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February 10, 2014

SVSU Board Appoints New President

By J.J. Boehm

The Saginaw Valley State University Board of Control appointed Donald Bachand as the school’s next president. Bachand was selected from a group of four finalists who interviewed on campus January 28-31. He becomes the fourth president of SVSU, replacing Eric Gilbertson, who is retiring after more than 24 years of service.

“As the Board evaluated the candidates, it became clear to us that Don best demonstrated the attributes we were seeking in the new president,” said Board chair Jeff Martin. “He is a dynamic leader and an excellent listener, and he sets high standards and expectations for faculty and staff.

“We wanted someone who could maintain enrollment in the face of declining high school graduates, help students succeed academically, and improve graduation rates. We are confident that Don is ready for these challenges.”

Bachand has served as SVSU’s vice president for academic affairs since 2006 and added the responsibilities of provost in 2010. Prior to that he served nearly 10 years as dean of the College of Arts and Behavioral Sciences. Bachand first joined SVSU in 1978 as an assistant professor of criminal justice.

“I accept this position with enthusiasm, but mindful of the challenges that lie ahead,” Bachand said. “I have spent most of my life at this university and care deeply about its future. I will work hard to maintain the work ethic, collegiality and ‘first name’ basis of SVSU; those characteristics are integral to who we are and are what set us apart.”

In his role as provost, Bachand has evaluated SVSU’s degree programs and has seen the high success rates graduates have on state licensing exams and acceptance into graduate and professional schools. He said too many people across Michigan and beyond are unfamiliar with the quality of SVSU’s faculty and its overall academic rigor; one of his first priorities will be to change that.

“We have an obligation to our students and alumni to improve understanding in the broader community of how good we are academically and how good our faculty are as teachers and scholars,” he said.

During his time on the faculty, Bachand received the Landee Award for Teaching Excellence, SVSU’s highest honor for classroom teaching. He also served as an officer in the SVSU Faculty Association, giving him the valuable experience of having negotiated a contract from both the labor and management perspectives.

Martin said that experience factored into the Board’s decision.

“We wanted someone who could strengthen already strong relationships within the institution,” he said, “because in today’s increasingly competitive market, everyone – faculty, staff, students, donors, alumni, everyone – needs to be working together to provide our students with a first class college education.”

Governmental affairs and private fund-raising are two aspects of the presidency where Bachand has some experience but said he will need to grow. He has been honored for his commitment to diversity, receiving SVSU’s Roosevelt Ruffin Diversity Award in 2012 for his support of community outreach programs and his leadership in implementing programs designed to increase diversity among the faculty.

A native of Detroit, Bachand began his career by serving 10 years in the Detroit Police Department. He spent several years on patrol before becoming among the youngest in department history to receive a promotion to sergeant; he was assigned to the chief of police’s strategic planning division. While on the force, Bachand completed a bachelor’s degree at Mercy College and a master’s degree at the University of Detroit. After joining SVSU, he went on to complete a Ph.D. at the University of Michigan.

A long-time resident of Midland, Bachand has been actively involved in a number of organizations across the Great Lakes Bay Region and plans to build those bonds as president.

“I know how important SVSU is to the entire region,” he said. “We prepare many of the professionals that are being hired by employers large and small. We also serve as a cultural and intellectual resource, not just in terms of what takes place on our campus, but also in the many ways in which our faculty and staff are engaged with the community.”

Martin said the Board received numerous comments from the faculty, staff and students who attended open forums with the finalists, and those were taken into consideration.

“We are very grateful for their valued input,” he said. “It helped the Board reach this decision and we look forward to having their continued support in the years ahead.”

Bachand will take office almost immediately. His first day as president will be Monday, Feb. 17.

“I know this place, and I’m ready to hit the ground running,” he said.

Bachand will receive an annual salary of $250,000, as well as a University-owned home and vehicle. He also receives the same health care and retirement benefits as other SVSU employees.