Leaders on Leadership with Javier Cevallos

Leaders on Leadership featuring Dr. F. Javier Cevallos, President of Framingham State University

December 2021

Episode Transcript

Jay Lemons:

Hello, and thank you for listening. I’m Jay Lemons, welcome to Leaders on Leadership, brought to you by Academic Search and the American Academic Leadership Institute. The purpose of our podcast is to share the stories of the people on forces that have shaped leaders in higher education and to learn more about their thoughts on leadership in the academy.

Delighted today to be joined by Javier Cevallos. Javier is the President of Framingham State University in Massachusetts, a post that he’s held since 2014. Prior to that, he served for 12 years as president of Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, after a lengthy tenure in academic and administrative roles at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Javier was born in Ecuador and moved to Puerto Rico as a teenager. Earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez, and then moved to Illinois where he earned his Master’s in doctoral degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Javier has provided leadership, both within higher education and in his local communities. Serving on the boards of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, AASCU. The NCAA Division III Presidents Council, the United of Tri County and Metro West Chamber of Commerce among many, many others. Earlier this year, Javier announced that he will retire at the end of the academic year. It’s been my personal happy pleasure to call Javier a friend for nearly 20 years. We became colleagues in our service on the board of Pennsylvania Campus Compact. A great organization that brought together presidents from public and private two- and four-year institutions, all dedicated to civic engagement. Javier and his wonderful wife, Josée, are proud parents of two outstanding young adult children. A year or so ago, Javier got to experience the joy of watching his son be awarded his doctoral hood. Javier is in the middle of a rare family that has three consecutive generations of Ph.D.s. Javier, welcome, and thank you for being with us.

Javier Cevallos:

No, thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here with you, Jay.

Jay Lemons:

Well, I really do appreciate you and your friendship, and I’m anxious for our listeners to have a chance to draw on your experiences and your wisdom. You’ve led an AASCU institution for nearly 20 years now. You’ve served on the board of AASCU, and I think I’d like to start there. You’ve been the chair of AASCU. Share with our listeners, if you will, what it means to be an AASCU institution? What makes these 400 or so institutions such an important part of the landscape in American higher education, and how they bring value to students and the communities in which they exist.

Javier Cevallos:

That’s a great question. AASCU institutions are the comprehensive regional institutions sponsored by the states. We are public universities, which means that we have a mission to really reflect and respond to the needs of our states and our communities. Most of us started as teacher colleges at some point, and we have a long, long tradition of educating teachers. We still today educate about 60% of all the teachers in the United States come out of AASCU institutions. Over the next few years, and we will continue to fulfill the mission, and also, we will continue to diversify our student body as we reflect our communities. In my case, in Framingham for example, over the last seven years, we have gone from about 16% of students of color to almost 40% of our students, which reflects the reality of our work as public comprehensive universities.

I’d like to summarize our mission in just one brief sentence. I’d say that AASCU institutions, what we do is that we create the middle class. About typically 40 to 60% of students at AASCU institutions receive Pell grants. The same number of first-generation students going to college are the first ones in the families. That is that. The most important thing that we do is offer opportunities and offer access to a wide variety of individuals. Again, as we continue to move forward over the next few years, we will be serving more non-traditional students, because that is the population that is coming to our school schools now. We’ll just continue to reflect the needs of our communities, and we are integral parts of our communities. Another thing that we do in many areas is that because we are in all parts of states, we many times are the largest employer in a specific community. Again, we are fulfilling a different function or a different role by providing economic opportunities to the community at large.

Jay Lemons:

Absolutely critical anchor institutions in so many communities, and interestingly, important both in urban and rural places across the country. No question, AASCU institutions are critical economic engines.

