Interview

Rigorous Academics at Cedarville
Building and Mobilizing our
Campus Community for Tomorrow
Igniting our Campus Community
for Growth

Meet the Executive Vice President for Strategic Growth ... Dr. John S. Gredy

Mark Weinstein, Executive Director of Public Relations, conducted an interview to learn more about Dr. Gredy’s passion for strategic growth for Cedarville University.

My vision is that this position will be a catalyst for growth. The reason growth is so important is because if we are not growing and going forward, we are going backward. Therefore, growth becomes something we can all be advocates for and find ways to volunteer our time to be active participants.

Growth is especially important in this period of Cedarville’s history since the number of high school graduates is declining in the Midwest over the next several years and the amount of public and government pressure to lower tuition is gaining momentum. Since our operating budget is so heavily dependent upon tuition from students (96%), recruitment and retention efforts become extremely important to the well-being of our campus community.

In order to increase enrollment, we will need to develop a campus culture that increases the likelihood that students will choose Cedarville University. Therefore, we as a community, will not only need to engage in aggressive recruitment of the traditional students who have always attended Cedarville, but we will have to seek new markets and new academic programs that will be relevant to the needs of the marketplace.

As I have reflected about all of the activities that are needed for strategic growth, I still realize the most important need is to have a “new mindset.” We as a campus community will need to be open to new ideas, new ways of doing things, and to change.

I will take some time to reflect about the change that is needed and some principles to guide us in thinking about growth through the following article:

Cultural Change is Needed to Strategically Select, Implement, and Grow New Academic Degree Programs

We need change today because higher education is out of time. The disturbing economic trends and public unrest about the value of a college education is forcing colleges and universities to do education in new ways.

Will Cedarville University get out in front and create dynamic change or will it stay stagnant and run the risk of losing out on potential opportunities and in fact die a slow death?

Bob Sevier, nationally known marketing consultant, challenged Cedarville University to bolt ahead of the pack based on our reputation of having biblically based, quality professional programs. He said now is your opportunity to build on this foundation and establish a unique niche in the U.S. market.

Historically, Cedarville has developed a rich mix of majors with two-thirds of the enrollment representing professional, career-directed programs. The combination of strong professional programs with high placement rates along with achievement of a Bible minor has positioned Cedarville graduates to be competent professional leaders who can demonstrate the love of Christ and have Gospel influence in their professions.

In order to continue to define our curriculum as relevant and future-oriented to predict shifts in occupational skill sets needed, we must operate through the eyes of focus-driven leadership. Being strategic, lean, and agile will be key to position the University for future growth and Kingdom impact.

Therefore, creating an organization that can quickly adapt to change is essential to moving forward. Maximizing current programs or strategically adding new programs will take strong interest and desire from all faculty and staff. In order to adopt a culture of growth, it will mean a biblical approach that thinks more highly of others and the institution rather than one’s self. Developing an “all hands on deck” mindset will be a necessity. If everyone will seek the good for the institution, change will then be exciting and seem simple and unity of purpose will emerge.

The key to our success will be to promote a campus wide vision for strategic growth that emphasizes the following principles:

  1. Adopt strategic planning methods to prioritize and select new initiatives that fit with the mission, vision, and University mix of programs. New programs could include certificate; associate degrees; degree completion; and bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Other new initiatives could include club sports, intercollegiate sports, or continuing education programs.
  2. Encourage innovation and research to create and build selected new programs to increase enrollment and sustain the University.
  3. Focus on the development and implementation of undergraduate, graduate, and online degree programs with special emphasis on adult learning strategies and learning outcomes.
  4. Select and prioritize new undergraduate and graduate academic program initiatives that have the greatest potential for overall enrollment and mission impact. Utilize a financial model that reflects true institutional costs and reflects conservative enrollment goals to do predictive modeling. Determine a minimum level for expected net revenue to use to select promising programs before the University administration will commit energy and resources to implement a full program launch.
  5. Design graduate programs to not only enroll working adults in stand-alone programs, but also capture current undergraduate students in “five- or six-year programs” to minimize recruitment and marketing costs, which extends graduate degree opportunities for undergraduate programs.
  6. Look for broader thinking in the creative and conceptual stage to make sure all potential degrees that have the largest market potential are explored and researched.
  7. Build momentum for growth through shaping a culture of growth among faculty and staff.
  8. Identify new student markets and apply recruitment, service, and resource strategies to increase enrollment.
  9. Provide leadership to encourage faculty and staff to engage in external relations to collaborate, build partnerships, and recruit students.

If I could highlight two experiences I have had that have prepared me for the position of Executive Vice President, it would be the positions I have held that were related to growth and organizational development. Both areas actually complement each other. You can't grow an organization without developing a corresponding organizational structure with the right positions. Fortunately, I have held positions in which I had the freedom to mobilize a university for growth and at the same time build an organizational structure to position the university for growth.

