First ISU president candidate visits Pocatello, Idaho Falls campuses

February 24, 2018

Kevin Satterlee

By Shelbie Harris, sharris@journalnet.com

POCATELLO — The first of five candidates vying for the president position at Idaho State University participated in open forums Thursday during campus visits in Pocatello and Idaho Falls.

Kevin Satterlee, the chief operating officer, vice president and special counsel at Boise State University since October 2015, first fielded questions from students in the Center Suite of the Rendezvous Building in Pocatello before addressing members of the Idaho Falls campus. He then returned to Pocatello to address faculty, staff, alumni and members of the community and will visit the Meridian campus on Friday.

“Every single person on this campus owes their job to one mission, and that’s to deliver education to our students,” Satterlee said. “How I’ve done that for the 20 years of my career is understanding that we need to make it easier to support the faculty.”

A fourth-generation Idahoan and the first in his family to graduate college, Satterlee said it’s the faculty that are responsible for delivering education to students, and his job is to remove the barriers that limit faculty from fulfilling that responsibility.

The method of accomplishing that mission, Satterlee said, is passion.

“In higher education, you can’t fake passion,” he said. “You either do, or you do not have a passion for our mission. And I do.”

In addition to a strong focus on strengthening all relationships among campus constituents — with the relationship between faculty and the administrative body as a focal point — Satterlee promised to play to the strengths of the university, strengths he said reach much farther than being the state’s leader in health sciences.

“Last year, this institution gave out 1,400 undergraduate certificates and degrees not in the health sciences,” Satterlee said. “You have plenty of strengths. Your accounting program’s growth is 70 percent over five years, your master’s in accounting is only six years old and it’s one of your top degree programs.”

He continued, “You’ve doubled your graduates in biology, and you have a 70 percent increase in electrical engineering over five years. You have lots of strengths. We’re going to find them and play to them.”

Satterlee joined Boise State in 2001 as special assistant to the vice president for finance and administration. From 1995 to 2001, he was a deputy attorney general in the Idaho Attorney General’s Office and was assigned as the chief legal officer to the Idaho State Board of Education.

Satterlee said he wants to strengthen a pipeline with the university and business partners to ensure students graduate not only with a degree, but with the practical career experience that heightens their ability to land a job before graduation. He said engaging business leaders directly is a primary responsibility of a university president.

Acting as the institution’s primary fundraiser is another primary role a university president must fulfill, said Satterlee, adding that to accomplish that goal a president must create excitement for each specific donor so that “they will feel good about giving” money to ISU.

Asked about ISU’s financial stability as it relates to sources of revenue and the university’s small amount of bonding over the last decade, Satterlee said he would describe ISU as being underbonded.

“At some point there is a healthy amount of debt,” Satterlee said. “An objective view of your campus would say you underutilize that. But do not go out and get into bond debt for the sake of doing a project. Go out and get into bond debt when you have a physical and strategic masterplan.”

Asked by ISU biology professor David Delehanty to address his qualifications to lead ISU because his experience is not “fundamentally academic,” Satterlee pointed to his Juris Doctor degree, something he said was a terminal degree in his field.

“If you ask me why I am qualified to be president, I am not going to tell you about my educational background, my academic credentials, which offices I’ve overseen, which departments report to me or how much budget I’ve controlled,” Satterlee said. “I’m qualified because every day I’m going to come to this campus with a passion and with a mission-driven approach to what we do.”

A longtime physician in Pocatello and an alumnus of ISU, Bill Brydon said that over the last five years ISU has “suffered a rather significant loss of student body … mainly coming from Bannock, Bonneville and Bingham counties.”

When asked what his plans were to rectify the institution’s enrollment woes, Satterlee said it takes both a commitment to recruitment and retention.

“You can recruit all the students you want but if you’re not retaining them and moving them through the pipeline you’re not doing yourself any good,” Satterlee said.

Todd Johnson is the director of the Veteran Student Services Center at ISU. His question for Satterlee was simple — why ISU?

“I see so much untapped potential on this campus and in this region of the state, that’s why I want to come here,” Satterlee said. “The flip side of that question is, Kevin, why do you want to leave Boise State? My answer, I don’t.”

He continued, “I don’t have a bunch of presidential applications out there. I’m not applying all over the West. I have one and it’s here. When Idaho State University gets into its swing, and everybody is working in unison and we’re playing to our strengths, the potential here is fantastic. In fact, Idaho State University will become unstoppable.”