This June will mark a full year of commitment to Cleveland State for President Harlan M. Sands. For Sands, a man who defines a good job as being as present as possible on campus, his first year has gone well so far.
“I have made it my business to be present,” President Sands said. “That was my goal from day one.”
Being on the ground and connecting with students and faculty has been one of Sands’ main goals in his term so far. When it comes to something that Sands deems successful, his One Thing campaign comes to mind.
“I think [it] has been incredibly successful. There have been a couple of other presidents all over the country that have called me and asked if they could borrow it,” Sands said. “They put their own spin on it, of course.”
The campaign tied into the three questions that Sands always likes to ask those in need of something. According to the president, those questions are, “Why is that important to you, what does that upset you and what is the meaning of that?”
“That’s been giving me a sense of where the campus is,” Sands said. ‘Now for me to tell you after nine months that I’ve got it all figured out, that wouldn’t be accurate. I’m still in the learning mode. It’s a very complex organization.”
In fact, navigating Cleveland State is more complex than Sands originally thought. Sands feels that there are a lot of things going on, at times even feeling overwhelmed because there are so many parts of the university he wants to learn about. While he doesn’t have it all mastered yet, he believes it will be a continuous process, one that he is starting to get a feel for.
“There is incredible pride that people have in Cleveland State. I think we have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder in that folks don’t understand what good of a job we do here on campus,” Sands said. “I am hearing it more and more in the community. We’re becoming a first choice institution.”
Sands also knows that while the One Thing campaign is a good device for students and faculty, there is still room to grow.
“I’m still getting suggestions, and I like people coming to the president for things they want to fix, but I still want people to learn where in the university they would go to get that fixed, who they would go to,” Sands said.
The Cleveland State president is proud of the fact that in his first year of presidency, he was able to attain a partnership with Parker Hannifin for a $5 million gift to build a Living and Learning community at Cleveland State.
“For me to get that done in my first seven months here was really big, and this needs to be done in a way where we integrate them and get that multiculturalism that we want,” Sands said. “If we do this in the way that I know we can and will, we’re going to make this so successful and so attractive that I’m really confident we’ll get other donors to step up and broaden [the community] for other students.”
Speaking of multiculturalism, Sands believes it is an important part of Cleveland State’s DNA. Sands said that he has been very deliberate about building a pipeline for international students and looks to implement the investment of resources across the campus.
“I’ve visited six high schools myself, and I don’t go alone. I go with a team that represents the multiculturalism on campus, like our chief diversity officer and faculty members that are available,” Sands said. “When I go, we get 30 to 50 students to show up, no offense to the admissions officers at all, but [when I go], principles show up, superintendents show up, so it’s really a big statement [when we attend] that we want students from all walks of life.”
The university housing is also something on the president’s mind, his first priority being that the dorms on campus are filled, which ties into the Parker Hannifin partnership, which will provide Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) graduates studying at Cleveland State with two years of free on-campus housing.
Looking to the future, Sands would like to be able to implement sophomore housing to complement the First-Year Residential Experience for the dorms that was announced on March 27. However, he acknowledges that there are other strategic priorities he would like to put into place first and then see how much more university housing would be needed.
“I would also like to see more amenities on campus, a different variety of restaurants, a mix of local places, not just chain restaurants,” Sands said. “I’ve got a lot of ideas. I’m thinking.”
Overall, Sands looks back on his first year fondly.
“I’ve enjoyed it because I like talking to folks and I’m naturally curious,” Sands said. “We’re starting to see that we’ve been an anchor to the city, but we’re ready to be the beacon, not just for Cleveland, but for northeast Ohio and [looking forward] that’s very important to me.”
Originally published for The Cauldron.