Cartwright compares her statistics to those of other presidents

Rachel Abbey

President Carol Cartwright usually reads for pleasure on airplanes during business trips. She gets her news from newspapers and the radio on the way to work, and she has a doctorate in special education with a concentration in statistics and research methodology.

About 16 percent of presidents read for pleasure less than once a month, about 82 percent get their news from newspapers (although only 4 percent get caught up with the radio), and about 84 percent hold a doctorate-level degree, according to a survey of four-year higher education institution presidents compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The results of the survey came from 764 respondents representing 48 states and the District of Columbia. Hawaii and Wyoming were not included. The 12-page survey included questions ranging from political affiliation to views of alumni relations.

As a female, Cartwright already stands in a 19 percent minority. Cartwright said she had been reading someone’s dissertation last night and was shocked to learn the gap was still so large. The majority of those females ran schools with small enrollment, all-women students or private colleges.

Her involvement outside the university also sets her apart from the majority. Only about 40 percent of leaders at public colleges do some sort of fund raising each day.

“It’s unusual to see a day go by without some contact that relates to fund raising,” Cartwright said.

Most days, Cartwright said, she participates in more than one fund raising activity. This can include meetings with donors, special events for the university or more personal communication.

“I’ve already written a handwritten note to a potential supporter this morning,” she said.

Good people skills are important for university presidents to have, Cartwright said, something about 45 percent of survey respondents agreed with.

“I think it’s obvious when people are uncomfortable working a room,” she said.

Successful presidents have to develop a love of conversation and be able to discuss a wide variety of topics, Cartwright said, because they need to be engaged outside of the university.

Cartwright serves on four business boards and numerous cultural and higher education boards on the local, state and national levels.

“It’s almost a requirement in today’s world to be successful as a university president,” Cartwright said.

Other presidents seem not to put as high a priority on these outside connections. According to the survey, only 1.2 percent of presidents serve on four or more corporate boards and 12.6 percent serve on four nonprofit organization boards. The percentage drops with each additional board served.

Successful leaders have a strong sense of teamwork and a good grasp on the university’s mission, Cartwright said. Personally, she said it’s important for presidents to take risks and know failure is a part of life and learning.

“(It’s important to remember) not to take yourself too seriously,” Cartwright said. “There’s a lot of pressure that comes with the position, and it’s important to respect and understand that the presidency is what’s enduring, not the individual.”

If given the chance to go back, Cartwright agreed with almost 94 percent of respondents who said they would still become a university president.

“Absolutely,” she said with a broad smile.

Cartwright said she feels very passionately about the public good and individual benefits higher education brings, and she can’t imagine working in another field. She has also enjoyed the people and challenges of Kent State.

“I could have done without a few of the statewide challenges, but I think that goes with the territory and goes without saying,” she said.

There’s one more quality of Cartwright not addressed by the survey that she thinks makes her stand out.

“People have images of leaders being tall people, and I think they’re surprised I barely hit five feet tall,” she said. “I met someone, who after hearing me on the radio a few times, said ‘Oh my! But you have such a tall voice.'”

Contact administration reporter Rachel Abbey at [email protected].



ƒ-S 19 percent of university presidents are women.

ƒ-S 27 percent have been in their position for more than 10 years; Cartwright has served at Kent State for almost 15 years.

ƒ-S 52.7 percent handle fund raising on a daily basis. Only 40 percent of leaders at public universities do; Cartwright said she does at least one thing for fund raising every day.

ƒ-S 1.2 percent serve on four or more outside corporate boards; Cartwright currently serves on four, as well as nonprofit boards related to higher education and culture.

ƒ-S 83.8 percent hold a doctorate degree; Cartwright has a doctorate in special education with a concentration in statistics and research methodology.

Information from The Chronicle Of Higher Education’s Survey of College and University Presidents.