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Fielding appoints new head

By   /   Sunday, February 15th, 2009  /   Comments Off on Fielding appoints new head

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Students at Santa Barbara’s Fielding Graduate University can expect a few things to change this summer when incoming president Richard Meyers replaces Judith Kuipers, who is stepping down after a nine-year term.

But they needn’t worry; Meyers knows what he’s doing.

This is the fifth presidency for Meyers, who comes to Santa Barbara from Missouri, where he headed Webster University in St. Louis for 14 years. During his tenure there, he was responsible for significant increases in the university’s endowment, its enrollment and its expansion to 108 campuses worldwide.

When announcing Meyers’ appointment, Fielding Chair James Muren said Meyers “shares a passion for the university’s academic mission and innovative education for scholar-practitioners, and I have every confidence that he will take Fielding to the next phase of strategic advancement so ably initiated by Dr. Kuipers.”

Meyers plans to travel to Santa Barbara several weeks before he officially takes office July 1 so he and Kuipers can have ample time to talk about their transition.

One of the first things he plans to discuss with her is his resolution to put Fielding on the global map.

“Fielding has wanted to set up international connections for a while now,” Meyers said. “So I’m going to start setting everything up. Once we partner with the right people in Asia and Europe, we can start to enhance our current programs offerings. That should help students cultivate an international mixture of ideas.”

Meyers insists that doesn’t want to overhaul the university; he would just like to be able to make as much of a difference as Kuipers.

“What I’m not doing is coming in with an agenda from St. Louis and telling them what they have to do,” Meyers said. “I’m a listener; I want to find out what the faculty and students and alumni want. Judith and I know each other and trust each other, and I admire everything she’s done at Fielding. Having known her so long should make the transition seamless.”

Meyers estimates that he’s known Kuipers for more than 20 years. He first met her in Oregon, where they both worked in the state university system at colleges no more than 20 miles apart.

Before he started at Webster University in 1994, he served as president at Cerro Coso Community College from 1975 to 1978, Pasadena City College from 1978 to 1983, and at Western Oregon University from 1983 to 1994.

“I’ve been doing this a very long time,” Meyers said. “I’m one of the most veteraned members in higher education. The average is around six years for a president, but Judith and I have gone way beyond that. I’ve been doing this 33 years now.”

It took a 15-person committee and a higher education search firm more than a year to track down their pick for the job, and Meyers said he couldn’t be happier that the opportunity came his way.

“It’s the realization of a lifelong dream, coming to Fielding,” Meyers said. “When I was 20 years old I visited Santa Barbara for the first time, and my first reaction was that someday I had to move there. I just had to. I made a promise to myself, and now I’m fulfilling it.”

Meyers said he and his wife, Yakko, are ecstatic about their upcoming move to the Tri-Counties. In addition to being closer to their daughter, the couple is excited about the prospect of not having to shovel snow every morning.

“Plus I kind of have a love affair with the Daily Grind!” Meyers joked. “But really, I just have this great feeling like I’m finally coming home. It’s been 26 years since my wife and I left California, and we’ve missed it a lot. It’s the promiseland.”

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