The tenure of John Jasinski, who has served as Northwest’s president since 2009, could soon be over. The 10th president in the University’s 115-year history is one of four finalists to replace the departing president at Minnesota State University, who is set to retire at the end of the academic year, according to MSU-Mankato’s website.
If selected, Jasinski would replace Richard Davenport, Mankato’s president since 2002 who in August announced his upcoming retirement, prompting a nationwide search for his replacement. Mankato is expected to announce Davenport’s replacement in March.
Jasinski would leave the University where he has spent most of his career in academia, serving in varying positions from 1986 to 2001, including as an associate provost, department chair and a faculty member in Northwest’s School of Communications and Mass Media. After working elsewhere as an education consultant from 2001 to 2009, and serving in an administrative role at Northwood University from 2007 to 2009, Jasinski returned to preside over the campus where he worked for 15 years.
Though he is not participating in media interviews while his candidacy for the presidential gig at Mankato is ongoing, Jasinski provided a written statement to The Missourian via Northwest Communication Manager Mark Hornickel.
“It is appropriate for me to explore new horizons at this time as I am quite optimistic about where Northwest is at in its life cycle,” the statement reads in part. “We continue to ‘bring it’ and disrupt from a position of strength. ... Our core competencies of being safe, trusted, invested and resourceful are hallmarks, and our brand is as strong as ever.”
After expressing intense pride for Northwest in the written statement, Jasinski turned his attention toward his own future, which he hopes, of course, lies in Mankato at the helm of a university with an enrollment of 15,000 students — a total more than double that of Northwest.
“Minnesota State, Mankato’s culture and focus on student success are similar, and the institution is primed for, as they say up north, ‘prodigious growth’ as it, too, enjoys strong performance and is known as a sector leader,” Jasinski said in the statement. “This is but a step in the process and, whatever the outcome, Denise (Jasinski) and I will continue our ongoing focus on uplifting Northwest and the communities we serve through a team-based environment. We’ll do so with unceasing energy, passion and integrity.”
While Mankato’s website first named Jasinski as one of five finalists for the position, a fifth candidate, Sandra Haynes, withdrew her name from consideration.
Left in the running to replace Davenport are Jasinski; Edward Inch, a provost and vice president at California State University-East Bay; Debra Larson, a provost and vice president at California State University-Chico; and Mrinal Mugdh Varma, the senior vice chancellor of Auburn University at Montgomery, Alabama. Jasinski stands out as the only finalist who currently serves as the president of a university.
As a part of its monthslong selection process, Mankato hosted open forums via Zoom for each of the finalists, giving staff and students a chance to hear from the candidates themselves. Jasinski appeared in his scheduled forum Feb. 9, prompting favorable coverage from The Mankato Free Press, which noted the “rapid-fire nature” of his online meeting.
Jasinski admitted to his limited knowledge of Mankato in the Zoom session, but still praised the university throughout his 45-minute appearance in front of staff and students, The Free Press reported.
“MSU-Mankato is a special place,” Jasinski said at the forum, according to The Free Press. “You get that vibe from the search committee; you get that from the Zoom sessions.”
In both his statement to The Missourian and the public forum with Mankato stakeholders, Jasinski said part of his willingness to part ways with Northwest after more than 11 years comes from the success of the University’s Forever Green fundraising campaign, which has garnered more than $51 million in donations after quietly launching in 2014. The University made public its $45 million fundraising goal in October 2019, when more than $42 million had been raised.
If Jasinski does depart, he will leave the University in stable financial shape in the face of an ongoing global pandemic. The reality of Northwest’s finances seem to be, in part, the reason the president is comfortable with moving on.
“We’re in a strong position to hand off the reins,” Jasinski said at Mankato’s candidate forum, according to The Free Press. “It’s a good time for family.”