Final UHV president candidate shares his vision

May 4, 2011 at 12:04 a.m.

Earl Yarbrough, candidate for UHV president, stresses the importance of reaching out to freshman and sophomores during the school's expansion to a four-year institution.

Earl Yarbrough, candidate for UHV president, stresses the importance of reaching out to freshman and sophomores during the school's expansion to a four-year institution.

Earl Yarbrough said he has dedicated his life to serving in institutions that provide affordable and accessible education like the University of Houston-Victoria.

He's a product of that environment, too, having come from two parents who didn't graduate high school and learning the value of higher education after accepting a track and field scholarship to Wichita State University.

"As a (part of) faculty or administration, it's always been kids much like I was, who really didn't know, who knew there was something out there. And people helped them find it," Yarbrough said. "There are those who haven't had the opportunity. You can change their lives, and that's exciting."

Yarbrough is one of the remaining three candidates vying to be president of UHV, and the last to speak at an open forum at the university on Wednesday. Yarbrough, who's currently the president of Savannah State University, emphasized that passion to help anyone get a college degree, whether it's via online courses or as a fully-immersed, on-campus freshman.

Online courses were something Yarbrough said he's tried to push at his current university, and he commended UHV's online operation.

But after speaking with UHV freshmen, the candidate said he's most excited about creating at UHV a college experience like he had as an undergraduate.

"Not only did I learn about academic subjects - somewhat," he joked. "I learned how to get along with people. I learned about organizations, honorary societies, faculty that may take you to a conference ... athletics even, the thrill of winning and losing ... hanging out with your buddies from all over the world. There's just nothing like that."

Like the other two candidates, Yarbrough was asked to address the challenges and opportunities he sees in higher education - at UHV in particular.

And like the others, he mentioned dwindling budgets and rising tuition.

"Many access students come to us from families that might not be as prominent or have the wealth that it takes to get a college education," he said. "Public education is becoming private education because people have to pay so much."

Yarbrough said his goal would be to find ways to keep tuition costs down while not shedding any jobs and maintaining the quality of education.

The candidate said he accomplishes balancing quality and cost by engaging in hands-on interactions - whether it's getting the daily scoop from students in the cafeteria or becoming the face of the university in the community.

"I'd like to look at it not necessarily as the president going out and doing fundraising, but going out and doing partnership building and friendships that ultimately result in some kind of benefit to the university, in some cases financially," he said. "It's important for the president to be seen and to be involved in the community, and he and his family get to know the community really well."

After his speech, Yarbrough mentioned the community support he had in Savannah, evidenced by editorials and letters in the local newspaper after the State Board of Regents decided not to renew his contract for this coming year.

Yarbrough explained the decision came after his immediate supervisor told him to release two employees, a decision with which Yarbrough did not agree.

"Integrity," he said. "I could have done it and probably still be there, but I couldn't do it."

A press release from Savannah State University regarding Yarbrough's departure listed several achievements Yarbrough made since his arrival in 2007, including significant enrollment increases, improved and new infrastructure and increased community partnerships.

Yarbrough said he was surprised his contract would be allowed to expire June 30.

"However, I'm resigned to the fact that I work for the system, and if the system says that I'm not right for the job, I accept that," he said. "But I think I'm right for another job."



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