Montana State University-Northern’s week of meetings with potential future leaders wrapped up Thursday, shortly after the public forum with the last candidate, Phillip Taylor.
Taylor is currently the dean of science, liberal arts and business at Paul Smith’s College in Adirondacks State Park in upstate New York, a position he’s occupied for seven years.
Before that, he worked at Glenville State College, a 1,500-student school in Glenville, W.Va., as the founding director of the presidential scholars program from 2000 to 2004 and the chair of the division of arts and sciences from 2002 to 2004.
Taylor began the forum discussing some of the growth strategies that he had worked on at Paul Smith’s that led to their full-time equivalent count rising more than 25 percent, from 825 to 1058, in the past few years.
“We were able to achieve that with teamwork and some innovation,” Taylor said. “But mostly by really figuring out who we were.”
He said that students were interested in the school, appreciating many aspects of the school including the location and atmosphere on campus, but had trouble finding programs.
The school worked to create programs to retain those students already interested in the school, like environmental studies and art entrepreneur programs, as well as trying to reclaim the throne Paul Smith’s once held as one of the premier restaurant and hotel management schools in the country.
The school has an operating restaurant and hotel attached to it, which Taylor mentioned in an anecdote about the devotion a school can enjoy, wherein he went down to the hotel bar and said he had heard Paul Smith’s wasn’t very good. He said he was almost thrown out of the building and appreciated that loyalty.
Taylor said he liked Northern because it is a rural institution focused on the surrounding community.
He was asked about what he thought of having programs started here and then taken to other campuses, which many believe the main MSU campus in Bozeman is in the habit of doing.
Taylor had a few thoughts on the subject.
First was the importance of branding, so that “every time that idea or program is out there, it is a Northern idea.”
The second is that it is easier and better for small schools to function as idea-generators, because they are “nimble” enough. The big schools are so slow that by the time they get around to stealing an idea from Northern, Northern could already be on to the next great idea the large schools will eventually want.
He said that if he received the job, he would spend a large part of the beginning of his tenure meeting with all of the university’s stakeholders in the community and really getting to know what needs to be done, then figure out how to do it.
“I can’t remember the last time I told someone what to do,” Taylor said. “My process is collaborative. I’d rather determine what needs to be done together and do it.”
With all of the candidates having come through town, the final deliberation will begin before the new chancellor is chosen by the end of the year.
Phillip Taylor resume
Paul Smith’s College
• 2004-Present: • 2004-Present: Dean of Science, Liberal Arts and Business
Glenville State College
• 2002-2004: Chair of the Division of Arts and Sciences
• 2000-2004: Founding director of the presidential scholars program.