CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Nov. 2, 2011 — Kenneth W. Dobbins, president of Southeast Missouri State University, recently chaired the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) annual conference and 50th Anniversary Gala in Boston, Mass.
AASCU represents more than 400 public colleges, universities and systems of higher education throughout the United States and its territories and more than 3.7 million students or 56 percent of the enrollment at all public four-year institutions.
The theme for this year’s Oct. 24-26 conference was “Inspired by Five Decades of Service – Leading Transformational Change.” In Dobbins’ letter of welcome to conference participants, he said, “The past decade has been challenging for most AASCU presidents and chancellors. Many in our profession believe a “new normal” is being established because of the uncertain national economy, continued reductions in state appropriations, demands for more transparency, considerable scrutiny over rising tuition costs, and the replacement demands for faculty, staff and aging facilities.”
Among the presenters at the conference were Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter and Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education Eduardo Ochoa, who led an interactive conversation on “Leading the Student Success Agenda – Challenges, Strategies and Promising Practices.” Dobbins presided over a session presented by Erskine Bowles, former White House chief of staff and currently co-chair of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The session was entitled “Leading Transformational Change.” Carl Wieman, associate director for science at the White House Office of Science and Technology and 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics recipient, presented “The University of 2020: Students, Faculty and Curriculum.” Ronald Heifetz, founding director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, spoke on “The Leader of the Future,” while Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author and presidential historian, spoke on “America’s Presidents and Public Higher Education: A Historian’s Perspective.”
Also among the featured presenters at the conference was Dr. James Stapleton, executive director of the Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Southeast. Stapleton presented at a session entitled “Leading Entrepreneurial Institutions.” In the national economy of 2011, job creation and economic development have become imperatives for not only national leaders, but for institutions of higher education as well. In the focus on stewardship of place, many AASCU institutions have become involved in various forms of economic development. Stapleton’s session presented a model for economic development focusing on entrepreneurship, and using entrepreneurship as a focus for economic development and addressing regional economic development.
The conference finale featured AASCU’s 50th Anniversary Gala at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum where Dobbins presented the annual Distinguished Alumnus Award to Robin Roberts, “Good Morning America” co-anchor and a 1983 graduate of Southeastern Louisiana University.
Dobbins was selected to serve a three-year term on the AASCU Board of Directors in 2007, and was elected Secretary-Treasurer in 2008, and chair in 2010. He represented Missouri on AASCU’s Council of State Representatives and formerly served as chairperson of AASCU’s Committee on Professional Development. For the past six years, he has served as one of four faculty members for the AASCU New Presidents’ Academy.
Members of AASCU work to extend higher education to all citizens, including those who have been traditionally underrepresented on college campuses. These institutions fulfill the expectations of a public university by working for the public good through education and engagement, thereby improving the lives of people in their community, their region and their state.
Dobbins became the 17th president of Southeast on July 1, 1999, after serving in several positions in higher education administration both at Kent State University in Ohio and at Southeast.