Javier Cevallos:

Absolutely. I’ve been in both a rural institution when I was in Kutztown. Although it’s deceivingly rural, because it was in between Redding and Allentown. But the town itself was very small. Now I am in a city, in Framingham, which is of course part of the greatest Boston area, and Framingham itself has about 85,000 people. It is a mid-sized city, so it’s different. Yet even in that larger place, that Framingham, we play a crucial role in the community. We are the educational institution that serves the needs of our area and our region.

Jay Lemons:

Fabulous. Well, one of our goals for the program is to ask leaders to reflect on their own pathways to leadership. With the hope that some of your own story will inspire others, I’d love it if you would share with our guests and our listeners if… Talk about some of the people, the events or opportunities that forge the person that you are and the leader you have become in this journey that has unfolded over these decades.

Javier Cevallos:

Sure. My path has not been the most traditional path that people will follow to reach a presidency or any other position of leadership in the campus. But it is interesting. I was a typical faculty member working in a fairly esoteric field. I was working in colonial Latin American studies. Basically, working in texts from the colonial times, both in prose and in poetry. I always joke that the thing that you need the most to be a 21st century college president is to read 17th-century colonial Latin American poetry. After I was promoted to full professor at UMass, on one of those things that I was not even thinking about, I decided to put my name in to run for being the secretary of the faculty Senate at UMass. As I understand, the secretary of the Senate is actually the chair of the Senate at UMass, it’s just that that being secretary. That put me in touch with administration in a way that I hadn’t experienced before I was meeting with them on a regular basis, with a provost, with a chancellor. I had an office, I was running that. It was an interesting experience.

In my second year in that position, we had a leadership change in the institution. The chancellor left, we had a search committee, we had a new chancellor. We hired David Scott, who is one of my mentors in my career. David came in, and he did something that, again, I learned from him not to do the same thing. He one afternoon fired three vice chancellors in about 15 minutes on a Friday afternoon, and there were people that had been there for a long time, so there was a lot of angst in the campus about that. That put me in a really interesting position. I was the official speaker for the faculty, and my role as secretary of the faculty Senate. We approached David with an idea of having some internal searches for the interim positions to validate those searches, instead of just appointing people to enter in places so that the campus would feel some ownership.

He agreed. Then all of a sudden, I found myself being one of two finalists for interim provost, which of course I had absolutely zero experience, it would’ve been a total disaster. Fortunately for me, he was smart enough not to appoint me. He appointed Pat Crosson, who is another one of my mentors, somebody who I also respect tremendously. She called me, and asked me if I was interesting to join her office. Initially, she said, “Just like faculty advisor to the provost with no line responsibility.”

Well, we know that in administration, once you’re getting, things will happen. The no line responsibility became a line of responsibility very soon, and then I was in charge of advising, and the counseling center, et cetera, a few of those things. I discovered that I actually liked being part of an administration. Talking to both Pat, and David Scott, and Marcy Williams, who was the deputy chancellor, I applied for an ACE fellowship and I was elected to be an ACE fellow. I went on a fellowship for a year, and that truly convinced me that I had a call to move into administration. I came back to UMAS after my year as a fellow, and…

Jay Lemons:

Where were you at and who did you work for?

Javier Cevallos:

Oh, I did my work at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. I did that intentionally, because I have been all my life in the public sector, and I thought that it was interesting to experience the private sector, especially a fairly wealthy private institution like Wesleyan. Certainly, it was a very different experience. I have wonderful anecdotes of my year at Wesleyan. I got so many different ways of doing things, it was a great learning experience.

Jay Lemons:

Who was your mentor there?

Javier Cevallos:

Doug Bennett, who was the president at the time.

Jay Lemons:

Oh yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

Javier Cevallos:

Yeah, so Doug was my mentor at Wesleyan. That was great. When I came back, my department chair left and took a position in California. Of course, now I was administrator, and you know that department chairs are not exactly a highly contested position. I said, “You are the administrator,” so I took on the position of department chair. I had been doing that for six months when the vice chancellor for student affairs left. The chancellor called me and said, “Javier, would you be willing to do this for six months where we organize a search and whatever?” I said, “David, I know nothing about student affairs. I honestly do not, that’s not my feelings.” “Oh no, you can do it, you will be fine.” Again, on a leap of faith, I said, “I’ll take this position.”

