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Longtime UHV president speaks about women in leadership, campus growth

By ERICA RODRIGUEZ
Feb. 22, 2011 at 5:05 p.m.
Updated Feb. 22, 2011 at 8:23 p.m.

Karen Haynes, the University of Houston-Victoria's longest serving president, spoke about leadership and school growth Tuesday at an invitation-only luncheon at UHV.

WHO IS KAREN HAYNES? Karen Haynes served as president of UHV from 1995-2003. She is now president of California State University-San Marcos. She was the longest-serving UHV president.

Karen Haynes, the University of Houston-Victoria's longest-serving former president, believes powerful leadership is all about relationships and listening.

Haynes spoke to a group of educators Tuesday at an invitation-only luncheon for Texas Women in Higher Education South Texas Region.

She spoke about her success growing her current campus, the University of California-San Marcos, amid dire state budget cuts.

"I'm not afraid of taking calculated risks. I'm not afraid of talking about potentially controversial strategies that need to be explored in these difficult times," she said. "I believe everybody has a responsibility to try to own a piece of the solution."

She spoke about the need for women leaders to focus on actively listening, optimism and working with people rather than expecting them to work for you.

"The more you can listen to people, the more you can both find creativity and smartness all around you," she said. "And the more you can make people feel empowered and included in even the difficult kind of decisions."

She advised those seeking to grow the UHV campus to do the same.

"I think UHV leadership needs to listen to all of the voices in the conversation," she said. "Probably needs to continue to think about a plan for growth and try to see how they can garner increasing support for whatever seems to be a reasonable plan going forward."

Haynes would not comment on talks of the university changing systems.

During Haynes tenure, the university grew more than 20 percent through online and face-to-face classes at the Sugar Land and Cinco Ranch teaching centers.

She ended her eight-year UHV presidency in 2003 when there "didn't seem to be any immediate challenges."

At the time, talks of downward expansion, adding sports programs and student housing were not popular in the community or with the University of Houston System.

"I think the system worried that we would create political concerns here," she said. "Sometimes it's not wise to buck all of the non-readiness to get something that might just happen easier than it did in a couple of years."

Haynes said she was "ecstatic" about the downward expansion that happened shortly after she left.

She ended with a challenge for the group to set "big audacious goals" and fight "concrete walls" of gender discrimination.

"It's clear that we have the collective power to make a difference for ourselves and, more importantly, for future generations," she said. "It's imperative that we continue to be or that we become agents of change."

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