Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

'Broadening Our Eyesight'

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

'Broadening Our Eyesight'

Article excerpt

After seven years in retirement from academia, Dr. Roy Saigo became president of Southern Oregon University in July 2014. In just over a year, an institution that once starved for funding and resources has seen tremendous growth, shares its leader.

"We turned enrollment around, we increased retention from 68 percent to 75 percent and this year we have 400 more applications than we had a year ago," says Saigo.

Saigo began his career in higher education in 1967 as a biology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He climbed the ranks and became assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at UW-Eau Claire.

In 1984, he began serving as dean of the College of Natural Sciences at the University of Northern Iowa, and in 1990, began his tenure as provost and vice president for academic and student affairs at Southeastern Louisiana University.

Throughout his career, Saigo has worked to increase student enrollment while adding diversity to student bodies, he notes.

"I'd like to be confident that we have educated more students and that they are going to make a difference in society," he says. "From my own personal experience, affordable public education is the one sword that will help you help yourself, your family and society."

In order to grow enrollment numbers and university resources, Saigo finds success in "building relationships and developing trust and respect," he says.

In 1994, as chancellor at Auburn University at Montgomery (AUM), he partnered with local high schools. "I remember going to Carver High School on the south side of Montgomery--they are about 95 percent African-American--and meeting with the principal. I basically said, 'I want you to know that your children are welcome to come to AUM,'" Saigo recalls.

"He leaned back in his chair, put his hands together and closed his eyes... [then] he leaned forward, looked at me straight ahead and said,'You know Dr. Saigo, I've been principal for 19 years and you are the first president of any university--Black or White--to ever visit me.' And their students started coming to our institution and we took the minority population way up."

Saigo then served as president of St. Cloud State University in Minnesota from 2000 to 2007, in which time the campus grew to approximately 16,000 students and 175 majors and minors, becoming the most highly enrolled university in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. …

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