Well, the six-month interim position turned out to be a four-year permanent position. Because one crisis after the next happened, and it was like… We had building takeovers, we have all sorts of things. UMass is a very activist school, so the student body was quite active. I didn’t have time to think much about it. Four years later, I had the opportunity of being recruited by Kutztown University to be president of Kutztown. As I said, my path is not traditional at all. The typical path of department chair, Dean, provost, president. I always joked that if I followed that path, I would be applying for my first presidency now, instead of being in my 20 years as a college president. I guess, I don’t know. Taking chances sometimes pays off, and that’s what I did when I followed this uneven but interesting path.

Jay Lemons:

I love that story, and I think you’re right. The nonlinear emergence of a sense of call came for you by putting yourself forward to be the secretary of the faculty. Wow.

Javier Cevallos:

I know, and that was a very strange decision. It was on a whim. I had been in committees with the Senate, but I had never been elected to the Senate itself, so I had never been a Senator. I always joke that I won because nobody knew me, and everybody knew my opponent. Which of course we became good friends as a matter of fact, after that. It’s a good line.

Jay Lemons:

Absolutely. Javier, tell us what, your mind makes a good leader? By good, I don’t mean great, I mean virtuous, and effective and successful.

Javier Cevallos:

I think that there’s two words that I think that are really important for leadership. One is humility, being humble, and the other one is honesty. Humility, because I think that we recognize that we serve as… You know, you have been a college president for so many years, you know that it is not a role that we take to get prestige and honor. We take it to serve our students, to serve our community. Again, I’d like to joke when I talk to people, the different things like the Academic Leadership Institute to say it is not a crown, it is a job, and it is a job that you have to be respectful and humble of having the opportunity every morning to get up, knowing that you can make a difference.

The other one is honesty. You have to be honest, and you have to be transparent with everything you do with the campus community. To be successful as a president, you cannot play two or three games at a time. You have to tell the campus what the reality is, even when it is bad news. I had a lot of bad news when I was in Pennsylvania, because of budget cuts. We had significant budget issues. I always tried to be absolutely honest with the campus about everything. It was not happily received, but it was received. People knew that I was not trying to cover the truth for them. I think that in my mind, those two words, those two H’s are the most important things that a leader should have to be successful in higher education.

Jay Lemons:

I love that, and I appreciate it. That is the person that I know and recognize in you, and I know it’s what has led you to have the impact you’ve had over these 20 years, so thank you for sharing that. It’s not a crown, it is not a crown. That is for darn sure. Well, when you create a team, I’m also a big believer that this is not an individual sport or a solo act. That administrative set of colleagues you rely on, what do you look for in those leaders?

Javier Cevallos:

Well, I actually have to look for, first of all, the skillset that they have to have. My CFO has to know much more about business than I do. My provost has to know much more about academic affairs than I do. My vice president for student affairs has to be much more engaged and know a lot more about the student affairs world than I do. Otherwise, why would I be having them? The first thing that I look is, of course, that level of skill and that level of knowledge. Of course, you have to have the same qualities of people willing to serve the community. Integrity, and the willingness to really put the best intentions of the institution first. The institution comes first, the students come first, everything else comes second.

Working with students is the most important thing. We try to be a student-centric institution, and that means that everything that we do has to really reflect in the wellbeing of our students and of course our faculty and staff. One thing that I learned from David, when he made the changes in administration is that you have to be careful about how you change your team. Yes, every new president has the right to have her or his own team in place. But sometimes, you better understand the campus culture first, understand the campus atmosphere, and also understand the qualities and strengths and weaknesses that each of the leaders had. In both institutions, I did not proceed to make immediate changes in my leadership team. However, over the course of a handful of years? Yes, the teams were basically totally different.

