Thursday, July 09, 2015

U Of Alaska President Search Part 4: Finalist Johnsen Meets With Community (and me) At UAA

My blogger identity and my human identity came together yesterday afternoon when I went to the newish sports center at UAA for the community forum with president finalist Jim Johnsen.  Fortunately, I thought it was at 4pm so, while I didn't get there until 4:10, I was early for the real time of 4:30.  I checked out the view from the Sports Grill looking through the glass wall down to the
arena floor.  (Someone later asked Johnsen whether more student residences wouldn't have been a better use of the money than this slick arena.  He diplomatically said he tried not to second guess past leaders' decisions, knowing that various factors come together in a way that make some decisions right in the context.)

Anyway,  I used my extra time to call my mom who went back on hospice earlier that day, and I waited for the tv interview to end, before I went over to talk to the finalist, knowing that neither of us were probably too excited about meeting given that I'd posted the day before my belief that he had padded his resume over publications.  He said, "Hi Steve" as I walked over and we shook hands as I acknowledged the awkwardness, he thanked me for at least giving him a heads up email before posting, and we got past it and chatted amiably.  If he would have preferred to make me vanish, it wasn't obvious, and I sincerely told him that if he becomes president that I would support him however I could.  I'm not a confrontational person and coming face-to-face with the man I'd just written about was uncomfortable, but we both worked to put each other at ease.

It wasn't til after the event that I thought back to several weeks ago when I asked if I could interview him then and he said the search committee had told him not to talk to folks before the campus visits.  I think my inability to talk to him (other than brief emails) prior to posting put us both at a disadvantage.  It set me up to wonder why the regents didn't trust him (or the media) enough to let us talk and made him less of a person and more of a character in a story where I had to fill in the details.  The email exchange we had over the publications was cordial but factual and we didn't discuss why he characterized them as he did in the resume.  If we had met and talked, I know we would have gone into more depth that would have given him a chance to give his view of the resume.   As I think about all this now, I realize that in our former interactions back in the late 1990's, we were cast in adversarial roles - he was labor relations director and I was grievance coordinator for the union.  And with him based in Fairbanks and me in Anchorage, when we met it was basically over business. 

There were appetizers out and people found their way up to the grill and by the time Chancellor Case introduced him there were about 40 people in the room.  He gave his introductory comments - which he's repeated maybe ten times in the last two days first in Juneau and yesterday in Anchorage [Fairbanks]- articulately.  He went on to answer people's questions - about graduation rates, how the university can participate in the state discussions about the economy, about tuition and other student fees, the residence halls v. the sports center - knowledgeably.  He spoke in detail revealing a good grasp of the Alaska situation and awareness about what's done Outside in similar situations.

He doesn't have the commanding presence of the generals - past president Hamilton, current president Gamble - which is not a bad thing.  Nor does he have the nice guy presence of the third general - Chancellor Case - who introduced him at the gathering.  He said he's used to thinking about himself as a bit of an introvert, but that he really has enjoyed the past two days getting to talk to so many people.  And perhaps that's a good description of his manner - the introvert working hard to pass in an extrovert role.  That's an observation, not a criticism; I can relate to that myself.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments will be reviewed, not for content (except ads), but for style. Comments with personal insults, rambling tirades, and significant repetition will be deleted. Ads disguised as comments, unless closely related to the post and of value to readers (my call) will be deleted. Click here to learn to put links in your comment.