Dorianna Valerio News Editor
On July 1, Dr. Kimberly R. Cline will take on the role as LIU president, a position previously held by Dr. David J. Steinberg for the last 27 years.
As LIU’s tenth president and first ever female to hold the office, Cline will be responsible for overseeing five LIU campuses, 630 full-time faculty members and all other university employees and over 24,000 students.
The presidential search firm Witt/Kieffer contacted Cline, who was in her Garden City home when she was informed that she had been chosen to succeed Steinberg. “It was certainly a full-vetted national search,” she said during an interview with the Pioneer’s News Editor on Friday, March 8.
Cline is currently serving as the president of Mercy College. She has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Industrial Relations from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a Masters in Business Administration, Juris Doctorate Degree and a Doctor of Educational Administration from Hofstra University.
As she gears up for her new role and her move to the presidential mansion provided to the LIU president on the Post Campus, Cline shares her hopes and aspirations for LIU, her feelings on being LIU’s first woman president and her plans for the future.
The Pioneer (TP): How did the opportunity to become LIU’s next president come about?
Dr. Kimberly R. Cline (KC): Well, it happened over the course of a few months. I was contacted by the search firm and then eventually met the entire search committee.
TP: How do you feel about becoming LIU’s next president?
KC: I’m thrilled. I have lived on Long Island for a majority of my adult life. I’m originally from North Carolina, but I’ve been in New York so long, I feel like a New Yorker. I’ve always felt there was something special about LIU. It’s such a unique position to be able to offer the beautiful suburban campus at Post, and at Brooklyn, it offers students the opportunity to engage in an urban environment. So, I believe we will be the strongest university not only in the Long Island area, but we are going to gain national prominence as well.
TP: How does it feel to be serving as president so close to Hofstra where you obtained your graduate degree?
KC: I worked at Hofstra a good many years and obviously I’m proud of the education I have from there. However, my husband is a graduate of Post, so we also have long-term loyalties to Post as well.
TP: How does it feel to become the first woman to serve as LIU president?
KC: I don’t think about it as being the first woman president. The most important thing I try to encourage anyone that I’m mentoring is to just be prepared. Don’t think of yourself in a particular category, but think about what skill set you need to be a strong leader. So, I’m just happy and thankful to be a leader that’s following David Steinberg, who’s done such an amazing job over a long period of time.
TP: Are you excited about your move the presidential mansion on campus?
KC: I am. I have never lived on a college campus. Mercy’s house was off campus. However, I believe the wonderful opportunity to live on campus is one where you can really connect with faculty, students and campus constituencies and really become a part of the community. I am also going to have an office in Brooklyn and I’m going to spend a good amount of time there because both campuses are essential to LIU’s future.
TP: You are Mercy’s 10th president and now LIU’s 10th president, how will the roles differ and how will they be the same?
KC: I find in higher education, the challenges that they’re all facing now with the economy and also ensuring that they provide value to the students means that we really have to be focused on strategic enrollment and ensuring our retention is strong and also collaborating with faculty and students. The faculty members are the ones that are in front of students everyday. We need to build financial resources, which includes building revenue and opportunities. I feel like I did all that with the great team at Mercy and we will be doing that at LIU. However, I think that LIU is in a unique position having that suburban and urban mix of campuses because they complement one another and then you add in LIU Global, which can offer students a worldwide learning experience. Those are offerings that other colleges and universities don’t have and all of that along with some of the health care areas and the performing arts and the other strong programs, I think there are ways we can work to gain national prominence for LIU.
TP: You mentioned that the Presidential Search Committee contacted you. Was it something that you knew about beforehand? Were you interested in applying for the role?
KC: I didn’t know about it until the search firm reached out to me, but I spoke to them and it was certainly an opportunity that interested me, primarily because of all the great things I previously mentioned. But also because I feel like I know LIU well.
TP: What do you foresee will be a great accomplishment for you in your new role?
KC: Well, I believe the greatest accomplishment will be if we could all work together to move LIU forward on a number of fronts. We have to work to make sure we have enrollment retention, financial resources for faculty and students. We also have to leverage the community and we need to showcase our brand.
TP: How important is it for you to be named LIU’s first president during Women’s History month?
KC: I think it’s an honor, but the most important thing is that LIU feels that they have hired the right person for the job. I am honored to be the first woman, but I’m most happy that I am the best candidate for the job.
TP: What do you foresee will be one of the hardest challenges you’ll face as the new president?
KC: I believe there are many more opportunities than challenges. There are opportunities in growing programs and growing fields. There are opportunities in finding innovative ways to fulfill our mission of access and excellence, but we have to recognize there is an academic challenge and it’s becoming more important to provide value for our students. Not just to provide the great education, which is equally important, but that we’re helping students move forward in their career of choice.
TP: President Steinberg has been LIU’s president for over 25 years. In which ways will you follow in his footsteps?
KC: Well, it’s humbling to be following in his footsteps. But, he has also built a wonderful team and laid some critical groundwork that’s going to make it possible to move LIU to the next level and to gain regional and national prominence.
TP: How will you make your own path?
KC: I think we have to do that all together. As a president, it’s not really about me, it’s about LIU. So, we have to pull together as a community to determine what are the areas we need to work on in order to move forward. That’s going to come from working with faculty and students, looking into academic programs and looking at opportunities and together we’ll find a strategic footprint that will take us to the next level.
TP: What will your first initiative be as the new president?
KC: My immediate plan is to create a dialogue among faculty and students and then to develop some programs that are transformative. However, we won’t know what those are until we all work together, but I think as soon as we develop them, we’ll take the steps to make sure they are successful.
TP: What are your roles as Mercy’s President?
KC: It’s different on any given day. However, as the president I was on the executive team. We provided strategic leadership for moving the university forward. We did that in a number of ways. Over the past five years, our enrollment has increased significantly and our academic quality has increased as well. We have financial security; we hired a significant amount of faculty over the past few years. I think it was pulling all that together and providing strategic direction in order to lead Mercy into the next decade.
TP: What are three things students should know about you?
KC: I have an intense passion for education; my goal would be that everyone that entered LIU would be successful all the way through graduation. Another would be, I’m a mother and wife, I have three children and my family is very important to me. The third is that this opportunity is one that will really offer me the opportunity and challenge to help LIU move into a new direction and I am intensely thrilled about it.
TP: How will you combine your skills as Mercy President and as Chief Financial Office of the State University of New York in your role as the new president?
KC: Well, more and more, it’s important that presidents understand the whole enterprise and the core of what happens at a university is centered on academics. However, I believe that the finance area is also important. The federal government has had to impose a lot of compliance issues that are necessary to follow on college campuses and my background, I think, enables me to understand that and ensure that the university would be in full compliance.
TP: What are you most looking forward to?
KC: I’m most looking forward to meeting the campus community, the faculty, the other employees and the students and to understand what attracted the students to LIU and how we could work together to make it better.
TP: What are you least looking forward to?
KC: I’m a very positive person, I can’t think of anything that I’m not looking forward to.
TP: Where do you see yourself in five years?
KC: Well, I see myself at LIU and that’s where I would like to be and I see the University moving into a direction of national prominence and for it to be a place of choice for students when they enroll. For companies, educational institutions and doctoral programs to look for our students because they are educated with great quality and for it to be the number one university on Long Island.