After one year on the job, Texas A&M University-Commerce President Dr. Mark Rudin took a look back at his first time at the helm and what is in store for the near future.
Rudin was hired in August of 2018 to be the 13th president of the institution and the fourth since it became a part of the Texas A&M System. Rudin came to Commerce with almost 30 years of experience as an instructor and administrator at Idaho State University, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and most recently at Boise State University, where he had served as the Vice President for Research and Economic Development since 2007. This made the A&M-Commerce job his first go at being the head administrator of a university.
Rudin commented that this came with a significant learning curve, in part due to the rural nature of the area.
“My previous two institutions were in a more urban setting, I think the biggest learning curve is the fact that A&M-Commerce is in a rural setting,” Rudin said. “Another challenge is that the immediate constituency we serve is northeast Texas, and what a large swathe of land that is, right?”
“The size of northeast Texas and the fact that we are trying to serve both a rural and urban constituency has probably been the biggest learning curve for me,” he continued.
He added that a large number of students would be the first in their family to go to college and may not be thinking about going to a university, saying that it is a challenge to attract those students and provide “services to make them successful.”
One of the biggest charges Rudin made was the creation of a strategic plan to guide the university going forward. The plan has recently been drafted and approved, and Rudin went into detail about some of the main points of the plan.
“We recently hired a new VP for Economic Development, Cece Gassner, and she has already started going out to different industries and discussing with them what skills they would like to see in our graduates,” Rudin said. “We are now also rescoping the work of our career center, and the discussion about careers are now being started earlier with our students.”
Employability of students has been a large part of Rudin’s vision for the university, with him stating that if a senior-level student takes his first visit to the career center, by that time “it’s already too late,” emphasizing the need to start early.
In addition, Rudin spoke about the establishment of a “College of Innovation and Design” at the university that would handle things like the university’s first-year experience and competency-based education.
As he has done in multiple interviews, Rudin touted the student body as one of the major strengths of A&M-Commerce.
“You’ve probably heard me say this a million times, but this is the best student body I have ever been around at an institution,” Rudin said. “They are the most kind, gracious students, they’re fun to be around and they are excited to be here.”
As far as challenges, Rudin says he believes that something the university can do better is streamlining its business practices, creating more efficiency.
One of the biggest new initiatives that Rudin says he would like to pursue is giving students an avenue to present any business or entrepreneurial ideas they have in a public space and get feedback from professionals.
“There are a lot of good ideas on our campus,” Rudin said. “How do we work to get students to realize their dreams?”
When looking toward the future, Rudin says that if he is still the president of A&M-Commerce in 10 years, he would want to see the university become the “destination university and educational leader of northeast Texas.”
“I would like for us to elevate research that brings valuable resources ans creates local expertise,” Rudin said. “I also want to foster relationships with the community and let them know, ‘we are open for business.’”