I think that’s one thing that you do slowly, is that just working with people, and in some cases, some individuals decide to move on to a different position. Whether the individual retired, or the individual decided to go back to doing something else. Then you changed your team, and then you obviously try to hire people that fit that culture that you’re trying to create in your office, in your team. I’ve been very fortunate to have amazing teams of people that work for me, that work with me.

Again, I think that the operating word is not work for me, work with me, because we all work together to make this a better institution. I think that we try to foster that culture. Obviously, we want to have these agreements. When we get together at cabinet to talk about things, we all have to present our own point of view. In the end, we all agree. I think that I’ve been, again, fortunate in these 20 years, I’ve never had anyone in my team after having a disagreement in the office about how to proceed in some area going out and undermining anybody else. We have all understood that we are a team, and I think that is a very important part of who we hired and how we work together.

Jay Lemons:

You’re anticipating and really teasing into my next question by your last couple of answers in terms of humility and honesty. I think I heard a powerful case for patience, and getting to know a place. For those of our listeners, and I think about our ALI participants as a core part of that body, what’s your advice for new leaders or those who aspire to leadership?

Javier Cevallos:

Well, I think that the first thing is, be willing to listen. It is a learning experience. You have to learn from the campus, and you have to learn from other people, and you have to learn from your peers at different institutions. One of the great things that AASCU does for me, and the CIC does for the private institutions is to bring presidents together for our retreats, our annual meetings. You get to know a lot of people, you get to meet a lot of people, and you get to learn from a lot of people. As we all know, being a college president is a lonely job on campus. You do develop friendships and connections with people on campus. But in the end, you sometimes have to make decisions that might not be popular, so you want to keep certain distance. However, having AASCU colleagues or CIC colleagues, that you can pick up the phone and call and say, “Listen, I’m facing this thing on campus. What would you suggest?” That is an absolutely great thing to do.

Developing a network is very important, and participating in programs like I did at ACE, or MLI, or ALI or any of the wonderful leadership programs that we have in this nation, that network of fellows or cohort that you are part of, I want to be friends for life. You have a great opportunity to develop those friendships. Meeting with your peers, and taking advantage of that. Once you get promoted to a different campus as a provost, as a president, listening to the campus. Having open sessions to talk to people, to meet with people, to give people an opportunity to get to know you as well. Because it goes both ways, you have to develop that trust with the campus, and the campus has to trust you. You have to work on it to make sure that people participate and have a… That they feel that you pay attention to what they say, that they feel heard, and that you do incorporate the comments and the suggestions whenever possible in your actions.

Jay Lemons:

Yeah, absolutely. When you think about the days that we’re living through, what are the most critical challenges facing leaders today?

Javier Cevallos:

Well obviously, we’re coming out of the pandemic. That is probably the biggest challenge that any one of us has faced, and we never anticipated that. I remember in 2014, preparing for the potential pandemic. The worst possible case scenario was that we were going to be closed for a month. Then all of a sudden, we having been closed for 18 months was… It certainly has been a huge thing. However, like any other thing, it has opened the door to new opportunities and to new ways of doing things. Zoom has become a… Or Zoom and all the other platforms, the Google Meet and Teams and whatever. All these remote platforms have become really useful, and we realized that we can do a lot of things through these kind of platforms that could be much more effective.

Case in point, our campus governance structure. We typically meet in our governance committees on campus, in person in the afternoon. That interferes with schedules with classes, it interferes with schedules with family issues, it interferes with a number of things. Now, it’s a lot easier for faculty and staff people to just join in Zoom at two o’clock, and they are done at three o’clock, and they can just turn the Zoom off and go to whatever they’re doing. There is a lot of things that are going to change, and that is an advantage. At the same time, it’s a great challenge. Hybrid models of education are going to be totally different over the next five years. I think that over the next five years, it’s going to be a steep learning curve for our college presidents in particular to deal with all these technological initiatives and all these technological opportunities that we have right now.

