The Investiture of the 7th University President, Harlan Sands

By Kourtney Husnick

With a theme of moving forward together, the Investiture of Harlan Sands was full of hope for the future. The ceremony, held in the Music and Communication Building’s Waetjen Auditorium on Friday, Oct. 5, saw speakers such as Mayor Frank Jackson and Congresswoman Marcia Fudge.

The event started with a procession from the Student Center to the Music Building at 2 p.m., with the ceremony set to follow at 2:30 p.m. However, the ceremony started early, and several speakers for the salutations portion of the program were finished before the time it was advertised to begin.

Wife and sons beside him, Sands took an oath of office and began his Investiture address with an anecdote about his presence.

“In the late 1980s, I moved to Washington, D.C., and the Redskins won the Super Bowl. In the 90s, I moved to New Orleans, and the Saints, in fairly short order, won the Super Bowl, and they’ve only won one,” Sands said. “About 18 months ago, I moved to Philadelphia, and the Eagles won the Super Bowl, and they’ve never won before. And I just moved to Cleveland.”

To the estimated audience of 700 students, faculty and staff, Sands continued on to describe the experiences that brought him to Cleveland State and his vision for the university.

He began his career in education at Florida International University, where he worked under Ronald Berkman, former Cleveland State University president.

“Some of you may not know that Ron was my first boss in academia,” Sands said. “Ron, I am forever grateful that you took a chance on me, so thank you.”

Between then and becoming Cleveland State’s seventh university president, he has worked at a number of places, such as the University of Louisville, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Discussing the events that led him along the way, he explained his decision to earn his master’s in finance and law degree.

“It was a challenge that held big opportunities. It took me 6 years, much like many of our CSU students who work in order to attend college,” Sands said. “I feel you because I was you.”

Sands switched from his personal and professional history to Cleveland State’s history, starting with Fenn College in 1929. Fenn became Cleveland State in 1964, composed of 9 acres and three buildings. Now, the university owns 85 acres, houses 10 colleges and schools, offers more than 180 academic program and currently educates over 17,000 students.

“This is an incredible success story, and we don’t have any intention of slowing down,” Sands said.

Looking to the future, he emphasized his focus on students. On his list of discoveries regarding Cleveland State’s identity, putting students first was the first item addressed.

“Every decision we have made – and will make – will be based upon the potential impact on our students,” Sands said.

While discussing Cleveland State’s connection to the city and to Northeast Ohio, Sands commented on the amount of alumni who stay in the area after graduation.

“Eighty percent of our students graduate and stay in Northeast Ohio,” Sands said. “No other four-year university – public or private – comes close to contributing what we do to Northeast Ohio’s workforce.”

However, compared to Kent State —which currently has double Cleveland State’s current enrollment rate at approximately 40,000 — Cleveland State may make less of a contribution than Sands let on. The 80 percent of Cleveland State alumni that live and work in Northeast Ohio is out of “more than 120,000” total graduates, according to the university website.

Meanwhile, Kent State has more than 136,000 graduates just in Ohio, with no estimate for the number that stayed in the 23 counties that make up Northeast Ohio, where the main branch and several other campus locations exist.

Among some of Sands’ goals for the university, he has committed to strengthening the meaning of engaged learning at Cleveland State. Part of this idea includes prioritizing the expansion of co-op and internship opportunities.

“Our goal is to guarantee that any student who wants a co-op experience at Cleveland State will get one at a company here in Northeast Ohio,” Sands said.

Sands also addressed the initiatives he started during his first months at Cleveland State. One of those initiatives is his One Thing campaign, “where we asked our campus community to let us know the one thing we could do to make their lives better.”

While discussing the One Thing campaign, Sands explained that over 300 submissions were made. On the One Thing campaign page on the university website, eight of those concerns are listed with a response to the suggestions and requests.

In an interview during the reception after the Investiture ceremony, Sands explained his one thing: the rebranding of the Innerlink.

During that interview, Sands also expressed a desire to have a good relationship with students and student press.

“I’m very open,” Sands said. “I’ll be accessible to you.”

This was the first time The Cauldron was able to speak with Sands in person this semester. Attempts to set an interview started in August and were pushed back until after the Investiture.


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