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New Lake State president, Dr. Hanley, sees a bright future for the university and Upper Peninsula workforce

SAULT STE. MARIE, Michigan (November 8, 2018) – There was a fresh sense excitement on the campus of Lake Superior State University at the end of August as more than 2,000 students started the 2018 fall semester. The buzz was due in part to the enthusiasm and optimism of Dr. Rodney S. Hanley, who became the university’s tenth president in June. Hanley envisions a bright future for the university, its students and the region. He seeks to further elevate the LSSU experience through enrollment growth and academic expansion, which in turn could serve as a catalyst for regional workforce development.  

Hanley has good reason to be optimistic. Incoming freshmen enrollment at LSSU is up 36 percent over last year and the first-time student retention rate has risen to 73 percent — six percent above the national average. The cost to attend the university remains 35 percent below the national average for a four-year education. These statistics point to a healthy educational climate, which bodes well for the region’s future workforce. The future of the university and its students is never far from Hanley’s mind. That’s one reason he plans to renew LSSU’s focus on associates degrees and certificates. He notes, “When students see economic and job possibilities in the area where they live, they choose to stay.”

The Lake State president offers a new twist on the traditional “three R’s” of “reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmatic.” Hanley’s three “R’s” are “recruitment, retention and rejuvenation.” He encourages faculty and students alike to think about where LSSU will be in five or ten years. Hanley wants them to feel invested in the campus and the community. “I hope to rejuvenate LSSU by attracting new students, retaining the ones we have, and instilling a sense of belonging, participation and ownership.”

Hanley is also enthusiastic about connecting the university’s mission with its geographical place through initiatives such as the Center for Freshwater Research and Education, which will bear the name of Richard and Theresa Barch when it opens in 2021. He notes, “Focusing on fresh water through research and education initiatives will help us identify who we are as an institution. I can see Lake State becoming a national center for fresh water research and education. There’s no other university in the world where you can drive an hour or less and touch three different Great Lakes.”

The Decatur, Illinois native comes to Lake State from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he served as provost and vice president for academic affairs. Prior to Fisk, Hanley was provost and academic vice president at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont., Canada; dean of science at the University of Winnipeg; and chair of the Department of Earth System Science and Policy at the University of North Dakota. Hanley, his wife, Sara Gunhus-Hanley, and their two sons were drawn to the university and Sault Ste. Marie by the quality of life in Northern Michigan. He explains, “We feel this academic and community environment is perfect for us as a couple and a family. I’m excited to put down roots here and to lead LSSU into the future.”

As a part of our commitment to the Upper Peninsula, we collaborate with partners to share some of the most compelling stories about business and job growth across the region. Our goal through these stories is to get at the heart of what makes the U.P. unique — and to ensure these stories travel beyond our peninsula and broadly illustrate why the UP is the place to live and work.

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