Betty Youngblood leads OU in presidential search

By Brian Johnston

After Gary Russi’s announcement that he’d be stepping down as President of Oakland University, the Board of Trustees appointed Betty Youngblood as the university’s interim president.

Youngblood grew up in the Macomb County area. Prior to her role as interim president, she served as executive director for OU-Macomb and was Oakland University’s vice president for outreach.

“I’ve lived a lot of different places and I’ve loved them all,” Youngblood said. “When you’re involved with education, every place has its special emphasis and special needs.”

Youngblood served as president of Lake Superior University in Wisconsin from 2002-2007, and she was provost of Western Oregon University from 1995-2002.

Describing herself as a “proud graduate” of Oakland University, Youngblood said being selected to serve as interim president is “a real honor and a distinct privilege.”

 

Not in the race

While former President Gary Russi was originally provost and served a year as interim president before becoming officially named Oakland University’s president, Youngblood said she will not pursue a permanent presidency.

“If I were younger, I would consider it,” Youngblood said. “I believe I can be far more effective and far more helpful to the Board of Trustees by not being a candidate.” She also listed her duties at Oakland University’s Macomb County operations as a reason she would not consider a permanent presidency. “One third of our students come from Macomb County. Macomb county is important to Oakland University, just as Oakland University is important to Macomb County.”

 

Finding a president

The Board of Trustees is ultimately responsible for hiring a new president, according to Youngblood. As a three-time president, Youngblood said she would like to help with the presidential search.

“A lot of people here haven’t experienced a presidential search,” Youngblood said. “But it actually can be an invigorating and exciting time for a university.”

Of her predecessor, Youngblood said, “President Russi made tremendous contributions here. But the university has changed a great deal during the time that he’s been here, and he has made his decision to move on in his life. It’s an exciting time at Oakland University to bring in new leadership.”

“We have a new provost, two new deans and a new dean’s position that we’ll be searching for this coming year,” Youngblood said. “So we have a lot of change going on. And change can be sometimes unsettling, but it’s also exciting. It invokes a real spirit of hope and optimism for the future.”

 

On the agenda

Youngblood said her agenda, as interim president, is to assist in the presidential search in any way she can, and to help prepare the university for a new president by dealing with individual deans and vice presidents to address issues in their departments.

Specifically, Youngblood said she would like to help improve retention and graduation rates.

“We need the support of the entire campus,” Youngblood said. “One way to get that is to make sure everyone knows what’s going on and why.”

Youngblood will serve as interim president of OU until a new president has been hired by the Board of Trustees.