The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) Board of Governors appointed current Mansfield University President Charles Patterson as the interim president of Shippensburg University Thursday.
Patterson will fill the role on an interim basis after Laurie Carter, SU’s 17th president, departs the university this summer. Carter, who has been at the helm since August 2017, announced on March 4 that she will leave SU this summer to take the same position at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin.
The Board of Governors voted unanimously during its meeting to approve the appointment.
The governance and leadership committee also approved an update to the presidential appointment process. The agenda for Thursday’s meeting includes the updated version.
The policy change adds the individual university’s chief diversity officer as a non-voting adviser to the presidential search committee and includes them in all meetings.
It also eliminated the policy that prohibits interim or acting presidents from applying from the permanent position. Deputy Chancellor Randy Goin explained that the change provides “additional flexibility” for councils of trustees that are working with the chancellor to develop presidential searches.
Patterson came to the State System in 2019 after a stint as senior adviser for the executive outreach office of federal student aid in the U.S. Department of Education under former Secretary Betsy DeVos. He held the position from 2017 to 2019.
In a September 2020 interview with Drew Patrick of “Mansfield University Conversations,” Patterson said his time at the federal Department of Education helped him to develop “additional knowledge of the initiatives of the department and education technology.”
“The two years that I spent at the Department of Education in Washington — what I missed most was the campus. And again, it's that disconnect that really exists between the business that occurs in Washington, and as well-meaning as that is — and it's really well meaning. You know, the decisions that are made, despite what you hear in the news, despite what you might infer from what you hear through the news, we are really focused on the institutions and the students,” Patterson said in the interview. “But what's missing from that is being on a campus, getting to see the students succeed, getting to interact with faculty.”
During his time at the Department of Education, Patterson said, he provided a campus point of view that sometimes was lacking from policy discussions, but ultimately he missed being on a college campus.
Patterson’s current school, Mansfield University, is in the process of integration with two other PASSHE schools. The Northeast integration includes Mansfield, Bloomsburg and Lock Haven universities. Bashar Hanna is the current president at Bloomsburg and is serving as the interim president at Lock Haven. He replaced Robert Pignatello, who left Lock Haven in early February to become a senior adviser to the chancellor for integration strategy, according to the Lock Haven Express.
Board chair Cindy Shapira said the chancellor will meet with the council of trustees at SU and Mansfield to "contemplate any of the potential directions the board might go regarding university integrations" and university leadership at Mansfield.
The chancellor said during his spring virtual visit to SU that there are no plans to consolidate it.
Patterson has held positions at Baylor and Georgia Southern universities, and served as interim president at Georgia Southwestern State University from 2015 to 2017. He has a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Mississippi State University and a doctorate in biomedical sciences from the University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
Recently, he was one of four finalists for the chancellor position at the University of South Carolina – Aiken.
Another candidate other than Patterson took the position on April 9 for the 3,500-student school.
According to a Mansfield University press release, Patterson began his tenure therein July 2019. The school has about 1,600 students and offers more than three dozen associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs.
Patterson’s biography, which is available at president.mansfield.edu, lists his accomplishments and missions. The website says Patterson led the university to implement “strategic priorities and an accompanying enrollment management plan resulting in consecutive enrollment increases for fall 2019 (2%) and fall 2020 (7.8%), effectively ending a prior nine-year enrollment decline.”
It also says Patterson raised first-year retention from 73% to 78.1% during the pandemic year.
The biography describes Patterson as “a passionate and transparent servant leader for the [Mansfield] university’s mission and is actively leading university integration efforts for the State System.”
PASSHE officials have proposed two integrations, one in the west consisting of California, Clarion and Edinboro universities, and the northeastern group, both of which aim to help fix the state system’s financial sustainability issues.
“University integration will reimagine higher education in the Commonwealth and align the institutional resources of three universities in the northeast and three universities in the west. Once complete, integration will expand the delivery of undergraduate and graduate programs across the regions beyond what any single institution might achieve on its own,” the website said on his behalf.
Patterson officially starts at SU on June 30.