I joke about the fact that I have been buying technology for faculty for the last 20 years, but I have no clue how to use Canvas or how to use Blackboard. I have never had to do that. We are going to be having to move into a lot of those things to just manage the institution. It’s going to be a learning opportunity for college presidents, because a lot of things are going to be happening. We are doing a lot of work right now through Google Documents, for example. That is something that we have never thought of before, that you can just go to the central place and edit the document back and forth, and work together in that sense. That is going to be different.

Dealing with students that have gone through the pandemic as sophomores, juniors, seniors in high school? Feeling that they have lost a couple of years of their lives, in terms of the experience. Having right now, we have what I call two first-year entering classes, the sophomores, and the first-year students. The sophomores were not on campus last year, so we have to do two orientations, we have to do two kinds of things. Again, that is going to be something that is going to be an interesting challenge for the administration, how to deal with the students in the post-pandemic world.

Of course, even as technology continues to evolve and students become much more connected and wired to the telephones and whatever, how are we going to leverage that technology to really communicate? Because, one of the challenges that we have right now is how do we communicate in the age of communication? Because young people right now, they don’t read email. Facebook is for people like me, it’s for old people, it’s not for the young ones. They get into platforms that change and evolve constantly. Today it’s TikTok, tomorrow it would be who knows what. Just keep developing that.

They don’t sign in. We have a text message thing that we send to the campus for emergencies or for whatever, but it’s an opt-in, we cannot force them to give us their cell phone numbers. How do we really reach to students in age of communications? We do everything we can through Twitter, through Facebook, through the website, to messaging, et cetera. But if they don’t check and they don’t look, it’s going to be a challenge. That’s going to be one of the things that I think that would be interesting for the next generation of university leadership to work with.

Jay Lemons:

No question. Wow, what you and other leaders have lived through has been an extraordinary test unlike anything in our lifetimes, as you said. Yeah, I remember preparing for the swine flu, and the event of being out a month. This was something different. Okay, we’re going to move into the lightning round a little bit, where I’m going to ask you shorter questions and you’re welcome to answer whatever length you want. Here we go. Who has had the most influence on you?

Javier Cevallos:

Well, I think my parents, I think my parents have had a lot of influence on me. They were both college professors. As a matter of fact, my mother was the first woman to be a college professor in Ecuador, so that was something I’m very proud of. Of course, they had the great courage to move to Puerto Rico when, as you mentioned, I was a teenager. Because we have five siblings in my family, and they wanted all of us to have the opportunity to get a really great education. They knew that sending us out from Ecuador was going to be impossible, so they moved to Puerto Rico so we could do our undergraduate there which we all did. Then we all came to graduate school in the United States, which again it was a great thing. They sacrificed themselves. Moving and migrating is not an easy thing, you leave all your family, your friends, your social network, your life behind. I have a great respect and admiration for my parents for doing what they did for us.

Jay Lemons:

Do you still have your parents?

Javier Cevallos:

No. Unfortunately, they are both gone. But they live in our memory.

Jay Lemons:

Yeah. I did not know they were both professors. That’s a phenomenal legacy. You stayed in the family business?

Javier Cevallos:

I did, I’m the only one in the family business. My siblings are all in the sciences, and working in corporations.

Jay Lemons:

Fabulous. Is there a book that’s had greater impact and influence on you than any other?

Javier Cevallos:

Yes, Don Quixote. I read Don Quixote almost every year, and that comes from my background in literature of course, that I certainly appreciate the fact that it is the first modern novel and it created the genre of the novel. But the character Don Quixote himself, that is this idealistic, crazy man that is willing to sacrifice himself physically, because he’s constantly being beaten down because of this ideal that he has about making this a better world. In a way, that’s what we do in education, and in a way that’s what we do as college presidents. We try to… Of course, we’re not sacrifice ourselves being beaten. Ourselves, for the greater good. I think that we are all, in a way, idealistic, and Don Quixote is the greatest ideal that we can think about.

