BLOOMINGTON — Illinois Wesleyan University's next president describes himself as a “team-oriented” leader who is “collaborative by nature.”
“I care a lot about outcomes and care less about the specific means,” said Eric Jensen, who will we become IWU's 19th president on Nov. 1. “You hire people to do a job and then need to allow them to do those jobs.”
Like many colleges and universities, IWU faces financial and enrollment challenges although Jensen said IWU is coming from “a fundamentally strong economic base.”
He said the challenge is to see “how we're going to form a uniquely Illinois Wesleyan response to our opportunities and challenges” and build on the university's strengths.
Jensen is coming to IWU from Hamline University, where he served as provost for three years.
He previously served as an economics and public policy professor at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., and as director of its Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy.
It was his administrative post in the Thomas Jefferson Program, after 22 years of teaching, that helped him see there were important things he could do as an administrator, Jensen explained.
“I didn't realize how the gears actually turned,” he said.
As he visited liberal arts schools with his son, he decided he would like to lead a small liberal arts campus where it's possible to have the “personal touch,” he said.
When he arrived at IWU as a finalist for the presidential position, “It felt like home being on campus; it felt like I belonged,” Jensen said at the all-campus gathering where he was introduced on Monday.
Everyone he met shared the same sense of purpose and dedication to “the liberal arts mission,” he said, adding he liked how people used “we” and “us” when discussing accomplishments at the university.
“I hope to continue the same sense of shared purpose,” he said.
Jensen also has experience abroad.
He was a visiting scholar in economics at the University of Indonesia, has evaluated HIV-AIDS efforts for the World Bank and reproductive health programs for U.S. Agency for International Development and served as guest editor of the Journal of Philippine Development and the Philippine Population Journal.
Jensen would like to form more study-abroad relationships for IWU students.
But he said his initial job will be talking to people on campus about their ideas regarding the uniqueness that Illinois Wesleyan has to offer and “see how they mesh” with his ideas.
"We will continue preparing students for democratic citizenship and life in a global society and we'll do this in ways that maintains our commitment to diversity, social justice and environmental sustainability," Jensen said.
In searching for IWU's next president, the university focused on four key qualifications, according to Jean Baird, the search committee chair: strategic and visionary leadership; organizational capacity building; communication and capacity building; and leadership in higher education.
She said Jensen had all those attributes and the way he and his wife, Elizabeth, connected with the campus during their visit made him stand out.
“Eric stood out with his vision for Wesleyan and how we could be more unique and bring us into the future,” Baird said.