NU president discusses vision for university

Photo courtesy of National University.

Photo courtesy of National University.

Michele Leivas, Editor

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It has been a busy month for Dr. David Andrews since assuming the presidency at National University.

Relocating from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., he has had to acclimate not only to a new university but a new city as well. The past 30 days have been a combination of back-to-back meetings, heavy reading and a little sightseeing for NU’s new president — even squeezing in an outing to Petco Park to attend Opening Day for the San Diego Padres.

In his first in-depth interview since he took office on April 1, he says that immersing himself in the National University culture is a top priority right now for him.

“I think it’s real important that I get to know the players, all of our employees, the staff and the faculty and trying to get to see as many students as possible as well,” he said. “I’ve been on a steep learning curve trying to figure out how National University functions and what I can do to make it better.”

From early in his career, Andrews says he has always been drawn to administrative work, sitting as department chair at Oregon State University in his late 20s. His background as the Dean of the School of Education at Johns Hopkins as well as his extensive work with higher risk students ranging in age from elementary to college level has prepared him, he says, for the responsibilities and obligations that come with his new role at NU.

“I’m looking for ways to contribute, (to figure out) how do we help students who aren’t the typical students who didn’t follow a real traditional path and I think we have a lot of students like that here at National,” he said. “The diversity of the students at [National] — not just the socioeconomic diversity but the diversity of how they’ve made their way through the educational course of their life is really fascinating to me and I think it forces us to think of students as individuals much more so than some universities, and that’s exciting for me.”

Andrews is eager to build on NU’s established reputation within the state and across the country by strengthening ties with the many communities housing a National campus and fostering new relationships with community groups and organizations. Potential employers for NU graduates, he says, are his top priority, as is understanding what type of employee these employers are seeking for their businesses and organizations. The main question to be answered, Andrews says is, “How do we get such a depth of an understanding of our partners so that we’re actually producing the kind of students who are adding value to their organization and in return growing their local economies?”

Andrews is looking for ways to improve National within the system as well. While NU is well-known for several programs, including education, nursing and business, its smaller, lesser-known programs are currently struggling with low enrollment. Andrews says it is a priority for him to strengthen these programs by making them more visible to the public through stronger marketing programs and enhancing their visibility in the public eye.

“I think more importantly is to strengthen the reputation of those programs in terms of the jobs they lead to and the benefits they offer to our students,” he added.

Additionally, Andrews plans to continue to enhance and evolve all National programs in a “very learner centered approach” toward higher education. The diversity of NU’s student body creates an equally diverse set of student goals and Andrews intends to be “very explicit in helping students define their goals and develop pathways to help them reach those goals.”

Andrews greets this challenge with optimism and sees it as an opportunity to foster a learning environment that provides precisely what its students need at the exact moment they need it, creating “the next generation of delivery of education so it’s much more personalized to the needs of the students.”

Beyond all the obligations, responsibilities and duties demanded by his position, however, Andrews says his favorite part of the job is working and interacting with the students, watching them thrive as they work toward their dreams and achieve their fullest potential while backed by the administration, staff and faculty at National.