HAMDEN — At a news conference Monday, Quinnipiac University’s new president, Judy D. Olian, dean and John E. Anderson Chair of Management at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, said she was attracted to the school by its comprehensiveness and its ambition.
“This is a culture that appears extremely ambitious and nimble and embraces change and unless you are able to move quickly in this day and age, I think you’ll be left behind,” Olian told reporters, students and faculty Monday as she was being named the university’s ninth president and first woman president. “I also think there are untapped opportunities. You don’t want to go to an institution where it’s all done. You want to also have an opportunity for future … I believe that together we will forge a future for Quinnipiac.”
Olian added: “One of the great assets of me coming here is this is not an institution that is broken that needs immediate fixing. In fact, have to be careful to keep it humming as well as it is.”
Olian, who grew up in Australia and Israel and earned her PhD in industrial relations at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, was introduced to students, faculty and the media by William Weldon, chairman of the university’s trustees.
Weldon said that Olian was elected unanimously by the trustees and brings “a rich combination of academic and intellectual expertise, an innovative and student-centered focus, fundraising successes and leadership qualities at a global level to Quinnipiac University.
“Her ability to lead an internationally renowned business school, together with her demonstrated success in shaping a global strategy for the entire UCLA community, make her uniquely qualified to lead Quinnipiac to even greater heights,” Weldon said. “The board and I look forward to working with Judy to continue building on the incredible success that is Quinnipiac today.”
Olian will succeed Quinnipiac President John L. Lahey officially on July 1, 2018, and will visit the university periodically to prepare for the transition. Lahey, who has been president of Quinnipiac for 31 years announced his plans to retire last April, and the board of trustees conducted a national search for his replacement.
Lahey, who has overseen the university during decades of dramatic growth, as it catapulted from a small college with 2,000 students on a single one hundred-acre campus to a university of nearly 10,000 students on three campuses across 700 acres with multiple professional schools, was not at the event.
However, he said in a statement, “We wish Dr. Judy Olian the best of luck as she builds on the success forged by our students, faculty and staff, working with the Quinnipiac community to move our institution to even greater levels of achievement.”
As dean and John E. Anderson Chair in Management at UCLA since 2006, Olian directs a graduate business school that Quinnipiac said is “universally regarded as a leader and innovator in higher education, annually providing management education across master’s and doctoral programs, and to more than 2,000 working professionals through executive education programs.”
Scott L. Waugh, executive vice chancellor and provost at UCLA, said that during Olian’s tenure, more than half of Anderson’s current faculty were hired and four new research centers were launched.
“Judy’s impact has been felt across the university,” Waugh said. “She is a global thinker, advancing the campus’s global strategic priorities alongside Anderson’s expanding international footprint.”
At the news conference Monday, students asked Olian about her commitment to diversity, her accessibility, enrollment growth, athletics and other topics.
“My view is that no matter what the differences are on campus, we need to respect those differences. We need to celebrate those differences,” Olian said on diversity, “and there can be no grounds for any reason to be disrespectful, let alone abusive of those who are different. That’s what inclusivity means — that everyone feels welcomed and empowered no matter who they are.”
Austin Calvo, a student who is vice president for the student experience, said he was encouraged by Olian’s comments on diversity and hopes she will bring a more of a “world view approach” to campus, particularly with her roots outside the U.S.
On accessibility, Olian said, that at UCLA, she conducts town hall meetings, hosts events at her house, and talks to students in the hallways.
“My hope is that I’ll be able to spend a lot of time with students at a variety of events,” Olian said. “If anyone bumps into me here along the pathways, I hope they’ll give me a piece of their mind — nicely.”
She said she’s found that some of the best ideas come from students and she hopes to keep a dialogue open.
Olian also praised her predecessor, Lahey, for all his accomplishments.
“This is somebody who is to be admired, revered for the legacy that he leaves. He’s been very warm and welcoming.”
She said she’s been “very impressed” with what she’s seen “about the trajectory of growth and it reflects the boldness of vision, but also reflects a ‘can-do attitude’. They thought about a goal and they went and did it and by golly they accomplished it. A lot of universities are much slower to move.
Olian said she’s hope to “continue with that ambition” but will first spend time learning and studying the institution.
“With such an esteemed institution, it would be almost disrespectful to in and presume that I know the answers without learning from the” university community, she said.
Under Lahey’s watch the university saw massive growth, not only in enrollment, but also an increase in endowment from under $5 million to about $500 million, the university said.
During his tenure, the number of graduate students surged from 106 in 1987 to 2,910 in 2017, with the establishment of the School of Law in 1992, a School of Engineering in 2012, and the Frank H. Netter M.D. School of Medicine in 2013, among other academic schools.
The university now awards 2,600 annual degrees annually, compared to only 575 in 1987 when Lahey arrived.
Lahey also established the well-known Quinnipiac University Poll, acquired a 1,000 watt commercial radio station, WQUN 1220 AM, and created six institutes including Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum and the National Institute for Community Health Education.
During Lahey’s tenure, the university also went from Division II to Division I in athletics.