Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson

Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson

Clarion University President Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson will serves as the interim president of Edinboro University starting next year after current President Guiyou Huang steps down.

Pehrsson's appointment was made Wednesday by a unanimous vote from all present members of the State System of Higher Education's Board of Governors during a morning meeting. She has served as the president of Clarion University since July 1, 2018, in addition to several other education roles.

President Huang announced his resignation Monday after he was unanimously appointed by the Western Illinois University's board of trustees to become president of Western Illinois University, located in Macomb, Illinois. The announcement was made through an email to Edinboro students, faculty and employees.

Huang became Edinboro's president in July 2019, meaning his tenure as president will have lasted only 18 months. He was picked following a nationwide presidential search that looked at 60 candidates.

Pehrsson will not be stepping down from her role as Clarion University's president and will split her attention between the two schools moving forward.

"I'm pretty strong on work-life balance, but I'm sure there will be challenges along the way," Pehrsson said about holding the dual roles in a phone interview Tuesday ahead of the formal vote.

The incoming president said she will make it a priority to establish a presence at Edinboro, wanting to allow the faculty, staff and students the chance to see her. She also is working closely with Edinboro's leadership team and Huang as she prepares for the transition.

"I just think that it's very important that we've got the best people working on this transition," Pehrsson said. "The leadership team are strong, the faculty and staff are very strong."

Cindy Shapira, chair of the board of governors, offered praise toward Pehrsson during Wednesday's meeting.

"Dr. Dale, you are an incredibly effective leader and communicator," she said. "You are an innovator at Clarion, you have been an innovator and leader in redesign, and we know you will be able to leverage those abilities to the best benefit at Edinboro University with no learning curve starting on day one."

Similar praise was offered by Neil Weaver, another member of the board and a trustee at Clarion University.

"As a trustee at Clarion, I have had the privilege of working with Dr. Dale, to witness her abilities up close," Weaver said. "From administration and enrollment to financial recovery, she has met the challenges facing Clarion with steady leadership."

Besides her work at Clarion University, Pehrsson has also served as dean of the College of Education and Human Services at Central Michigan University starting in 2012. Other roles include being an affiliate faculty member and clinical supervisor for counselor education at Idaho State University in 1991, working as a faculty member and chair of the Department of Counselor Education at the University of Nevada, serving as a counselor educator at Oregon State university and being a faculty member at Portland State University in Oregon and Sam Houston State University in Texas.

Pehrsson previously worked as a counselor and registered nurse in the healthcare industry.

According to a press release from the State System of Higher Education, Pehrsson oversaw the highest retention rate of first-to-second year students at Clarion University in 29 years and the highest retention rate from second-to-third year students since recording data for retention rates began in 1990. She also had the best fundraising total since 2013 and established the Office of Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs at the university.

Pehrsson is also part of a team overseeing the integration of Edinboro, Clarion and California universities of Pennsylvania. Shapira highlighted that as the incoming interim president of Edinboro, Pehrsson would be "deeply involved" in working toward the possible integration. Following the appointment vote, Pehrsson said she would "foster continuity and consistency" at the universities as they worked toward the integration.

Pehrsson said it is "too early to tell" when and if a search for a full-time replacement for Huang will take place. For her part, Pehrsson showed no sign of anticipating a short period as interim president.

"I'll serve that role until they tell me not to," she said.

Angela Burrows, vice president of marketing and communications for Edinboro, said the university was informed ahead of time that Huang was being considered as a finalist for president of Western Illinois University. This allowed the university and State System of Higher Education to prepare for naming an interim leader.

Pehrsson said students should not expect any changes to the education process during the transition. She said she's prepared to follow through with the prepared plans for attendance at the university amidst COVID-19, though said Edinboro's coronavirus team will have a better idea of the situation when the spring semester begins.

Edinboro mostly offers classes remotely currently, with only 15 percent of classes being offered in-person, according to Burrows. The university is anticipating increasing the number of in-person classes to 30 percent of all classes in the spring.

Sean P. Ray can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at sray@meadvilletribune.com.

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