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Friday, 13 April 2012 11:12

Q&A: David Rosen, Ph.D.

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When Oliver Evans steps down in July as president of Kendall College of Art and Design — the school he’s led for 18 years — he will be succeeded by David Rosen, currently the senior VP and VP of academic affairs at Woodbury University, a private California school. A former professor of English and drama, he also directed academic and small theater productions and is a published writer of fiction and of one rock song, “Valerie,” released by the Greg Kihn Band. Rosen talked with MiBiz about his vision for Kendall.

Why make the move from L.A. to Grand Rapids?

I grew up and worked in small towns all my life. L.A. was an experiment in big city living, but it just wasn’t really for us. I was looking for a community that has everything Grand Rapids has. It hits all our value points. It has great schools and arts and culture, and it has infrastructure around medicine. It’s approximate to big cities, if we want to be there, or wilderness, if we want to be there. West Michigan, I think, is an overlooked gem. It will be one of the premier places in the country, certainly in the region. It’s on an upward trajectory.

What drew you to Kendall College?

What interested me in Kendall is that it is this gem of an art and a design school nestled into a community and a region where art and design are at the heart of what is going on. It’s a place of incredible creativity. I tell people this is my dream job.

The outgoing President, Oliver Evans, has led the college through a period of major changes over the last 18 years. Where do you take it from here?

Oliver has done an amazing job. Kendall is on an upward trajectory. I want to honor the things he’s done and build on them. Much of what he was doing was making the college internally as strong as it can possibly be in terms of programming and administration. Some of the connections with the community and with donors and potential donors was a bit neglected just because of where the focus had to be. We need to be reaching out and making it a broader audience.

You have a background rich in attracting public and philanthropic funding to your schools. Outside of some aspects of the Federal Building project, that does not seem to have been Kendall's focus. How do you hope to accelerate fundraising at Kendall?

Kendall should be a target for outside investors. They’ve not done a lot of private donations and federal grants. I would love to go to the big foundations and have a conversation about making an investment in Grand Rapids and in Kendall. I’m passionate about bringing Kendall’s story and reach out further than our four walls. This is a once-in-a-lifetime incredible moment to be here. It puts us in touch with a public that Kendall hasn’t been in touch with in the past.

Any thoughts on moving back to a public university at this point in your career – having most recently served at a private institution?

I think education is a public good whether you’re at a public or private institution. You don’t build an area without building the human resource. As an educator, I feel a special responsibility to try to make a difference for people in the community. The state system here is set up so that it allows state universities to be agile in a way other state university systems can’t be. Kendall is uniquely situated, too: It has the look and feel of a private school that has this public life. I don’t see any diminution in the range of what Kendall can do.

About the Federal Building: What do you see as the school’s opportunity with that project?

With the gallery and our public spaces, I want to connect with the art institutions here and outside the region and work with the GRAM and UICA to find other museums of similar scale and share shows and connect us nationally. I think that’s important not just because it will bring art to Grand Rapids, but it can make your presence known around the region. I think of how resources can be leveraged to create greater resources. My imagination runs wild.

Read 2070 times Last modified on Saturday, 11 August 2012 09:54

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