New Wittenberg University President, Michael Frandsen (left) meets with students Meghan Roderick and Casey Luther at the president’s home on campus. JEFF GUERINI/STAFF
Photo: Jeff Guerini
Photo: Jeff Guerini

Wittenberg selects new leader to tackle financial challenges

Wittenberg University has selected Mike Frandsen to lead the campus that faces tough decisions about its financial and educational future.

Frandsen comes to the school as its 15th president after serving almost three years as the vice president for finance and administration at Oberlin College and before that was an interim president at Albion College in Michigan.

MORE: What to know about Dr. Michael Frandsen

Wittenberg is a major local employer with a total of more than 250 employees and has an estimated $70 million economic impact on the Springfield community.

He follows former President Laurie Joyner, who resigned abruptly from the post in late 2015 and replaces Interim President Dick Helton.

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“I am really excited,” Frandsen told the Springfield News-Sun in an exclusive interview. “It is a great day today to see the excitement on campus and to feel the excitement on campus.”

Frandsen will continue to work at Oberlin for the next couple of months and will start at Wittenberg on July 1.

School leaders said in statement they’re excited to welcome Frandsen on campus.

“Wittenberg is extremely blessed to have found in Mike an outstanding leader in higher education and a passionate advocate for the liberal arts who exemplifies our mission,” Board Chairman Rev. Jonathan Eliert said.

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The new president is likely to face tough decisions almost immediately. Joyner announced several millions in cuts, but some of them weren’t made after she resigned.

“There are challenges here but there are challenges everywhere,” Frandsen said. “One of the things that attracted me to Wittenberg is there is a sense on campus of the recognition that there are some challenges but a desire to work together to address them. There is recognition that things may need to change, it’s not going to be just as it was.”

New Wittenberg University President, Michael Frandsen (left) meets with students Meghan Roderick and Casey Luther at the president’s home on campus. JEFF GUERINI/STAFF
Photo: Staff Writer

He said that he isn’t in the position to determine what type of changes need to made at this time, but looks forward to working with faculty and students to address the university’s needs. One of his top objectives is to make sure the school has a good recruiting plan, he said, including growing enrollment from about 1,800 students to 2,000.

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Students who attended the presidential announcement said they were impressed with Frandsen.

“It will be a great transition,” student Christina Reisinger said. “It’s important for the college to have someone that is experienced in finance because obviously college is very expensive and we need someone to look out for us students.”

Freshman Kate Lebo said she was impressed with how Frandsen seemed committed to being visible on campus.

“He’s been working with the campus really well,” Lebo said. “He’s been interactive with the students and the teachers here. He seems to care a lot about us.”

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Many students said before the announcement that having a president that is seen around campus is important to them. The new president said he will be committed to making sure students know he cares.

“The president has many different jobs and its hard to be in many places at once, but I think being part of what students are doing on campus is first of all very rewarding and second of all it is very important,” Frandsen said. “Showing that the president, showing that the staff, showing that the faculty, showing that we care and are interested in being in their spaces and places and watching them is just so important.”

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His first 100 days will be spent getting to know as many “Wittenberg people” as possible, he said. He also said he wants to reach out to the Springfield community and make as many relationships as he can.

“The work that we are going to do are going to be done through people and relationships,” Frandsen said.

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