Dr. David Broski, president of Bradley University, isn't afraid to take risks. "A mentor of mine once said, 'The turtle only makes progress when he sticks his head out, so don't be afraid to make mistakes. They can usually be corrected.' I think that's good advice," he said.
Sticking his neck out has led to some very good things for Bradley-and the Peoria community in general-since he took over the position in 2000. Prior to his appointment as Bradley's ninth president, Broski served in several capacities at the University of Illinois at Chicago, culminating in chancellor; and he worked his way up to associate professor and associate director of the School of Allied Medical Professions in the Ohio State University College of Medicine.
Active in the community, Broski serves as a director of the Methodist Health Services Corporation, the Illinois council on Economic Education, the Heartland Partnership, and the Federation of Illinois Independent Colleges and Universities. He's a founding director of Peoria NEXT and the Peoria Civic Federation. He's a member of the Illinois Research Park Authority, the Steering Committee for Greater Peoria Vision 2020, and the Board of Governors of the Creve Coeur Club.
Broski and his wife, Sharon, reside in Dunlap and have two grown daughters.
Tell about your background, schools attended, family, etc.
I'm a life-long Midwesterner. I grew up in Grand Rapids, Mich., and attended Michigan State University, where I received my undergraduate and graduate education. MSU was also the place I met Sharon, my wife of 36 years. We have two grown daughters: Amy, who's responsible for Apple Computer's world-wide call center, and Jane, who works in public relations for LaSalle Bank in Chicago. And we have a fairly new addition to the family, a bulldog puppy named Tug.
Professionally, I rose through the ranks at the Ohio State University and began my administrative career as associate director of the School of Allied Medical Professions in the Ohio State University College of Medicine. In 1983, I became dean of the University of Illinois at Chicago's (UIC) College of Associated Health Professions, holding concurrent academic appointments as professor of health resources management in the School of Public Health and professor of medical education in the College of Medicine. I then served as UIC's provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs from 1991 until I became chancellor in 1996. My tenure as chancellor lasted until I came to Bradley in 2000.
This June will complete my fifth year at Bradley, and I have to ask myself why I waited so long to get into private higher education. It truly is a pleasure and privilege to be part of Bradley University.
What were the pressing needs for improvement of the university when you became president? What progress has been made?
The most visible improvements at Bradley since I arrived on campus have been the completion of two major renovation projects: Olin Hall of Science and Constance Hall, home to our Department of Music. We've also built a first-class soccer facility, Shea Stadium, and initiated a $16 million renovation of Bradley Hall that will be completed in 2006.
I'm also proud of Bradley's involvement with the improvements on Main Street. We've come a long way thanks to the support of Rep. Leitch, Sen. Shadid, Councilwoman Teplitz, AmerenCILCO, and the West Bluff business people who've worked hard to make Main Street more attractive.
Less visible-but no less important-are the improvements we've made in the selectivity of students. Student selectivity is one measure of academic status used by U.S. News and World Report in establishing annual rankings of colleges and universities. This past year, with a fifth record year of freshmen applications and an incoming student waiting list for a fourth consecutive year, we accepted only 64 percent of our applicants.
We've also made strides in our ability to recruit a diverse student body. While, over the years, our minority population has equaled that of the national average, we felt we could improve. To this end, Bradley established a task force in 2001 to evaluate efforts underway to attract and retain a diverse student and faculty complement. Although competition for minority students and faculty is high, we've seen encouraging results.
Increasing the university's national visibility has been a focus also. By building collaborations with outside institutions and national companies and using fundraising money from the Centennial Campaign to recruit outstanding young Ph.Ds from major research universities, we've given the university greater exposure and recognition. Bradley is recognized as the number one regional university in Illinois, and it's among the top five Midwestern universities in U.S. News and World Report's annual ranking.
What's your vision for Bradley in the next 10 years?
The university is in the process of developing a master plan that will show how the campus will look in 10 to 15 years and address the needs of education, engineering, business, recreation, athletics, residential life, parking, and the arts. But I don't see any dramatic difference in the educational role we play. We'll continue to involve our students and faculty in research and collaboration. We'll continue to provide small classes and diverse social activities for our students. We'll continue to provide exceptional career preparation for students. Our ultimate goal is to become one of the best private, comprehensive universities in the nation, and I believe we can achieve that goal.
How is Bradley distinguishing itself from other comparable private universities in the Midwest?
The vast majority of private colleges and universities limit their academic variety to the traditional liberal arts and sciences or specialize in only one or two academic areas. Bradley, as a private, comprehensive university, provides more than 100 programs in five colleges that offer a variety of professional programs. Our engineering program, for example, is one of three in the State of Illinois found at a private institution. Bradley is one of three non-doctoral, non-research-intensive institutions in the nation offering students and faculty access to Internet2, a network that can transmit 10 gigabytes of data per second, for collaborative research activities. We were recently named to the list of "Top 25 Most Connected Campuses" and "Top 25 Most Entrepreneurial Campuses" in the nation by The Princeton Review and Forbes magazine.
One of the main differences between Bradley and other fine universities is Bradley's emphasis on teaching. Bradley's faculty are teachers first who mentor students, but they also are experts who do research, write books, express their creativity, and consult with industry and government. Where else but at Bradley can students have the opportunity to be taught by the Poet Laureate of Illinois, a PBS writer and producer, a Fortune 500 consultant, an international printmaker, or a patent-holding engineer?
How is Bradley working to fill the higher education needs of the region?
