A recent evaluation of Metropolitan State College of Denver President Stephen Jordan, conducted for the College’s Board of Trustees (BOT), credits Jordan with building the institution into a college of choice for students and a player in both state policy and funding for higher education.
Tom Meredith, a consultant with the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB), presented the findings of his evaluation of Jordan’s first five years as president at the Dec. 1 BOT meeting. A comprehensive evaluation was called for by the trustees in April 2010 per Jordan’s presidential contract.
“The purpose of this is to tell (Dr. Jordan) what things we want him to keep doing, and as would be the case for any of us, what are the things we can do to make him even better than he is today,” said BOT Chair Rob Cohen.
The evaluation, which began over the summer as Jordan embarked on his fifth year as Metro State President, was conducted using conversations with more than 80 individuals from the Metro Denver community, national higher education leaders, and within the College.
Meredith kicked off his presentation by saying, “Out of all of these (evaluations) that I have done, I’ve never encountered this much positive support and respect for a president.”
The prevalent theme expressed by the interviewees, Meredith said, was one of pride in having Jordan represent Metro State, adding, “They are pleased that he is the face of Metro State.”
Among the characteristics for which Jordan was lauded were strategic thinking, entrepreneurship and being student-centered. “You were congratulated for being a motivator for big ideas, very transparent, respected in all corners, politically effective, sincere about diversity, a good decision maker, and the fact that you and your wife Ruthie make a great team for Metro was a great compliment,” he added.
Of particular importance, according to Meredith, was Jordan’s fiscal prowess. “The fact that you and this board decided not to use the stimulus funds for recurring expenses leaves this institution in good shape—I will tell you, extremely good shape—compared to institutions that I know of across the country.”
Metro State’s momentum under Jordan’s leadership, demonstrated physically by the construction of the Student Success Building, says, according to Meredith: “You just better get out of the way or Metro will consume you.”
Jordan’s relationships with various external communities were also widely praised. For instance, Meredith said that Jordan is listened to and respected at the state legislature and in state policy-making circles. In his work as chair of the NCAA Division II Presidents Council, Jordan was recognized as having led reforms to make the collegiate experience for student-athletes more balanced, such as shortening the length of seasons.
Jordan’s internal relationships were deemed just as important. Meredith found Jordan had a positive rapport with the Board of Trustees, the Foundation Board and alumni. “You keep your chair informed and the board informed. And the board received compliments about a board that cares about Metro,” he said.
Jordan’s effort to keep the lines of communication with faculty and staff open was evident in the request for more Town Hall meetings, according to Meredith. “You’ve created a culture of planning, publicizing and branding, which is good for any campus to have and is very impressive.”
Jordan has held four Town Hall meetings since spring 2009 to keep the Metro State community abreast of the state’s budget issues and how they might impact the College. The most recent Town Hall meeting was held on Nov. 18. In addition, he was recognized for being visible, attending campus functions and being active in the community.
The second part of the evaluation involved improving Jordan’s performance. Citing that there were no major items of concern, Meredith said there was widespread advice that Jordan should focus on execution of current initiatives: “Bring those to a conclusion, and then be selective on the new initiatives as you move forward.” Areas for “even more improvement” included retention and graduation rates, campus morale, the state legislature and private fundraising.
Acknowledging the number of vacancies in leadership positions when Jordan arrived at the College, Meredith said Jordan needs to work to create strategies to improve the “teamwork and transparency among the leadership team, just to bring all folks together. You had an unbelievable number of vacancies when you arrived…”
At the conclusion of Meredith’s presentation, Trustee Antonio Esquibel said that after reading “The Changing Demands of Presidential Leadership,” in the AGB’s Trusteeship Magazine, “I checked off all of the items that make a good president, and Dr. Jordan scored high on all of them. So, it is nice to know that we not only validate what the national organizations say about the leadership but also what (Meredith) found here at Metro.”
A sought-after consultant in the area of higher-education leadership, Meredith has had a long and distinguished career in higher education. He served as commissioner of Higher Education for Mississippi’s university system, chancellor for the University System of Georgia, chancellor of the University of Alabama System, president of Western Kentucky University, and vice chancellor at the University of Mississippi.
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