Matt Schuyler: Penn State Board of Trustees candidate

State College - Centre Daily TimesApril 11, 2014 

Biographical information

McLean, Va.

Age: 48

Education: B.S. accounting, 1987; M.B.A., University of Michigan, 1995

Work: chief human resources officer, Hilton Worldwide

Experience and activities: national board of directors, Make-A-Wish Foundation; lifetime member, Penn State Alumni Association; member, Elm Society and President’s Circle; recipient of 2013 Alumni Fellow Award; member of Smeal College of Business Board of Visitors, member of College of Information Sciences and Technology Board of Visitors; member of School of Hospitality Management advisory board.

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

I believe past performance is indicative of future capabilities — and unique qualities and experiences help set board candidates apart.

I have experience helping some of the most complex organizations in the world through challenges, crises and organizational reform — whether it was a large merger of people, the bursting of the Silicon Valley bubble, September 11th, Hurricane Katrina or one of the largest IPOs in history — I’ve worked for organizations and leaders who had to manage through these events. These experiences taught me that the key to success is having a clear goal — and an end state in mind — and then communicating with all of the stakeholders and collaborating with every part of the organization to achieve that collective goal. Working together, we were successful in achieving our goals.

I would be honored to apply these skills to the institution we all love.

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

The major fiscal pressure the university continues to face is the most important challenge. This challenge includes attracting and retaining top faculty and staff; maintaining the physical plant (facilities at all campuses); and funding strategic initiatives that will propel us forward academically.

The biggest single expense in the Penn State budget is human resources. The salaries and benefits for over 17,000 talented faculty and staff at all university locations continue to represent the biggest slice of the budget pie. For 2013-14, the cost of the university’s benefits program alone increased by $28.8 million in health care costs and mandated employer contributions.

As the chief human resource officer for a company with more than 320,000 employees, I believe my experience and areas of expertise can be of value to the university as we address these national and local budget issues.

As a university, we must balance the desire to invest in infrastructure for our students with grants and scholarships so that those who dreamed of going to college get that opportunity. We must also create new ways for these students to receive their education through online courses and educational programs. Penn State must continue to attract the best and brightest students while making educations affordable for them. We need to steadfastly focus on cost control to achieve more affordable tuition, work toward increasing scholarship aid, and becoming a strong advocate for state funding and endowment increases. I have experience in large organizations where this is a daily activity — lending this experience and expertise to Penn State would be central to my role as a trustee.

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

We need to dramatically improve the governance structure of the board and ensure transparency with all of its stakeholders. Regarding the structure, there should be more elected representatives and less designated members. This will ensure stakeholder representation and a transparent selection process.

The key to success of any board is transparency of thinking and actions. As the head of human resources for a large global company with many years of experience in people management, I can unequivocally say that when people feel that they have been provided all of the necessary information, their belief and trust in the institution is much greater. This should be the unifying goal of the board.

I support the reform of the board to be vastly more transparent to its various stakeholders — students, faculty, alumni and the community at large. We do this through open meetings and a true dialogue with the entire university community. The board should have a dedicated communication effort and they should develop a statement of communications policies and procedures. They should identify best practices to improve communications with the alumni — and they should follow those practices closely. At a minimum, quarterly forums for communications between the board and the students should be established to ensure the board is acutely aware of what is on the mind of our current students. Lastly, the board should leverage social media to ensure all stakeholders are aware of the proceedings and the positions of the board.

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

When the football team takes the field this fall, only the seniors will know what it was like to have Joe Paterno as a coach. Three-quarters of the student section will be filled with students who came to Penn State after the scandal. Before we know it, we won’t be able ask current students what it was like for them when the scandal broke; we will only hear their reasons for choosing this great institution after it.

Clearly, it is more complicated for our alumni. While we have learned a great deal about our strength and fortitude through this crisis, there is still more to learn and more to do. Many alumni cannot have a conversation about the future until acknowledgments about past mistakes are stated and the course is — in some way — corrected. I understand this point of view and I agree — mistakes were made in handling the crisis.

Over the past 33 years, I have been to nearly every home football game. I saw the wins. I know they were real and should have never been taken away. It pained me to watch our reputation and legacy being attacked. It is important that the board address this issue straight on, with vision, humility and respect.

Simply put, we need to make sure Joe Paterno is appropriately recognized for his lifetime of service to the university and we need to appropriately acknowledge his role in building Penn State’s legacy of academic and athletic excellence. Coach Paterno embodied grace, humility and a strong work ethic. But for Joe, it was never about the recognition or gratitude. It was about walking out on that field, playing as a team and ultimately contributing to the world.

Joe Paterno was one of the reasons I came to Penn State. Success with honor is real to me and we simply cannot ignore the past. If elected, I look forward to finding appropriate and meaningful ways to honor Joe Paterno’s remarkable legacy.

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

My Penn State degree launched me into my career qualified to make a difference and inspired to do so. I now have 27 years of progressive leadership experience in multiple industries working for highly complex, well known and globally respected organizations. Last year, I was honored to receive recognition as the #1 human resource professional in the country. I add this point only to express that I have expertise I willingly offer to Penn State that I believe is valuable and timely under our current circumstances.

I have a commitment to doing the right thing — always. I am an independent thinker but a collaborative and inclusive worker with years of conflict resolution experience. I believe both these skills are critical qualifications for our board of trustees.

Beyond my professional skills, I can offer personal qualities that will reflect the integrity and character appropriately demanded by our alumni. As a former Lion Ambassador, I have a profound appreciation of the heritage and character of Penn State and the community.

I met my wife Anne at Penn State and together we are raising five children, hoping they will earn their way to one day receiving an offer of admission to continue the legacy. Anne and I have been fortunate and last year we were able to make a gift to permanently endow the Lion Ambassador program, thus ensuring its continuity for all generations to come. We have also created scholarships for athletes and supported several colleges. Now, beyond the monetary gifts of support, I offer my time, dedication and vigilance to protect a university we all love.

More info: schuyler4psu@gmail.com, upwardstate.org, Twitter @upwardstatevote, www.facebook.com/UpwardMatt

 

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