UH system could be model for U.S., a finalist says


POSTED: Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Robert Jones, the son of a peanut and cotton sharecropper from Georgia, told an audience at a University of Hawaii-Manoa forum that access to education is one of the things that interests him about the job of UH president.

Jones, one of two finalists for the position, cited Hawaii's P-20 initiative to encourage education from pre-kindergarten to postgraduate education and that the UH system includes community colleges as factors in applying for the job.

Like the other finalist, M.R.C. Greenwood of the University of California at Davis, Jones said Hawaii could be a model of education for the nation.

Jones, 57, is currently the senior vice president for system administration at the University of Minnesota system, where he started his career in 1978 as a professor of agronomy and plant genetics.

Jones said he went into administration during a time of cutbacks; he was asked more than 20 years ago to serve on a committee that looked into the impact of budget reductions on diversity at the University of Minnesota.

Jones said the university needs to look at long-term strategies during the current budget crisis and not just focus on the next two-year budget cycle.

“;The worst thing that can happen to an education system is to focus on what you can cut,”; he said. “;You have to use this period to think strategically about what you do well and how to position yourself for the future.”;

Jones' responsibilities as the second in command at the University of Minnesota include diversity and multicultural affairs, youth and family programs and an urban initiative to bring programs and research of the university into an economically depressed area of Minneapolis.

He has also been involved in increasing international programs and the number of international students, which he said is a major priority.

Jones said it is too early to say what his priorities would be as UH president until he has had an opportunity to “;become a student of the UH system.”;

Asked what he hopes would be his legacy at UH - if selected - Jones said he hopes people will say that he was innovative, responsive and built partnerships and that “;my leadership was transformative and sustainable.”;