Danko joins Butler from Villanova University, where he served as dean of the School of Business. Before going to Villanova in 2005, he held business school positions at Dartmouth College, the University of Michigan and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Danko sat down with The Collegian after he was named president. Here is an excerpt of the conversation.
The Butler Collegian: What drew you to Butler?
JD: There’s so much at Butler that’s consistent with my background in the world of academics—the competent approach to education and having strong liberal arts but also strong professional programs. The more I did my homework on Butler, I saw a lot of positive attributes, such as the community service aspect. The things students do here extend beyond the classroom. What comes across every time you hear about Butler and look at the things that are happening is how engaged the faculty is in the education of the students and the students’ passion for the institution. As a president, you want to be in a place that has a background consistent with your own beliefs and approaches to education, but also want to be a place that people are passionate about. That sense of passion really came across.
BC: How will you address the challenges of growing student body and the heightened notoriety of the university?
JD: I certainly don’t worry that that’s going to be an insurmountable issue. Having such interest in Butler and gaining that notoriety through the basketball program and getting more applications allows us to make some choices. That’s the advantage to that sort of thing, but you’ve got to make quality choices at the end of the day. It’s going to take me a little time to calibrate that in terms of what is appropriate, and it depends on [which] parts of the university you’re looking at. You have to make sure that if there is growth happening, it isn’t happening at the risk of harming the quality or reputation or effectiveness of what’s happening in the classroom. It’s a good challenge to have. You want to be on this side of an institution that’s growing in a positive way in terms of its notoriety and interest.
BC: What is your vision for your time as president?
JD: [Butler University President Bobby Fong] certainly provides a good model. He was here for 10 years, and is it better off today than it was 10 years ago? Absolutely. That’s the way I would frame my own presidency. If we dial the clock forward 10 years, we want to make sure the place has built on that foundation that [Fong] has put in place. I would expect there would be even greater and greater recognition of the institution and that it continues to grow in dimensions that are important here. [I hope] students who are coming out of the program are getting the types of jobs they’re interested in, and they’re making an impact, and that the faculty are able to make an impact in their areas, so they’re thought leaders.
BC: Your background is mostly in business. How do you see yourself relating to students in other majors?
JD: I really do have to underscore the value the liberal arts have provided in my own educational background, having undergrad and graduate work in the liberal arts. I’ve always looked at business as being a nice marriage of the two. The skills that you get out of a more liberal arts education provide you a lot of skills that you need in terms of the analytical side, the creative problem solving side, the communicative side and the ability to make an argument. There are so many things that are so rich in the liberal arts education that I’ve always been a strong advocate, even when talking to my own children. There are some parents out there who are passionate about their sons and daughters having a strong professional degree, but I also think the path to success happens in multiple ways.
BC: What do you see as your role with students?
JD: I give [Fong] a lot of credit for the things that he’s done, like his weekly visits to Starbucks. I’ve tried to do the same in my own career. I’ve done town hall meetings where students are able to come to open forums to ask questions and provide input on things that are happening. I always make it a point to sit down and have lunch with groups of students on a regular basis. We sit down and have an open and honest discussion about things that are on their minds. A lot of those have underpinned changes that we’ve made in our curriculum or even in support that we provide to our students. I expect to do the same thing here.