Pink’s message for summer

President reflects on first year, looks forward to future

This academic school year was a time of partnership building, campus events and golf cart rides for President Bill Pink. 

As he brings his first full year on campus to a close, Pink is already planning for the fall. He has a simple message for students ready to enjoy their summer: don’t forget to come back. 

“First of all, come back,” Pink said. “Secondly, when you come back, make sure that while you’re here on campus, when you’re at college, make sure that you get the most out of what the university offers.” 

He feels he has learned the stories of the Ferris community well enough to focus on bigger and bolder opportunities in the future. 

The 2020s have not been easy for higher education. NPR reports that national university enrollment has been declining for over a decade, a phenomenon greatly exaggerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ferris’ total enrollment in fall 2022 was 10,072, standing 2400 lower than that of fall 2019. 

“How do you take a university from always being disrupted to becoming the disrupter?” 

Pink took this year as an opportunity to learn about Ferris and ask if old systems and norms were truly the best way to perform. He reports learning the most from the Board of Trustees, his leadership council and students. 

By combining perspectives from across Ferris’ campus, Pink wants to make an informed game plan. 

“Who do we need to be five years from now?” 

He appreciates it when students share their perspectives with him, whether they send him an email or strike up a conversation at a football game. 

“In the midst of all the conversation, you start identifying some of the common things,” Pink said. “And it’s always interesting to me when common themes emerge. And common themes here have been apparent.” 

The most “impressive” thing Pink can hear from a student or alumni is that they love Ferris.  

“We have to find out those folks who say, ‘I love it,’” Pink said. “Find out why they love it. What is it that you love? Find out those folks who say, ‘I hate it, and I’m not coming back.’ Find out why they’re not happy.” 

Many of Pink’s conversations with his leadership team involve the concept of “self-inflicted wounds” at universities. These are not great, external difficulties such as the pandemic. A self-inflicted wound is something that the university is responsible for and can improve.  

“You change those things so that you make things [run] smoother,” Pink said. “You change them in the right way. You ask the right questions. If you find out ‘no, this needs to be changed because it can serve our students better,’ that’s what you have to do.” 

Pink looks forward to the future of Ferris, as well as the wider future of all higher education.