Jay Lemons:

Love it, love it. Do you have a fondest memory of your undergraduate years?

Javier Cevallos:

Yes, I say I was very lucky to go to do my undergraduate work at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez, which is in the west part of the island. We had a number absolutely great professionals. It’s an AASCU institution as well. Although it’s also the land grant and the sea grant institution of the system in Puerto Rico, so you had a lot of research as well. I had the opportunity of really experiencing both the AASCU quality and the research quality of being an APU and AASCU institution.

But my fondest memory is not related to academia at all, it’s related to what happened on Friday mornings in this… There was this big building called the general studies building. They had a lobby outside, and of course it’s always warm, Puerto Rico was always nice. People would bring guitars, and instruments, and Friday mornings it was always new music. It was great to just sit there and enjoy amazing, amazing musicians that were just performing. Some of those musicians actually became well known, and they just emerged as real performing artists in Puerto Rico. It was great to just have that informal cultural atmosphere that I remember it really fondly, just looking forward to Friday mornings to just listen to the music.

Jay Lemons:

That’s fabulous. Was it a residential institution?

Javier Cevallos:

No, it was not a residential institution. Not a very small…

Jay Lemons:

The place of those Friday events was really even greater in terms of impact on the culture, I suspect.

Javier Cevallos:

Oh yeah. Yeah, yeah. It had a very small residence hall. Very small, so it was a handful of students that live on campus. But most of the students lived in houses around it. The whole community was organized to rent rooms to students, and that was part of the economic impact of the university. It was not in the resident halls, it was just in the main academic building of the campus, the general studies building.

Jay Lemons:

I love it, that’s fabulous. Mayaguez was really a college town?

Javier Cevallos:

Yeah, it was. It is a college town, yeah.

Jay Lemons:

Yeah, yeah. You referenced your siblings, and it does seem to me that you pulled on a different part of the brain than a bunch of folks in the STEM disciplines. But if you hadn’t worked in higher education, what other path might have you traveled down?

Javier Cevallos:

Well, that’s a… I’ve thought that about many, many times. When I was going to college and I decided to follow the humanities road and literature, my parents at some point said, “Shouldn’t you think about becoming a lawyer?” They were thinking of me having a successful career, and doing something. Considering that my siblings were two engineers, one is a physician, the other one’s a computer scientist. You can do something more concrete. But I don’t know if I would have been successful, a lawyer or not. I don’t know, I think that I always saw myself as being part of the academic world. I joke that I never left college, and in reality I never did. I’m still in college and enjoying it. When I was in college, I started working at Sears at the time in Mayaguez, so I think I was a fairly decent salesperson. I might have been a salesperson.

Jay Lemons:

That I can see. Where are you in birth order?

Javier Cevallos:

I am the middle child.

Jay Lemons:

Ah, okay.

Javier Cevallos:

Yep. I am three out of five, I’m supposed to be the problem child.

Jay Lemons:

All right, it sounds to me like you were the one that was connecting the generations in a very real way.

Javier Cevallos:

That’s the way that I see myself. I have to ask my siblings.

Jay Lemons:

Yeah, yeah.

Javier Cevallos:

We are a very close-knit family. We still get together, all five of us. Every year for New Years, it’s one of our traditions bringing together the entire family. Now of course the extended family with the children, and in some cases, grandchildren.

Jay Lemons:

I love it. Hey, if you could reflect back on your 20 years in the presidency, what do you feel most proud of having accomplished at either place? Or both?

