EDWARDSVILLE — Randall Pembrook began his term Aug. 1 as Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s ninth chancellor.
Southern Illinois University President Randy Dunn named Pembrook, who has a doctorate in music education from Florida State University, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s new chancellor in early June. At its regularly scheduled meeting in mid-July, the SIU Board of Trustees approved Pembrook for the position, completing the process to make his selection official.
“I am excited about the selection of Dr. Pembrook to serve as the next chancellor for Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and am looking forward to a long working relationship with him,” Dunn said in a statement. “Randy is an SIUE alumnus with extensive background and experience in higher education and has family ties to Southwestern Illinois. He is an outstanding fit for SIUE, who possesses the necessary skills to lead the university toward even greater successes in the years ahead.”
“I am absolutely thrilled to be selected as the next chancellor of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville,” Pembrook, a Metro East native, said in a press release. “For me, it truly feels like coming home. I’m returning to my alma mater, which has grown significantly in national stature as well as student enrollment.
“Because of SIUE’s people and its location, there are many amazing opportunities ahead. There are also challenges, particularly at this moment with budgets, but with the help of outstanding individuals at the institution and in the community, I know we will continue to achieve great things as a university.”
In a conference call with local media in June, Pembrook said he considers the community one of the most important aspects of higher education.
“I think that the key to higher education is higher education making partners in the community and finding areas to serve the community,” Pembrook said before detailing the work his former employer, Washburn University in Kansas, has done on that front, which includes partnering with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and local hospitals. “I like to think of the community engagement part as students being able to practice skills they are learning in ways that help identify and address community challenges and problems.”
Pembrook, who earned an associate’s degree from Lewis and Clark Community College before transferring to SIUE and earning a bachelor’s and master’s in music education and piano performance, said he understands the importance of the broadening definition of student. He called nontraditional students a “very important and emerging part of the population.”
“The main key is to make sure the completion institution is talking to community colleges and building on those relationships,” Pembrook said of the process of transferring from a two-year college to a four-year university.
Pembrook also highlighted the importance of diversity. According to SIUE’s website, 23 percent of students belong to an ethnic minority.
“I think it is very important for the university to keep (diversity) in mind,” he said. “That means we have to not be afraid of conversations about diversity, about respect, about the things that create the kind of environment where people can learn. I think particularly we can learn from others and people who have different backgrounds.”
Like the university’s student body, Pembrook’s leadership within higher education is diverse. According to SIUE’s press release, Pembrook has served as the vice president for academic affairs at Washburn since January 2011. He has been the chief academic officer at Washburn, working with faculty, staff students and administrators from several schools and programs.
He has also worked closely with the directors of numerous programs at Washburn, including Washburn’s Center for Community and Civic Engagement, Leadership Institute and the KTWU Public Television Station.
Before coming to Washburn, Pembrook served at Baker University for four years in several capacities, including executive vice president and provost and acting dean of the School of Professional and Graduate Studies. He also served as chief academic officer for five schools and colleges within Baker.
Before joining Baker in 2007, Pembrook was dean at the Conservatory of Music and Dance at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he also served in multiple other positions within the department. He also chaired a four-campus faculty committee reporting to the University of Missouri system president.
Pembrook said because he has “worn quite a few hats,” he can better understand those serving under him.
“The joys that they get out of the job and the frustrations they have are things that I’ve been through in my career, and I think that’s a unique experience as a leader,” he said.
He said his first 100 days in the position will keep him busy as reacquaints himself with the university.
“It will be an amazing balance of meetings on-campus and off-campus because one of the challenges for an individual coming to a position like this is you need to get to know all the people and the things that are going on,” he said. “It’s kind of like jumping on a moving train.”
Pembrook also said he will listen to those already at SIUE, something he aims to do in any leadership role.
“I tend to do a couple of things as it relates to leadership,” he said. “I tend to ask questions and spend a lot of time listening because I think it’s important to get the perspective of the people. The people I’ll be working with have done a great job for 10, 15, up to 30 years. So I’ll listen and ask questions.”
Pembrook’s selection ended a nine-month search for a new chancellor that began when Julie Furst-Bowe, the previous chancellor, resigned to take a position at Chippewa Valley Technical College in Wisconsin.
“I must extend my deep gratitude to the members of the search committee and its chair, Gireesh Gupchup, who have worked tirelessly over the past nine months to bring us this outstanding candidate,” Dunn said. “My thanks go as well to Dr. Stephen Hansen for his dedicated service to SIUE as interim chancellor this past year.”