Julia Jasken started as an English professor at McDaniel College back in 2003, when the school had its first woman president.
After a few promotions, and five years as the college’s vice president and provost, Jasken was named the 10th president of the college in its 153-year history. She starts her new role June 1.
Jasken said she has been in conversations over the last month about what she would offer the college as a president.
“I think that one of the things I had the pleasure to do is work on and lead many of our institution’s initiatives,” she said. “So, for me, I think having such a deep knowledge of the institution is really helpful in the role of the president.”
The McDaniel College Board of Trustees voted unanimously to appoint Jasken after a several-month search for a new president. A search committee, with the help of the firm TBC Consulting, recommended Jasken to the board.
“The most important task of our board is selecting the president of the college and I want to express sincere thanks to the members of the Presidential Search Committee, particularly Bruce Preston, for their great service to the college,” Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Otto J. Guenther, a 1963 alumnus and board of trustees chair, said in a release. “We are grateful to the many members of our community who participated in open forums and surveys that allowed us to identify the desired qualities we were seeking — the very qualities, in fact, that make Dr. Jasken so uniquely qualified for her new role. Her accomplishments are impressive and impeccable, and she is truly the best possible choice to lead McDaniel.”
Jasken said she understands McDaniel’s culture, has experience building teams and she’s a Westminster resident who lives seven minutes away from campus.
“I’ve been at McDaniel for 17 years,” Jasken said. “Which makes me sound really old.”
But Jasken, 48, stuck around because she finds it special, she said: It has a commitment to make the college affordable, it had two years of record enrollment and it had relatively low coronavirus case numbers this past fall semester.
“I’m excited to lead an institution that’s doing so well,” she said.
She said she wanted to move as quickly as possible with the president search so they can start looking for a new provost. They hope to have someone by April or May.
The president at the time when Jasken started was Joan Coley. Jasken said she greatly admired her.
“She just had such intellect and grace and humor,” she said. “At the time, I would have never guessed I would be in that role.”
But that’s the power of the McDaniel community — the spirit of possibility and opportunity for people searching for their calling, she said.
“And I would say they are really big shoes to fill, but I think there’s a joke in there about wearing heels,” she said. “I don’t want her to think I’m saying she has big feet.”
Coley said in an interview that she hired Jasken as a professor when she served as provost. And she wrote Jasken a letter of support as a candidate for the presidency. She knew the college hired a national firm for the search but Coley said there was someone for the job in their own backyard.
“They had an amazing person right on campus who had proven she had all the leadership qualities for a new president of McDaniel,” she said. “She has done everything you could ask for as a provost. Believe me, that’s the hardest role on campus.”
Coley, who served as president for 10 years, said it would be foolish for her to give Jasken advice other than to consult widely and to trust her gut.
She said a lot of the job will be to work with others, synthesize their ideas and keep them in consideration when making a decision.
“I think if you go around every day and think you have to be right every single minute because you are the president, you’re in a lot of trouble,” she said.
However, Jasken is in it for the right reasons, Coley said, and will do a great job.
Jasken started as an English professor, became a director then moved into administrative roles. Transitioning from provost to president felt natural for her.
“I really found that the work that I enjoy doing most is the collaboration,” she said, adding that she loves the process of building teams. She said she’s excited to build her new cabinet.
Throughout her leadership career, the college has been working to improve diversity, equity and inclusion on campus, and Jasken said it has made good progress. It’s something she wants to continue as president.
She said she also wants to make sure there are as many support programs and initiatives as possible to make sure the school is meeting the needs of students and providing quality education.
Jasken said she wants to continue with the partnerships with the city of Westminster, the Boys and Girls Club and Carroll Hospital, and create even more.
The newly named president said her responsibilities have not increased but her focus has shifted from internal affairs to external. She said she looks forward to spending more time with alumni and engaging with the outside community. But she hopes to continue participating in faculty development, building programs and systems that work well and creating environments where employees can thrive.
Some of her goals include having an environmentally safe campus, a cabinet with diverse voices and enhancing collaboration.
Jasken is a native of Moorhead, Minnesota, and earned a bachelor’s degree from the College of Saint Benedict, a master’s degree from Northern Illinois University and a doctorate from Michigan Technological University.
She will succeed Roger Casey, who is retiring at the end of the 2020-2021 academic year after over a decade as president. During her administrative career, Jasken oversaw adjunct faculty union contract negotiations, directed the Center for Experience and Opportunity and helped build the college’s first cross-divisional entrepreneurship program, to name a few.
Most recently, she led the Return to the Hill committee that prepared McDaniel for students returning to college during the pandemic.
“I never actually thought about leaving,” she said. “It just always felt like home. I love the sense of community on campus.”