Javier Cevallos:

Yeah. Well, one thing that I am very proud of is that in both places, I made reflecting the diversity of the community where we live in a priority. We certainly diversified both the student population in both institutions, in Kutztown, and in Framingham. We also worked to diversify the faculty and staff. That’s, as you know, a lot more challenging, and we have not been as successful. Although in Framingham, I think that we’re about 20% of our faculty now reflect our diversity in this area. That’s something that I am really, really proud of. I think also that taking advantage of the opportunities that come up for the institution when they present themselves. Here in Framingham, we have had the opportunity of doing two… I would call them acquisitions. One was a conference center that you Conference Center in Ashland that became available for us, and we just managed to purchase that and incorporate that to the institution. We are developing now a hospitality management program, because we have now this wonderful conference center.

Jay Lemons:

Indeed.

Javier Cevallos:

The other one was that our local museum in town that was having some challenges, and we actually merged the museum into the university. Now we have a wonderful museum as well for our students in the arts. Those two things I am very, very proud of, as well as things that just were here and we took advantage of the opportunities that came up. Diversifying the campus, and taking advantage of opportunities to make the institution better. I think that’s things that I’m very proud of.

Jay Lemons:

Extending the reach of the institution. Earlier, you said leadership’s not about wearing a crown. What if I gave you a crown? Even better, what if I gave you a magic wand? What would be your wish for American higher education for the coming decade?

Javier Cevallos:

That is actually a really good question, and it’s a great fantasy to have a magic wand that we can change things. The first thing that I would do is to try to increase the economic health to all disadvantaged students. I think that both in the private and in the public sector, we don’t have enough resources to really help students get access to education. In the public sector, our fees are comparable, lower or easier. But still, they are very expensive. We are not cheap at any means, so making education more accessible, certainly.

Jay Lemons:

Double Pell grant.

Javier Cevallos:

Double Pell grant. Absolutely, that would help. It will not solve it, but it will help. One clear example, the tuition and fees in my institution are about $10,000. Plus, you have to add about $10,000 for board if a student wants to be here. When you add books and transportation, et cetera, we calculate about that cost of attendance is about $24,000. You get Pell Grant, you double Pell grant and you get state support, you get loans, et cetera, you still have to come up with 10, $12,000 a year to pay for your education in our public institution.

Well, the average salary or the average income for our families is around 80 to $100,000, so you’re talking about 10% of your gross income for one child. You have two or three, now you’re talking about 20%, 30% of your gross income. That’s impossible, so families cannot afford that. Our students, and it’s not only the public sector, it happens in the private sector as you know as well. Our students have to work. They work 20 hours, 30 hours in order to pay for their education. Helping them get that education, and lowering the cost of attendance to education, it certainly would be my top priority with my magic wand.

The second thing that I would do with a magic wand is truly get over this whole racist attitude, that we have systemic racism that has existed in this nation, and it’s reflected in education. It comes back to our schools in ways that we try to avoid. But we try to educate people, we try to work with them. But still, once in a while, racial incidents happen. Avoiding those, and becoming truly anti-racist institutions, becoming truly institutions that respect every single individual regardless of would be the second thing that I would do with my magic wand. With those two things, I think that I would be fabulous at changing higher education overall.

Jay Lemons:

Amen, amen. I’ll thank you for that. Well, one of our traditions here is we like to close by asking our guest to share with our listeners the distinctive qualities, the organizational DNA that has made Framingham such a very special place for you and to those you serve. I’d love for you to share with us your sensibilities about what makes Framingham state a great institution and distinctive.

Javier Cevallos:

I have to start with history, to begin with. We are the first normal school in the country. We were founded in 1839, and I have to say, I joke that I have to say Horace Mann once a day, it’s in my contract, I have to. He was secretary of education at the time in Massachusetts. He went to France, and he adopted the model of the école normale, and brought it to the United States as normal schools. A word that still surprises people. Sometimes they’re, “What do you mean normal schools?” We’re teacher’s colleges. He was deeply concerned about the lack of formal training for people that went to be teachers in the K to 12 system. We started in 1879 as a normal school, and we started as a women’s college. We were a women’s college until 1964, so we were training teachers.

