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Incoming UNH president: 'A university should be an economic engine'

New Hampshire Union Leader

April 10. 2018 9:56PM

James W. Dean Jr., the incoming president of the University of New Hampshire, speaks to the Union Leader at UNH Manchester on Tuesday. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — Incoming University of New Hampshire President James W. Dean Jr. hasn’t yet signed his employment contract or mastered the university budget but already has met with legislators, faculty and students.

Money and better understanding among students are among topics high on his priority list.

“For any, any university president, you know money is an ever-present kind of thing because there’s never enough of it,” Dean said in an interview at the University of New Hampshire at Manchester on Tuesday,

“And so trying to make sure that the financial model works and will continue to work in the future is, of course, a bedrock expectation in the job,” he said.

Dean, former executive vice chancellor and provost at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will start at UNH on June 30, moving to a state that is last in providing state aid to higher education.

Dean, 62, said he met Tuesday with legislators who will help decide how much funding the University System of New Hampshire will receive.

“I told them that I hope this is the beginning of a great relationship in that the university should be something that helps the state to be better,” Dean said. “In my experience, if people really believe in you, then they will help to fund you.”

Dean, who beat out three other finalists, will oversee more than 16,500 students on three campuses in Durham, Manchester and Concord.

“We live in complicated times in America right now with a lot of opportunities for better understanding across different kinds of groups and because universities are really microcosms of society, you know, we’re not immune to all of those challenges, and so trying to make sure that the university does its part in diversity inclusion — sure, that will be something important to work on,” he said.

University System Chancellor Todd Leach said Dean made “a very positive impression” during his campus touring.

Dean, whose appointment was announced last Wednesday, said he wants to spend six months going around the state and campuses, meeting people and understanding their aspirations.

“Out of that, I think some priorities will emerge to try and help make the university even better,” he said.

Dean, who hopes to take up cross-country skiing, said he stepped down as provost last year for two reasons: to become a university president and write a book.

Well, he checked off the former and is 85 percent along in completing the latter.

“The hope for the book is it will help businesspeople more effectively help universities become better,” Dean said.

For decades, North Carolina has benefited from a strong research presence, and Dean welcomed ongoing discussions about building a research park at UNH.

“I mean a university should be an economic engine for the state and the region, and if that helps it to happen, then let’s take a look,” Dean said.

Creating a well-rounded student should be a prime goal, not just making “their entire education about their first job,” he said.

Dean formerly served as dean of the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.

“One of the things that’s occurred to me many times is I would probably not hire someone to work for me in a business who only knows about business,” Dean said.

“I find that incredibly frightening: someone who had no historical context, no knowledge of different cultures, no knowledge of history,” he said.

Dean said the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute, which is partnering with UNH-Manchester, “sounds like it’s something that’s really exciting.”

While provost at UNC, he competed unsuccessfully for the ARMI project, so “I switched over to the winning side,” Dean joked.

He said he is a fan of founding father Alexander Hamilton — both the man and the musical. He’s read a Hamilton biography and attended the smash-hit musical.

“My secret was paying a bunch of money,” Dean said of obtaining tickets. “I bought’em on StubHub like everybody else.”

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