Reflections on a Presidency
Thursday, March 29, 2007
When Roy H. Saigo became the 21st president of St. Cloud State University in July 2000, he set a tone of inclusiveness, accountability and enhanced opportunity that has brought the University to what he believes is “a good place.”
A strong leadership team is in place, and the University is on a positive track to make a smooth transition to a new administration when President Saigo retires June 30.
Financial reserves have been restored through a campus-wide effort, strategic planning has been strengthened and better procedures have been instituted to collect, analyze and use internal data for such things as budget allocation.
President Saigo’s most outstanding legacy may be his encouragement of the global university concept. His vision of a campus that welcomes increasing numbers of international students and encourages universal study-abroad experience for students, faculty members and staff will have lasting implications.
“Our students graduate into a world with fewer boundaries and greater interaction with people from different cultural traditions and perspectives,” Saigo said. During the last two years of his tenure Saigo traveled to affirm and renew many existing agreements and to develop new ones with international partners. Currently 40 such partnerships are in place.
During the 2006-07 year the university’s international student enrollment increased to 959 students from 93 countries. That’s a 40 percent increase from the 1999-2000 year. In addition, each year about 450 domestic students participate in the university’s semester-long study abroad programs in 12 countries and several short-term programs abroad. A recent survey of faculty indicated nearly 50 percent had some international experience.
“Just imagine the great benefits that are derived from these exchanges,” Saigo said. SCSU is well on its way to becoming the “multicultural treasure” a national magazine dubbed it in a profile of President Saigo.
One of Saigo’s highest priorities from the beginning of his administration was to build an atmosphere of trust, respect and openness – a campus where communication and the open exchange of ideas were valued and practiced. “Civility,” “collegiality,” “respect” and “community” quickly became familiar words in Saigo’s communications.
With the hiring of a lead investigator to objectively look into potentially explosive issues, the settling of class action lawsuits and ongoing attention to the issues of equal pay for women faculty and anti-Semitism, and with a strong mediation program in place, the University significantly reduced the number of complaints and grievances in the past seven years.
Another important milestone was the commissioning of the Community Anti-Racism Education – CARE – Leadership Team to give campus and community members the means and tools to challenge and dismantle institutional racism.
During the Saigo administration significant progress was made in the recruiting and hiring of persons of color as students, faculty members and staff. From 1999 to 2006 enrollment of students of color more than doubled. During those seven years the number of employees who are persons of color increased by 36 percent.
“All around us in this shrinking world are people whose priorities and perspectives may be different from those in our familiar circle of family and friends,” Saigo said. “Changing attitudes and beliefs is difficult and frequently painful, but getting to know people on an individual basis is a strong foundation for understanding and respect.”
Colleagues note accomplishments of SAIGO presidency
“Over the years, President Roy Saigo has demonstrated strong leadership through conviction and willingness to build St. Cloud State University into an international institution. In today’s global economy, it’s critical for our St. Cloud businesses to hire employees who are global thinkers. Under his leadership, SCSU now offers many international programs that have made a positive difference in our community. Dr. Saigo is a respected leader who has provided outstanding civic contributions to our community.”
“I believe that many people are unaware of the tremendous impact Roy Saigo has had nationally regarding the American Indian mascot and logo issue. His historic presentation on the negative consequences of their use on indigenous communities pressured the NCAA to examine its role in condoning this form of racism in collegiate sports. Roy remains the only university president in the country who has shown the courageous leadership to publicly take a stand against the use of American Indian mascots, logos, and nicknames.”
“A president’s real impact cannot be known until after the torch has been passed and the university community and new president have confronted the institution anew. I suspect that today they will not find SCSU to be dominated by internal deficiencies that thwart mission achievement. Rather, I suspect they will find SCSU poised and ready to pursue a myriad of opportunities. Although many thought it impossible, that is the legacy we asked Roy Saigo to leave when we asked him to become president.”
"I was looking for a president who would take ownership of our school and steady the ship. I feel Roy Saigo has accomplished this. From my fellow classified staff I always hear respect and appreciation for Roy. He went out of his way to develop relationships with us. Roy will go down in SCSU history as a man who took on the hard issues and did not sidestep hard decisions. I personally thank him for his time with us."
"St. Cloud State University will always remember the skill and leadership qualities of Dr. Roy Saigo. Many of the difficult issues facing the university at the start of his administration were resolved and turned into opportunities. His enthusiasm for global education involved both SCSU students studying in foreign countries and bringing students from other countries to study and interact with SCSU students, supporting establishment of an international student/alumni environment."
"After 9-11 most U.S. universities saw a big drop in international enrollments. We actually have increased to almost 1,000 international students from 93 countries. With President Saigo’s encouragement, enthusiasm and leadership, we have developed new programs and exchanges and increased participation in our study-abroad programs. His vision of making SCSU a global university is a reality."
“For me, the truest measure of leadership quality in higher education is the degree to which conditions are created and sustained in which faculty, students and staff can do their best work – together. No single individual in any position can transform institutional culture. University presidents can and do, however, create the impetus for change, create the conditions in which change is possible and support students, faculty and staff in change efforts. President Saigo has modeled this kind of transformative leadership throughout his tenure. His confidence and loyalty to the internal constituencies of the University have made us far better than we might have been as scholars, as teachers, as public servants, as learners and, ultimately, as a university community.”
“President Saigo’s passion shone as I worked with him to develop and build support for the Atwood Center renovation and Student Recreation Center/stadium projects. His legacy, however, will go beyond the buildings and physical improvements he’s brought to SCSU; it will live on, rather, in the culture of collaboration and commitment to students he’s helped instill in people at all levels of SCSU.”
“Four years ago, Dr. Saigo made a bold decision to change St. Cloud State University’s identity ... by sanctioning and commissioning the Community Anti-Racism Education (CARE) Leadership Team. The anti-racism initiative has been a phenomenal approach to the issues of systemic racism in higher education and communities. Dr. Saigo’s strong support, commitment, insight, vision and leadership made possible what seemed impossible – faculty, administrators, students, staff and community members working together to dismantle institutional racism and to promote a welcoming environment for all people that is culturally competent, multicultural and anti-racist.”
“Soon after I started in 2003 President Saigo made it very clear it was an expectation of my office to increase our numbers of students of color. We made it a priority, and working with Multicultural Student Services and others on campus, we were able to achieve significant progress. I have never come across a president with such a genuine interest in increasing the numbers of students of color and international students on a campus.”
“President Saigo gave me the extra nudge I needed to get my bachelor’s degree. I had plans to finish my four-year degree when I first started working at St. Cloud State; however, during the first 18 years I had only completed one course. President Saigo strongly encouraged me to take at least one class a semester. He joked that he could not retire until I graduated – which I did the same semester he announced his retirement.”
“President Saigo helped St. Cloud State reach new levels of success. He continuously brought people and resources together to help the students succeed and made it a priority to create a community of learning and opportunity. He made it a priority to hear the student voice. Our interests and concerns were very important to him, and he used them as a link to raise the University to new standards.”
Timeline of Saigo presidency 2000-07