In 1842, so three years after our founding, our principal, at the time was not president but principal, went to the board and asked to accept the first African American female to the school. He threatened to resign if the board didn’t accept her. Her name was Mary Miles Bibb, she was accepted. She is the first African American female to graduate from a teacher’s college in the United States. She became a very influential person in the abolitionist movement, and actually moved to Canada, founded a newspaper in Canada, et cetera. We were engaged in issues of diversity from the very, very start.

Jay Lemons:

Fabulous.

Javier Cevallos:

During the 19th century, another very distinguished alumni, it’s Olivia Davidson who actually worked at Tuskegee Institute. She was recruited by Booker T. Washington to help him develop Tuskegee and the pedagogy of Tuskegee. Eventually ended up marrying Booker T. Washington, and so she was quite instrumental in the development of Tuskegee Academy. Again, that is a 19th century thing. Our DNA has always been that. At the same time in the 19th century, some women philanthropists in Boston wanted to have opportunities for women to get practical skills. They decided to contribute and fund a program that became what was called at the time home economics, and then has involved. That home economics program was designed to help women in particular get specific skills, to get jobs outside of teaching. They became a nutritionist, they became the fashion design, et cetera.

Even today, two of our most important programs on campus are nutrition and fashion design and merchandising. Nutrition actually also evolving into food sciences, so we have food science nutrition, fashion design. Dress departments that evolve from the 19th century concept. We have always been an institution concerned about diversity, equity, inclusion, respecting everybody, and also about providing a liberal arts education but also providing practical skills. It has been in our DNA, so that’s what makes us a unique place.

Today, I think that we continue those traditions, we continue to provide practical skills with a very strong humanities background, and liberal arts background and social sciences background. As a matter of fact, we just created, thanks to a very generous donor last year, the Mancuso Center for the Humanities on campus, which is actually devoted to helping students in the humanities develop all the necessary skills to go out in the world of work and get significant jobs. This whole concept that if you study English or history, you’re not going to get a job? We know that it’s not true, we know that is not the case. But helping students understand that and helping parents understand that, I think it’s really important and is, again, something that goes with the long tradition that we have had in Framingham State.

Jay Lemons:

I love every bit of that. Thank you so much for sharing, that is an extraordinary history to drop on and to build upon. I want to just say thank you for joining us on Leaders on Leadership, we’re so glad to have you and appreciate your sharing your thoughts, your insights, your wisdom. Let me ask you to say a final word.

Javier Cevallos:

Well, I just want to say, thank you to you, and thanks to academic search and to Academic Leadership Institute for inviting me. It’s always a pleasure to talk with you and to be with you, and I certainly am really happy that we have been friends for 20 years. I think that it’s great to have that connection, and I know that you are doing a terrific job at Academic Search. ALI is doing a great job for future leaders of all these nations, so I just want to encourage people to continue to follow this path of academic leadership. We need more and more leaders in our institutions.

Jay Lemons:

I’ll second that, and just say thank you. I’m really grateful for your friendship, and I look forward to… We’re going to have more adventures down the road, and we’ll try and keep raising up opportunities to help American higher education be the promise of lifting people into the middle class. I love that image, and I had no idea about the history of home economics. But my parents are both graduates of a normal school, and my mother was a home economics major. Framingham state helped to light her pathway, so I’m in debt to you in ways I didn’t even know so thank you so much.

Javier Cevallos:

Thank you.

Jay Lemons:

Listeners. We welcome your suggestions and thoughts for leaders we should feature in upcoming segments. You can send those suggestions to leadershippodcast@academicsearch.org. You can find our podcast on at the academic search website, and wherever you find your podcast. Leaders on Leadership is brought to you by Academic Search and the American Academic Leadership Institute. Together, our mission is to support colleges and universities during times of transition, and through leadership development activities that are current and future generations of leaders in the academy. Again, it’s been a special joy to host Javier Cevallos on our show today. Thank you again, Javier for joining us. Be well.

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