BY CHASE GORSKI
Change is rarely easy. It is often resisted by those affected by it. But change is also inevitable.
After 18 years under President Janet Dudley-Eshbach, Salisbury University is in for a change come the summer of 2018.
An announcement via a school-wide email came as a surprise to many across campus; Dudley-Eshbach will be stepping down from her post as University President, effective June 30, 2018. Thus ending the second-longest presidential tenure at Salisbury University.
“It has been an incredible pleasure and honor to serve as President of Salisbury University since 2000,” Dudley-Eshbach said. “I think I am ready for some new challenges and opportunities, and I think change is good.”
Dudley-Eshbach served as the first female president at SU, and cemented her reputation through the advancement of the university.
In her years at the helm SU has seen a 35% rise in student population, an immense expansion of campus buildings, a creation of new undergraduate and doctorate programs as well as being consistently ranked as one of the nation’s “best value” universities.
Despite the news, the longest serving female president in University System of Maryland (USM) history is not completely saying goodbye to SU. In her address, it was also explained that this was not a retirement.
Dudley-Eshbach plans to take a one-year sabbatical leave and once finished would like to return to join the SU faculty with a specific department already in mind.
“My first love is Spanish, Latin American literature, history and culture,” Dudley-Eshbach said. “I love interacting with students. . .I’d like to go back into the classroom teaching Spanish.”
While Dudley-Eshbach explained that plans do change, that is her plan after stepping down.
During her sabbatical, while brushing up on her Spanish as well as teaching skills, she also announced that at the encouragement of the USM Chancellor and Regents she will remain a “Special Advisor” to the University. The hopes being that she will be able to ensure a smooth transition to her successor.
The USM Office has already begun work to form a search committee, comprised of members of the community who have close ties to the university, for SU’s next president and the outline of the process will proceed from there.
Once a committee has been formed and announced, it will begin to comb through their options and once they have made their recommendations to the USM Chancellor, Robert Caret, the Board of Regents will select the new president. Typically, the process takes six months to complete.
President Dudley-Eshbach hopes that through this position as Special Advisor she will be able to provide her successor with any resources they might need in order to thrive at SU.
“I care deeply about what happens next, and I think it’s important that there be a good fit,” Dudley-Eshbach said.
The aid will also go to helping the next SU President with various struggles that Dudley-Eshbach has seen first-hand, including the battle for the spotlight within the USM.
While staying on as Special Advisor Dudley-Eshbach’s priority is to maintain the relations between the Office of the President and the various donors that have made possible the growth on-campus.
Through all of this, one of the more shocked members of the SU faculty was Dr. Corinne Pubill, the Department Chair of Modern Languages.
“Of course I was very surprised,” Dr. Pubill said. “I knew that she has an interest in returning to teaching, but I did not expect it to be so sudden.”
Stepping into the role as Head of the Modern Languages Department just this year, Pubill is already looking forward to the next academic year in which she plans to welcome Dudley-Eshbach into the fold.
Citing her experience with the language, including her studies at the University of Mexico, and her work with various language critics, Pubill believes it will be a great fit.
“I am thrilled to have her join our department,” Pubill said. “There is no doubt that she will be an invaluable addition to the department.”
Although Dudley-Eshbach plans to return to the university, she admits that it is a bittersweet moment stepping down from her position.
“[After the announcement] I felt in my body that I was suddenly 50 pounds lighter,” Dudley-Eshbach said. “At the same time I have shed a few tears, I love this place. . .this has been, and continues to be, a labor of love.”
After 18 years, Dudley-Eshbach has surely served her time, reminding those around her that the average term for a university president is around 8 years. Despite all that, she insists that this decision is completely personal.
At the age of 64, Dudley-Eshbach felt it was time for her to embrace a change, as well as open up more time for her family, specifically her two grandchildren as well as her husband. Stating specifically that she does not feel as if she is slowing down, but that the time is right for a switch.
The decision also comes timed at a great point for SU, with numerous new initiatives and campaigns coming soon for the university and the 100-year anniversary of the school on the horizon for 2025.
Stepping aside now will provide Dudley-Eshbach’s successor with ample time to get settled in for those big events and the opportunity to start fresh with them and see them through to the finish.
As for the USM, the could not be more grateful for what Dudley-Eshbach has done for Salisbury.
“She is a fierce champion for Salisbury University, her energy and passion marked her as someone whose voice would be heard,” USM Chancellor Caret said. “She has made higher education her life and SU, the USM and the citizens of Maryland are better for it.”
When it comes to legacy, it is more or less up to the community to decide what will be remembered. But if you ask President Dudley-Eshbach, that is exactly how she wants to be remembered.
“That I’m a woman. . .I don’t think about that too much, you get the job and you work as hard as you can,” Dudley-Eshbach said. “Above all, it is the sense of community that we have maintained.”