Young leaves senior staff untouched thus far

Former U President Bernie Machen changed several of his staff members when he arrived at the U in January 1998, but new U President Michael Young has left Machen’s cohorts intact since his arrival in August 2004.

Young said he is happy with the staff he acquired and the manner with which he’s collaborated, but acknowledged that things always change over time.

“Inevitably things will change because of life changes,” Young said. “My initial instinct is to come in, see how people are doing and make changes over time…I was so impressed with the quality of the staff here that my task was not to see who to get rid of, but to try to keep everyone together.”

Young’s staff has been pleased with his patience.

“Bernie changed a lot of people, he had a lot of shakeups with the staff,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Barb Snyder. “It’s not atypical. It’s probably more atypical not to make a lot of changes. It takes someone with a lot of self-confidence to come in and say, ‘I’m not going to make a lot of changes.'”

General Counsel for the U John Morris agreed.

“There was a large turnover during Bernie’s time,” Morris said. “I think the fact is that we had a really excellent senior administration team in place when Mike became president, and when he came here he found that to be the case and wanted the assistance of an experienced staff.”

Former Interim President Lorris Betz, who returned to his position as Senior Vice President for Health Sciences when Young was hired, said he is not concerned.

“I’m not worried about major changes at the most senior leadership in the president’s office,” Betz said. “I think he’s quite comfortable and we’re comfortable with him.”

Special Assistant to the President Laura Snow agreed.

“He’s said this is the best collection of people he’s worked with in his career,” Snow said. “There’s great camaraderie and he’s been working really well with everyone and has built a great trust with everyone. We’re all moving at a very fast pace, but we’re also all in sync.”

Young’s Administrative Assistant Keri Johnson said the staff feels secure and agreed that everyone is working well together.

“Basically it wasn’t broke, so we didn’t need to fix it,” Johnson said.

Young’s senior staff also praised the president for the attributes he has displayed, which they said should lead him and the U to success.

“It’s an absolute joy to work with him,” said Liz McCoy, Young’s executive assistant. “We have great relationships with each other and we’ve worked a long time together, and that makes the transition a lot easier and more smooth.”

Vice President for University Relations Fred Esplin agreed.

“The senior administration team for the university have been working together very effectively,” Esplin said. “Certainly compared to other places I’ve worked, this is a group of people that work extraordinarily well together and are very supportive and effective. It’s been excellent, I’ve been very pleased about how things have gone with our new president, and I thoroughly enjoy working with him.”

Associate Vice President for Diversity Karen Dace offered more conservative praise for Young, saying, “I can’t say that it’s not been good. I think he’s very supportive of the work we do.”

But Snyder said changes could still be on the horizon.

“It would not be surprising if, over time, there weren’t some changes to the administrative structure. Almost every administration takes that opportunity.”

Vice President for Budget and Planning Paul Brinkman agreed.

“Generally you want to wait a little bit and see who you’re comfortable with,” Brinkman said. “Changes are still possible in the next year or two.”

Senior Events Coordinator Shirley Keiser said she thinks Young did not make initial changes because he was waiting for a natural rotation as people sometimes retire.

Young acknowledged that U Vice President of Development Mike Mattsson is retiring after this school year and called it “a major change.”

Mattsson could not be reached for comment.

Whether his departure will be the first in a series or if it’s merely an anomaly is yet to be determined, but Young offered high praises for his fellow leaders.

“I just think the senior staff here is absolutely terrific,” Young said. “I don’t believe in coming in and throwing everybody off the bus.”

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