Bradley is the educational choice each year for more than 1,500 students from the tri-county area, and following graduation, many choose to stay and work in the tri-county area. In fact, 21 percent of the 2004 graduating class accepted jobs in central Illinois. Through our graduate school, we offer 14 master's degree programs, including an MBA and an Executive MBA in Leadership that will graduate its third class of students in May 2006. Bradley also serves the public and private sectors of central Illinois through its research and creative productions, a variety of outreach programs and centers, as well as workshops, short courses, and certificate programs.
You and Bradley are very involved with Peoria NEXT. Tell about the vision of Peoria NEXT as it would correlate to the university.
Peoria NEXT is an economic development consortium that allows us to use the resources of the partners to collaborate and diversify the local economy and bring in new jobs. The knowledge economy is here now, and Bradley University is an active partner in building and nurturing Peoria's knowledge community. Our faculty, in research collaboration with undergraduate and graduate students, contribute to the discoveries and entrepreneurial opportunities that improve Peoria's economic future. Our science facilities, which serve the research needs of these students and scholars, are unequalled. Our connection to Internet2 provides our Peoria NEXT partners with direct access to an elite high-speed research network consisting of more than 200 prestigious universities, 70 companies, and 40 affiliated organizations including government agencies. Bradley's growing national academic reputation continues to attract talented students and faculty to our community.
We've come a long way-from the first Peoria NEXT meeting that took place in a conference room right across from my office, to breaking ground for a Peoria Next incubator in the proposed Med-Tech District-and I can only see great success in store for the future.
What master's and doctorate programs would you like to see added at Bradley?
Bradley's first professional doctorate in physical therapy will be offered this May. The accredited D.P.T. program replaces our master's of physical therapy and will be the only program of its kind in downstate Illinois. Additional master's and doctorate programs will take shape as opportunities arise.
How could Bradley work with the University of Illinois College of Medicine (UICOMP) and the medical institutions to better serve the staffing and research needs for the community?
We've had many productive conversations with UICOMP and its retiring dean, Don Rager, who, by the way, is a Bradley alumnus and member of our Board of Trustees. Once UICOMP's leadership has been determined, we'll continue to pursue collaborative opportunities. For example, if the University of Illinois continues to cut the medical school budget, it's not unreasonable for the first year of a four-year medical program to be offered on Bradley's campus.
Talk about the capital campaign Bradley is about to kick off.
It's been more than 10 years since Bradley launched its last campaign celebrating the university's centennial. That successful campaign focused on the university's endowment. The next campaign will need to focus on enhancing our facilities. Westlake Hall, a student recreation center and athletic facility for men's and women's sports, will be among those targeted for renovation and expansion. The next campaign also will require us to broaden our base of support to alumni and friends residing outside of the central Illinois area.
What's the easiest aspect of recruiting students to Bradley? The most difficult?
Generating interest in the university hasn't been an issue. Bradley has enjoyed a record number of applications. The single most influential aspect of making a college decision is, however, the college visit. We know if we can get students to come to campus, meet with professors who'll be teaching them, see our facilities, and experience our community, they'll choose Bradley.
One challenge all private schools have is convincing prospective students and their parents they can afford a private education. More than 80 percent of Bradley students receive financial assistance, with the average freshman award totaling more than $12,000.
What about attracting faculty?
Bradley has always been fortunate to attract talented faculty who not only have a great love of teaching, but have an interest in pursuing research. Perhaps what's even more remarkable is how many faculty decide to devote their careers to Bradley.
The challenge, however, for any employer bringing in a new employee is hoping the accompanying spouse or significant other can find satisfying career opportunities as well.
How supportive is the community of Bradley University?
Every great city has a great university. We have a symbiotic relationship–what's good for Peoria is good for Bradley. We've always been committed to the city and its neighborhoods. In turn, the community has always been supportive of the university-whether it's through the incredible financial support of the last campaign (80 percent of the $127 million raised for the Centennial Campaign was from central Illinois) or attendance at our art galleries, theatre presentations, concerts, lectures, and athletic events. Last season, for example, Bradley averaged 9,178 fans at Carver Arena, keeping Bradley near the top 50 in the nation in home attendance. And we finished seventh nationally last season by drawing 14,391 fans to our 13 home soccer games at Shea Stadium.
What are some of the misperceptions people have regarding Bradley?
Perhaps the one misperception people have of Bradley is that they can't afford a private education, when, in fact, with Bradley's strong financial assistance package, there's little or no financial difference between Bradley and many state institutions. For example, when you tally the cost for a year of engineering at the University of Illinois-tuition, room and board, fees, plus engineering surcharge of $2,442-it totals $17,256. A comparable engineering student at Bradley in the top quarter of his or her graduating class, with an average ACT of just 24, would receive a $6,000 scholarship, bringing the total cost at Bradley to just $17,880. Students with higher scores could receive up to $8,500 in scholarship support at Bradley, which would make it less expensive to attend Bradley.
How has academic administration changed since you entered the field?
As I mentioned, I enjoy being in a private university setting. There's less political interference at a private institution than at a state institution that relies heavily on state-supported funds. But as the competition for students and faculty members has increased over the years, the responsibility for a university president to secure resources to fulfill the university's mission of teaching and researching has increased, and that's critical to a private institution.
As a former professor, what are the differences between teaching and being an administrator? The pros and cons to both?
I've been a faculty member at three institutions: Michigan State, Ohio State, and UIC, and I've been a dean, provost, chancellor, and president. I know what it means to win tenure and earn promotions as a faculty member, and I know what it means to teach and do scholarly work, to see a student grasp a new intellectual concept for the first time-it's exciting and rewarding, and you miss that as an administrator. At the same time, it's exciting to move an entire institution forward, knowing you've made a difference. For me, there's no greater environment than a college campus. I enjoy the active life of the mind, reading, and learning. Let me just say one thing: Being part of this university is a great privilege. IBI