ARCHIVED  August 1, 1998

Brown’s political, business savvy colors future decisions

GREELEY — President of the University of Northern Colorado is not the highest office Hank Brown has sought and won. An hour˜s exposure to Brown˜s self-depreciating style and disarmingly silly grin might leave you thinking he doesn˜t know what he˜s gotten himself into.
But the 58-year-old former U.S. senator from Colorado who replaced Howard Skinner in the top administrative seat at UNC this summer has as firm a grasp of his new position as anyone can who has barely parked his pen in his new desk. The posh fourth-floor president˜s office in UNC˜s art-deco administration building is probably no more luxurious than the meeting rooms he trod in his days as U.S. senator, or for that matter, the several vice presidential offices he inhabited at Monfort of Colorado when he was just beginning his professional career.
From that office, Brown faces the daunting task of leading the former state teacher˜s college at a time of increasing competition from technical colleges, declining enrollment and enormous change in instructional method.
"Our challenge," Brown said, "is to discern where education˜s going and to make sure we˜re ahead of the curve."
UNC has a niche, he said, in the higher-education market. Its small classes, student access to professors, fewer classes taught by graduate students and student-friendly campus are its strengths, Brown said. Meeting students˜ needs is part of making the university "customer-oriented."
Despite sometimes talking like the businessman he was, Brown is not new to the halls of academe. He is a lawyer and a constitutional law expert (Juris Doctor, 1969, Colorado State University; Master of Law 1986, George Washington University) and has taught at George Washington University and, most recently, at the Center for Public Policy and Contemporary issues at the University of Denver. He co-directed the Center with former Colorado governor Dick Lamm.
"The administration is the portion that˜s like a business," he said. Part of his job, he said, will be to see that the university is efficiently administered. "The educational side is much different. It˜s centered around the faculty, with faculty playing a key role in hiring É It˜s a bottom-up system."
Brown finds himself at the head of a Ph.D.-granting institution without having come up through the ranks of the academic system himself. Moreover, his voting record in the Senate did not earn him the love of educational lobbying groups. In 1995, for example, the National Education Association, one of two national teacher˜s unions, gave then-Sen. Brown a 0 percent rating on votes it considered critical to education.
Those decisions were based on the higher priority of balancing the federal deficit, Brown said.
"In Congress, I must say, spending groups always had concerns about my record, whether it was military groups or others," Brown said. "If your standard is increasing the federal deficit, you˜re not going to like my voting record."
But it may be an accountant and businessman that the university needs.
Brown acknowledged that the university needs to do a better job locating funding sources. Now, a third of the institution˜s revenues come from the state Legislature.
"UNC receives less than some universities in state per student," Brown said. Roughly another third comes from tuition. Only 0.5 percent of costs are covered by private gifts, grants and contracts. Students depend heavily on loans.
"So much of the innovation in education in the last 20 years has occurred in areas outside of universities or colleges," he said. "And business itself has expanded its educational requirements.
Or it may be a politician that the university needs.
"It˜s helpful to know the folks and have a familiarity with the process," Brown admits with typical understatement. He certainly is familiar with the major Weld County businesses, and he proposed drawing businesses into the university for advice and funding. That, he said, would enrich both the university and business. And, while Weld is a growing region, he said, "Our mission is statewide, and our funding has to come from statewide sources."
Brown˜s skills as diplomat and leader, honed in Washington, earned high praise from the former governor.
"He˜s a great team-builder. He attracts people. He can dis
agree without being disagreeable," Lamm said. "I find that he˜s a very thoughtful individual. He has mature judgement, accumulates evidence before making a decision, yet can make a decision."
The decisions to be made may prove complicated ones. Information technology, as Brown said, is changing not only the way information is conveyed, but also the nature of the information itself. And it is changing competition between schools.
"The students of the future may not only have access to our professors," Brown said, "but to the best professors in the world É We just may decide to bring in lectures from Wharton or Harvard. (It may be possible with) the explosion of information technology and the advent of distance learning."
The next years will bring big changes in higher education, whatever shape they finally take, and it˜s much too early to know how the former senator will deal with them.
"The challenge," Brown said, "is not just that education is going to change, but its impact on society is going to change, and I˜m not sure we know how it˜s going to affect it."

GREELEY — President of the University of Northern Colorado is not the highest office Hank Brown has sought and won. An hour˜s exposure to Brown˜s self-depreciating style and disarmingly silly grin might leave you thinking he doesn˜t know what he˜s gotten himself into.
But the 58-year-old former U.S. senator from Colorado who replaced Howard Skinner in the top administrative seat at UNC this summer has as firm a grasp of his new position as anyone can who has barely parked his pen in his new desk. The posh fourth-floor president˜s office in UNC˜s art-deco administration building is probably no…

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