Dr. Gerard Clancy is familiar with the ornate desk, smooth wooden floors, and sturdy bookshelves of a university president’s office — he held such an office for eight years at OU-Tulsa. Now, he settles into a very similar office — one with a view of Chapman Commons.
Clancy assumed the presidency on November 1, two months ahead of schedule. Former president Steadman Upham had been slated to retire at the start of the new year.
Many have been curious as to why Clancy assumed early, which the president calls “a natural question.”
“I was named to be the next president in May, and the plan was over the next few months I’d get trained in the job,” Clancy explains. “As we got closer to January, as I was being trained, people started coming to me for the long-term decisions anyhow….It became clear that it was good for me to assume early. I’d been a president at OU-Tulsa for eight years, so I knew the job pretty well.”
This isn’t Clancy’s first time around the block.
According to his bio on TU’s website, he “more than doubled the number of education programs, student enrollment, patient care visits, employees, campus facility square footage and campus annual budget to more than $150,000,000” and “was able to fully fund and build seven new education and clinical buildings and build a significant reserve fund for the campus,” during his tenure at OU-Tulsa.
He intends to continue building upon former president Upham’s legacy.
“TU is on a trajectory [where] we’ve built a beautiful campus, and now it’s my job to fill it up with programs and people and students,” Clancy says.
Clancy’s priorities for TU are varied but targeted.
They include a focus on campus safety, diversity, student accommodations and support, resources for first-generation college students, resources for veterans, increasing internship opportunities and affordability.
The president acknowledges that there may be some setbacks along the way in achieving these goals, particularly in light of TU’s recent budget cuts.
Clancy attributes the budget cuts to disparities in TU’s income, which he says has four main components: tuition, endowment (scholarships or endowed chairs), research grants and gifts.
“This is a school that goes up and down enrollment-wise like the energy industry does,” he says. “We’re in a three-year lag now with the energy industry and we’re in a three-year lag with enrollment.”
He concludes, “When any one of [the four components] is lagging a little bit, the university struggles a little bit.
Endowment is down a little bit, enrollment is down a little bit … I think everyone’s realized that we’ve had to make some cutbacks.”
These cutbacks have mostly included changing the hours of on-campus services, such as shuttles, limiting janitorial services for offices, and most notably, the suspension of retirement benefits for all university employees.
Clancy emphasizes that the main priority in the university’s decision-making process was to avoid hurting the student learning experience.
“We needed to move relatively quickly, and so what we did was we suspended the retirement benefit until we could get caught up,” he says.
“The plan going forward is to adjust the budget as much as we can to try and bring back the retirement benefit as soon as we can.”
The president intends to move forward not by making more cuts, but by “growing the pieces we need to grow.”
He sees diversifying TU’s programs as one of the main priorities for resolving the budget crisis, as this will prevent the university from being too dependent on a single department(such as energy) and will help boost enrollment.
Efforts to do so are already underway with the addition of newly accredited Health Sciences programs, as well as partnerships with local high schools, concurrent enrollment and outreach in cities such as St. Louis and Houston.
Clancy also intends to increase internship options for students, both to increase enrollment and to provide students with as many opportunities as possible to prepare themselves for life after college. Recently, he’s reached out to Microsoft to discuss internship options, and made a trip to China to discuss exchanges and joint partnerships.
As president, Clancy plans to get involved on campus as much as possible. “I expect people to see me around. I walk around a lot, and so please stop and say hi to me, I like that. I go and see the band at the football games…I want to be with students.”
This includes involvement with student associations. Clancy was active duty for six year and a reservist in the Air Force for another 20, and plans to work with the Student Veteran Association to make sure people know that veterans are “very welcome” at TU. “It’s important to me,” he emphasizes.
He also intends to boost service outreach. “At TU I want to be known for more than just volunteering,” he enthuses.
“I want our students to be known for knowing the communities and the projects that they’re in, and doing things at a deeper level than just putting in some service hours.”
Clancy notes that many campus efforts, such as the True Blue Neighbors Behavioral Health Clinic, Reading Partners, Joe’s Garage, the Little Light House and the Boesche Law Clinic already achieve this, but it’s an effort he intends to expand upon.
He becomes visibly impassioned as he talks about the service efforts TU has conducted so far, praising TU students’ ability to get out and get involved. “We’ve got a great story to tell at TU.
I think it’s three overlapping circles, the first being we do a great job in the classroom, the second is we do a great job introducing students to what the world is like in complex environments like True Blue Neighbors and the Global Scholars, but we really succeed in that our students, earlier than most students and to a greater depth than most students, actually go out and do things.”
“That’s Little Light House projects, that’s Made at TU, that’s Ad Program, that’s Third Floor Design, that’s Studio Blue, that’s what The Collegian does — you’re actually doing more than can happen at other universities where students are kinda passive and sitting back. So that’s the story I wanna tell, that when you come to TU you actually get to DO more.”
On a more serious note, Clancy notes that campus safety needs to be a priority for the university moving forward, especially in the light of the arrest and suspension of TU student Alberto Luis Molina for a number of crimes including burglary and sexual battery. He intends to promote a climate of cooperation and safety, and notes that “even within some of our most recent cases there’s some successes of communication is getting better, and people are talking. Clearly it’s very on the minds of the students.”
From his successful tenure at OU-Tulsa, Clancy brings the ability to work through long term problems. “Sometimes these things take time. To get things done at a big complex organization like this you have to have a long horizon, but the key factor for leadership for me is execution,” he says.
“It’s pretty easy to come up with ideas and pretty easy to actually put together a plan. It’s DOING the plan that’s the hard part.”
“I’m kind of a high-energy person and part of that is just pushing through when things are hard,” he explains.
He also intends to bring experience from his work in psychiatry to the president’s office. Clancy has a long and successful career in psychiatry, beginning with a degree in Biochemistry from the University of Iowa. He continues to work at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research and continues to see psychiatric patients.
“In my job [as a psychiatrist], part of what is helpful is I know people,” he elaborates. “So I know when people are upset, I know a little bit about understanding people’s motives and incentives. But probably the most important thing I do as a psychiatrist … is bring hope back into the equation. It’s kind of a tough time for TU right now and my job is to say that things can get better.
“To have hope, you have to be able to show a pathway,” Clancy concludes. “You can’t have hope without a pathway. You can’t fake it. And so part of my job is to put together the path for our university, for our programs, to say that we’ll get through this.”