Julie Harris McHugh: Penn State Board of Trustees candidate

April 10, 2014 

Biographical information


Education: B.S. finance, 1986; M.B.A. Saint Joseph’s University, 1994

Work: board of directors, Xellia Pharmaceuticals and Ironwood Pharmaceuticals

Experience and activities: former president, Centocor Inc.; former company group chairman, Johnson & Johnson Inc.; former CEO, Nora Therapeutics Inc.; former chief operating officer, Endo Health Solutions Inc.; Lion Ambassador; Penn State honors programs; Pi Beta Phi sorority; little sister, Chi Phi fraternity; member, Penn State Alumni Association; Board of Visitors, Smeal College of Business; For the Future fundraising campaign volunteer

Please describe your motivations for running for the Board of Trustees.

My motivation to run for the Penn State board of trustees stems from my desire to serve the University that profoundly influenced my formative years and helped to prepare me for my adult life. The classroom education and the extracurricular activities that made up my Penn State experience prepared me to set aggressive goals, to work hard, to collaborate effectively, and to lead.

I am inspired by the mission of the university, which centers on academic excellence, meaningful research, and service to community. My conversations with students have confirmed that they are mission-oriented. They are keenly focused on getting the most out of their Penn State experience, paying for their tuition, getting a job, and making a positive difference in society. Students are focused on the future and have a spirit of optimism. They are courageous risk-takers and are breaking new ground.

Penn State has successfully recruited new leaders such as President Eric Barron, Provost Nick Jones, and head football coach James Franklin. These leaders came to Penn State to write the next chapter in our university’s history of excellence. Our leaders and our students need a BOT that is exquisitely focused on what lies ahead and how we can enable their success.

Yes, trustees are responsible for ensuring that limited resources are used wisely and that all activities are carried out with the utmost respect for legal, regulatory, and ethical expectations. I know that this “duty of care” can be carried out while also being a resource to students, faculty, staff and alumni.

What are the most important challenges ahead for Penn State, and if elected, how would you address them?

The greatest challenge facing Penn State is continuing to provide a world class, accessible and affordable education in a rapidly changing world. Universities like Penn State are facing significant shifts in demographics, competition for the best and brightest faculty, rising operational costs, stagnant state appropriations, new models of higher education such as on-line offerings, and pressure to keep tuition as low as possible.

Penn State is in an enviable position to address these challenges by building on our strengths while modernizing our operating model. Our strengths include a world-class faculty, a Commonwealth Campus system, a leadership position in online education, and a passionate and engaged community. Leadership in the next 10 years will require us to leverage these strengths and resources in new ways. For example, we need to identify areas of redundancy in curriculum and we need to streamline these. We need to distinguish how to optimize fields of study that are best addressed with residential programs from those that can be learned virtually. We also need to continue to foster collaboration across fields of study to develop graduates who are well rounded and prepared to succeed in a complex world.

I believe there is a significant opportunity to more effectively engage Penn State alumni in mentoring our students. While Penn State offers an enviable array of support services, students are yearning for perspective and guidance from alumni who can help guide their academic and extracurricular choices and help them compete for jobs.

If elected, what position would you support on the topic of Penn State board of trustees reform?

Some of the reforms that the board of trustees has adopted are moves in the right direction. Specifically, the BOT has eliminated the voting powers of the university president and the governor, expanded the committee structure of the board, and provided an opportunity for the public to speak at board of trustees meetings. While these changes improve governance and are in sync with best governance practices, they do not go far enough.

If elected to the board of trustees, I would press for greater transparency in board deliberations and decisions. I believe that the board of trustees must make greater transparency and communication an immediate imperative. To this end, I along with other candidates backed by Upward State, have made specific recommendations to address this issue. We recommend hiring a communications professional to assist the board of trustees. We recommend developing board of trustees communications policies and procedures and following them. We recommend establishing forums for communicating directly with students and alumni.

Other reforms that I believe are imperative to improving the functioning of the BOT include revisiting trustee term limits. The board of trustees agreed to apply term limits to all newly elected/appointed trustees. I believe these limits need to be applied to all trustees. I believe that a student elected trustee should be added to the board of trustees. I also believe that the nomination process for Business and Industry appointees must be more transparent. Finally, I believe that all trustees, regardless of how they are nominated or elected, should be subject to a rigorous set of qualification criteria.

If elected, what position would you support about Joe Paterno?

Joe Paterno and his family have made significant contributions to Penn State’s legacy of excellence and deserve to be recognized and celebrated. I am confident that the University will do so, in time, when various pending legal proceedings have concluded. I along with the other candidates endorsed by Upward State, recommend that we form a commission under President Eric Barron’s leadership to determine when and how best to celebrate Joe Paterno and his family’s contributions to Penn State. I believe that a commission, comprising students, faculty, alumni, and staff representatives, would give all university stakeholders the opportunity to weigh in on the appropriate approach.

While I believe recognizing Joe is important, this matter cannot prevent Penn State from focusing on our students and working together to build our future.

Is there anything else you want voters to know about you and your candidacy?

Penn State is on an upward trajectory. Admission applications and enrollment are up. Our academic and research national and global rankings are up. Our students are highly sought after by employers. We will soon close a record-breaking fundraising campaign. We have recruited outstanding leaders in Dr. Barron, Dr. Jones, and Coach Franklin. We need trustees who will focus on our students and our future to build on this momentum.

Penn State’s mission of academic excellence, meaningful research, and service should be the beacon for setting strategic priorities, allocating resources, continuing to innovate, and centering our conversations as trustees.

More info: jhmchugh@psualum.com, www.facebook.com/UpwardJulie, www.UpwardState.org

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