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Interviews with news makers and discussion of topics important to Southwest Michigan. Subscribe to the podcast through Apple itunes and Google. Segments of interview are heard in WestSouthwest Brief during Morning Edition and All Things Considered

WSW: John Dunn Plans "Smooth Transition" To Next WMU President

Western Michigan University

John Dunn says it has been a pleasure and honor to serve as Western Michigan University’s president. Dunn who will retire June 30th says he’s loved getting to know students, and says his advice for the next president would be to take time to interact with students, and the diverse groups on campus. 

Dunn plans to be busy for the remainder of his time, but says there will be an adequate amount of work for next president. Dunn says he plans a healthy transition, and says he’s happy that the university’s budget is balanced and its endowment is in good shape. Western’s president spoke with WMUK’s Gordon Evans and Kalamazoo Gazette reporter Madison Bennett.


The Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine, which welcomed its first class  in 2014, is among Dunn’s most high profile accomplishments. He says the new Heritage Hall is proving to be asset for university and community. But Dunn says he respects those who felt strongly about East Campus, and wanted all of the buildings there preserved.

Presidential Search

A 22 member search committee has been appointed to find Western’s next president. Dunn says he doesn’t know all of the ins and outs of search committee. But reflecting on his experience, Dunn says he enjoyed the interview process nearly ten years ago. He says it was important to have an opportunity to interact with many different groups on campus. Dunn says a search is about fit on both sides. The university wants to make the right choice, and so does candidate. 

"We're going to find a great president soon, if we need to we"ll find a great coach."

Other Goals

Dunn says there’s a “lot of neat things” going on. Including a new “Create Your Signature” program, which he says will help students highlight the unique things they do beyond academics. He also wants to make sure that Western sustains its overseas programs. Dunn says there is also on going work with Cooley Law School and medical school accreditation. Dunn says there’s always more you wish you could accomplish. He says two examples are boosting enrollment and research expenditures. Dunn says the university has great faculty and researchers. He says Western should be more competitive for National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health funding.


Enrollment is another area Dunn says will be a focus. He says current numbers showing a 1.3% dip is basically “stable.” Dunn says it’s important to note that those numbers don’t include Cooley Law School. He says one possible change could be the pricing for out of state students. Dunn says Western is looking at the “sweet spot” for resident and non-resident tuition. But hen says the state is providing a much smaller percentage of the funding to universities than it did decades ago. So Dunn says it’s hard to see how lower tuition for non-resident students is “violating your trust with your state government.”

Athletics Budget

MLive recently examined the money spent on athletics at state universities, and found a large increase at Western Michigan University over the last decade. Dunn says some numbers in the MLive story are skewed. He says for example there was a change in reporting requirements, that now include the debt load on athletic facilities. Dunn says in relationship to general funds, the percentage Western spends on athletics has been consistent over last several years. But he says the university can do better in raising private donations to minimize general fund spending on sports. Some faculty and students at Eastern Michigan University called on the administration to drop down to Division Two. But Dunn says that dropping down a division would not save much money because of the way financial aid is calculated. 


Discussion of athletics led to discussion of football and what has been a very good season so far. (Note: the interview was recorded on Thursday before Western’s 45-31 victory over Eastern Michigan on Saturday, bringing the Broncos’ record to 8-0). Dunn says the football season has raised interest in the university as a whole. Asked about the future of head football coach P.J. Fleck, Dunn says the coach is fond of the community and university, and that he likes a challenge. While there could be lucrative offers in the future, Dunn says a coach or anyone else has to make decisions based on number of factors such as quality of life and where people are happy. Dunn says whatever ultimately happens “We’re going to find a great president soon, if we need to we’ll find a great coach.”

But if Fleck does leave for another coaching position, Dunn says he’s not sure what happens to the “Row the Boat” slogan. He although it was not terribly popular at the beginning of Fleck’s tenure it has caught on since then.

Gordon Evans became WMUK's Content Director in 2019 after more than 20 years as an anchor, host and reporter. A 1990 graduate of Michigan State, he began work at WMUK in 1996.
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