YOUNGSTOWN — Helen Lafferty, who will become acting president of Youngstown State University on Feb. 1, plans to take an active role in university affairs — but not before she listens to the people who work and study on campus.
Lafferty, in a virtual meet and greet with local media on Monday, gave an overview of what she thinks those challenges will entail, including some faculty cuts the university is considering.
“I know the cuts with faculty will be some of the challenges I will face, but I expect to use the first few months of listening and learning,” Lafferty said. “I am now on the ground with the people affected by these decisions. I rely on the instinct and judgment of those who have been here.
Despite the temporary position, Lafferty said she does not plan to be an interim president who does not take action. She said the university’s input would guide her decision-making.
Lafferty was unanimously chosen a week ago as interim president by the university’s board of trustees; she served as a non-voting National/Global University Trustee.
She shared that she is from Youngstown and graduated from YSU.
She emphasized her love for the region. “There’s always a place in your heart for your hometown, Youngstown is where my roots began,” she said.
Over the coming weeks and months, Lafferty said she plans to meet with faculty, students and others to determine her leadership role and the goals she intends to achieve in her acting role.
“When I think about my goals, there are two driving forces: YSU’s mission and the strategic plan,” Lafferty said. “My efforts will focus on ensuring the growth and well-being of students and keeping the strategic plan at the center of my concerns.”
The plan was developed by the organization’s strategic planning team to guide the future of the university. Its four initiatives are: the improvement and effectiveness of academic programs; curriculum effectiveness; transformation of the university curriculum; and a campus engaged in the community.
Lafferty said she will work closely with Jim Tressel, who steps down as university president in February. She said she hopes to continue the “spirit and momentum” Tressel has displayed throughout her tenure.
“President Tressel has a legacy of leadership that we will build on for many years to come,” she said.
Tressel in 2014 became the school’s ninth president.
Since then, he has contributed to the growth of the university in many ways, including fundraising.
Lafferty told the conference that she has no plans to run for president. She will stay in place while the school conducts a national presidential search.
Once a candidate is found, Lafferty said she will return to her role at Villanova University. She is taking a sabbatical as a liberal arts and science teacher and a full-time faculty member in the education and counseling department.