By Kourtney Husnick
After months of searching by the Presidential Search Committee and Wheless Partners, the Board of Trustees appointed Harlan M. Sands the seventh president of Cleveland State University on Monday, Jan. 29.
The presidential search started in July 2017 in anticipation of current President Ronald M. Berkman’s retirement in June of 2018. Sands will replace Berkman as the university president starting July 1 of this year.
The announcement of Sands’ appointment was made in an email Jan. 29 after students were invited to a special announcement in the Student Center Ballroom. Sands was first introduced as Cleveland State’s president-elect in a news conference at 2 p.m., an hour before the students’ announcement.
Bernie Moreno, chair of the Board of Trustees and chair of the Presidential Search Committee, introduced Sands at both events.
“An exhaustive national search, emphasis on the word exhaustive, led us to Harlan Sands,” Moreno said. “A vote this morning by the Board of Trustees made it official.”
Sands has been praised as an experienced administrator who is highly regarded and widely respected as a higher education leader. He is currently the vice dean of finance and administration, chief financial officer and chief administrative officer at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
“President-elect Sands comes to us from one of the best business schools in world,” Moreno said.
In the past, Sands has worked in administrative roles at the University of Louisville and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He began working in higher education at Florida International University where he taught in the criminal justice department and held multiple other positions. In a statement to cleveland.com, Sands recalled Berkman noticing his management experience, in turn recruiting him into higher education at Florida International.
Sands was selected out of a pool of applicants that started with 140 different bids for the position, according to Moreno. Information on the presidential search was kept out of public eye as the university hired a private firm, Wheless Partners, to assist with the search process.
“We were determined to find the best qualified to lead CSU into the future,” Moreno said. “The same goes to our search firm.”
Sands sat in the front row of the news conference with his wife, Lynn, and two sons, Samson and A.J. during his introduction.
After thanking the search committee and Berkman, Sands shared his intended commitments to the university.
“I will commit to building upon CSU’s already strong reputation among our various stakeholders,” Sands said. “So that supporting CSU in any way possible, whether it be time, money or words of support, becomes as natural as living and breathing.”
Other commitments included working tirelessly for the university, helping the faculty and students work collectively to perform at the highest possible levels and setting a high bar for integrity and trust.
Sands also talked about his thoughts on Cleveland State’s relationship with the city. He compared the university’s connections with the city to the four other urban schools he has worked in.
“As far as I can see, the relationship between Cleveland State and the city of Cleveland is truly something special,” Sands said. “I pledge to do everything in my power to nurture this unique symbiosis.”
In an interview before the student announcement, Sands expanded upon some of the commitments he listed in the news conference. While he was not ready to discuss some of his plans, he did begin to address his view on how the campus should continue moving forward in the aftermath of the anti-LGBTQ posters that appeared in October.
“I think you’re going to find, with me, a high bar of integrity and mutual trust,” Sands said. “I think that’s where those conversations need to start.”
Sands stated that hearing concerns from faculty members is a priority of his. He also said he wants student discussions in his plans for getting to know the university.
“I know it’s pretty common to hear new folks say I’m [going to] go on a listening tour, but I’m [going to] go on on a listening tour,” Sands said. “But there’s a reason to do that, and the reason is every place I’ve been has its own kind of feel to it, its own priorities, its own challenges and I look forward to seeing what I learn.”
Sands thanked the Presidential Search Committee during both speeches, including the two students who helped with the process. Sands named the student members as Sierra and John. However, according to the university’s Presidential Transition Search Committee webpage, the student representatives are Sierra Davidson, a student member to the Cleveland State University Board of Trustees, and Malek Khawam, the former president of Cleveland State’s Student Government Association.
Despite this spoken stumble, Sands — in a interview following the news conference — emphasized his hope for a personable relationship with his students.
“I think you’re going to see me a lot because I love to get out with the students. It’s always been a passion of mine,” Sands said. “I enjoy meals with students, sporting events, actually walking around academic buildings and talking with people. You’ll see that I will be very engaged.”
Update: 2/5/18 @ 11:30 p.m. – Davidson and Khawam are members of the Presidential Search Committee. Sands was talking about Davidson and John DeMarco of the Board of Trustees.