We’re still working through those numbers. They’re somewhat fluid right now because we’re looking at the pace of cashflow, we’re understanding where we are in this moment as well as looking at projections,” Mindrup said.

She said once they have a firm number, the administration will work with stakeholders on how to “get to the other side.”

Collaboration is key

Mindrup told the audience that WIU will work with communities in the region and state leaders, and that she expects collaboration throughout the institution.

She said everyone must work together to help WIU grow and have a meaningful impact in the region and beyond.

“Now is the time to listen and collaborate with our faculty and staff experts while assessing the higher education landscape to respond to what our region and the world needs from higher education,” she said.

She said WIU’s next 125 years will look different than past 125 years.

Mindrup also told the audience that Western must think big. She said WIU should be vocal and proud, and ask for the resources that are needed.

“We have a history of first-generation, traditionally underrepresented students. We want to build around the right support so that all students can thrive on campus. We want to respond to workforce development. We want to respond to teacher and healthcare shortages,” she told reporters afterward.

“We will advocate for the resources we need to accomplish those goals.”

She said WIU will seek revenue from state leaders and through grants, philanthropy, and other sources.

“We really need to take a multi-faceted approach when we think about revenue generation,” she said.

Mindrup also said employees can no longer approach budgets with a “spend it or lose it” mentality. She said the new mindset should be, “Save it and keep it.”

A long-time relationship with WIU

Mindrup started working at WIU 27 years ago.

She said Western “has been woven into the fabric of my family for a lifetime,” noting that an aunt graduated from WIU in 1972, and her grandparents loved visiting the Macomb campus to see her.

Mindrup’s initial responsibilities at the university’s previous campus in Moline included answering the phones, setting up TV carts in classrooms, and answering student and faculty questions during evening and weekend hours.

“I believe I also once responded to a plumbing problem in the basement,” she said, drawing laughter from the crowd.

She worked her way up through the years, most recently serving as Vice President of Quad Cities Campus Operations.

“I believe my trajectory illustrates the type of transformation that happens at WIU, whether you are a student, faculty, or staff member,” she said.

And now, she’s in a position to help transform the institution itself.

“I did not accept this role because I had grand plans for a university presidency. I did not accept this role as a stepping stone to somewhere else,” Mindrup said.

“I accepted this role because in this moment in time, I hope to work with this community to bring stability and a focused desire to bring people of this university together to make a positive difference for students, and to work together to ensure Western Illinois University thrives into the next century and beyond.”

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.