By CHRISTINA CLARK
IUSB- It’s a dreary evening as the third chancellor finalist to visit campus and meet with the students, faculty, and public, sits down at a table in The Grille. Dr. Elrie LaBrent “Brent” Chrite came to IUSB on January 28, 2013, from Montclair State University where he serves as a Dean and Professor of Management and International Business at their School of Business in New Jersey.
Originally from the Detroit, he received his Ph.D from The University of Michigan and the Center of Higher and Post-Secondary Education. He also has a master degree in Health Care Administration (with a concentration in finance) and bachelor degree in Community Health Services.
Chrite discussed his work since 2009 at Montclair State University School of Business, and compared his results with that of IUSB’s. Comparing the six year graduation rate of 26% to Montclair State’s 63% six year graduation rate, he states that IUSB “Is high quality, but 26% is seriously problematic.”
The strengths Chrite lists come from his many years of experience working with universities. Listing off a history of having raised tens of milions of dollars for schools, deep understanding of public higher education institutions, an understanding of what students need to thrive on campus and in the workforce, a worldview from international work, he says he has “twenty years of making institutions better”. Putting a heavy focus on striking a balance between campus and community, bringing in many resources and aligning the “external stakeholders and what is going on internally and on campus.” Ultimately, “Is the institution ready for the leadership style that I bring?” he challenges.
Currently at Montclair, administratively and academically leading the School of Business, comprised of 1,800 students and 80 full time staff, he has helped create programs that ensure students are marketable to their field and ready for the workforce when they graduate. Praising IUSB’s Business Etiquette dinners as a program to make sure students are ready for what real world work looks and acts like, a common goal he shares: “ensuring that students, no matter their area of study, are the most employable in the area. That they are the best at interviewing, and so on.”
Feeling that our campus is like “the best kept secret in South Bend,” Alumni from the class of 2010, Caitlin Worm, posed many questions. She is looking for a strong candidate who is willing to work with the “anti-intellectual legislature in the Indiana state government” and willing to work with the Indiana University network to expand our opportunities. Also mentioning the feeling that many local students get when they tell others where they go to school: “’Oh you’re just at IUSB’ when it’s such a great opportunity.”
“The problem is not the university,” Chrite responds, marketing is the answer as “an IU degree is enormously powerful, this organizations seems unwilling to take responsibility and make its own reputation in the marketplace. The ‘safe school’, as you mentioned, needs to be recognized for what it is.” Chrite also has planned an event at Monclair where around 170 area teens will have the chance to experience their campus life and opportunities, as a way to draw in students and get them excited for continuing education.
Establishing a larger presence at the Elkhart campus is on his mind as well. Working with the businesses in Elkhart surrounding the campus, having students at the branch, and ultimately “establishing more of a footprint” in the area.
Pam Claeys, a local resident who describes herself (with a laugh) as “living on the IUSB parking lot” citing the western parking lots, inquired as to how Chrite would engage the neighbors. Having worked with both neighbor relations with universities that were “love fests” and extremely tense, he says it would be important to get a “strong sense of what does and doesn’t work, and how we can go about resolving it.” He is “interested in forging relationships with neighbors to the university.”
The first months, if chosen as Chancellor, would be devoted to listening and observing, and find around six or seven months a “narrative and be committed to drive [the university] to the next tier of excellence.”
Though knowing it isn’t possible for every student, he would like to expand opportunities to study abroad and “expose students to worldview”. Making them and himself, “hopefully globally responsible” is important to the future of being marketable in any field and successful in life.
Being involved with the South Bend school community is important to Chrite as well, as well as reaching out and doing community work. He is personally involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Taking a look at the university through a business lense, he also addresses the fact that the South Bend campus is the lowest paid faculty of the Indiana University network.