My first experience growing a community college involved establishing student services and academic services consisting of offices in Career Planning and Placement, Records, Admissions, Financial Aid, and Community Relations. This was the first step in expanding evening courses and to adding an extension campus to dramatically increase student enrollment as well as community connections to contribute to economic growth and development.

The following positions I've held during my career have not only prepared me but have ignited in me a passion for helping universities grow and prosper.

  • Director of Admissions – Geneva College
  • Marketing Consultant – Indiana University, Purdue University, Indianapolis/Columbus
  • Senior Vice President of Enrollment Management and Marketing – Trinity International University
  • Vice President for Enrollment Management and Marketing – Cedarville University
  • Provost – Cedarville University

During my career I have enjoyed motivating and mobilizing enrollment management and marketing professionals and faculty and staff to contribute to enrollment growth through adding new academic programs at the undergraduate and graduate level (i.e.: Ph.D.., online, hybrid online, degree completion, etc.) and building collaborative external relationships.

In workshops over the years, I have taught that enrollment management is an institution-wide management approach that enables a university to operate at optimum enrollment levels to enjoy success. Therefore, total commitment and involvement of our entire campus community will be essential for future growth.

I look forward to helping our campus community develop a passion for reaching more prospective students, and therefore creating positive enrollment growth so we graduate more Cedarville University students sold out to Christ and who want to influence for Christ in their world.

As a leader, my style can best be described as a futurist who enjoys motivating and developing people. My passion is leading organizations to grow and prosper through attracting new talent, building new organizational models, building new degree programs, and fostering a culture of growth and success. My decision-making style is engaging and decisive to provide answers, feedback, and direction to executives to enhance their speed of decision-making and ability to implement change.

As a leader I enjoy motivating and encouraging professionals to grow and develop to reach new levels of personal and professional success. The two key biblical concepts that have shaped my leadership style are faith and humility. My worldview is both positive and optimistic, and I do enjoy taking challenges and turning them into opportunities.

In my background and experience in both public and private higher education, my primary role has been to grow institutions through the development of new programs (i.e., football, marching band, Ph.D. in leadership, master’s in youth ministry, etc.), new marketing strategies and advertising campaigns, and new recruitment models. Most of my experience has been at a vice president, senior vice president, provost, or executive vice president level with a primary focus on expanding programs and increasing enrollment for both undergraduate and graduate programs. I have been fortunate to have experiences in starting, consolidating, or expanding enrollment management and marketing functions at three universities. In my provost and executive leadership roles, I have enjoyed running the day-to-day operations of the university including Academics, Athletics, Business, Human Resources, Operations, Student Life, Enrollment Management and Marketing, Christian Ministries, and Legal Services. In addition, my consulting work has given me opportunities to advise public and private universities as well as private schools for continuing education and enrollment management and marketing.

Having a marketing orientation, I realize how important it is to manage the exchange relationship between various constituencies. Therefore, I deliberately build relationships and partnerships with outside organizations, such as corporations, community economic development organizations, research firms, area universities, schools, and churches.

There are probably three words that drive my approach to leadership: vision, creativity, and motivation. Developing vision not only provides a framework for establishing strategic goals and objectives, it also encourages hope and optimism about the future and actually enables a campus community to have ownership in building its own destiny. Without vision we easily get marred in the details and lose sight of the big wins that we could achieve. Having a vibrant vision encourages excitement and fuels high levels of involvement and employee satisfaction. It has been my desire to foster innovation and creative approaches to finding solutions to complex problems. Creative exploration is best achieved in small groups, which encourages collaborative involvement that often leads to not only unexpected, but good solutions. Because of my background in academic program development and enrollment management and marketing, I have always enjoyed motivating professionals to new levels of achievement and professional growth.

Realizing how important mentoring relationships are I have initiated coaching/mentoring relationships with aspiring leaders. Since I have been fortunate to benefit from a rich and successful experience in higher education, I have been deliberate to give back and invest in mid-level leaders who exhibit great potential. At the beginning of each day, it is my desire to have a positive impact on those around me and to add value to at least one person in the course of my work journey that day.

I enjoy new ideas as well as looking to the future. Visionaries always are looking to the future and enjoy seeing the unseen from a distance and making it a reality.

As a leader my style can be best described as a futurist. Now combine that with my love for new ideas and innovation, and you have a leader who advocates that organizations need to periodically redefine themselves not for the sake of change, but to stay vibrant and relevant to meet the needs of its constituencies.

In my role, I will be encouraging new ideas and strategies to foster innovation and to position the University for success. I will encourage input and collaboration because it is usually through group work that the best ideas are created.

I hope to stir us to look for new and exciting ways to engage our partners: churches, schools, homeschool groups, corporations, and community organizations. If we can create win/win situations, we can also establish strong feeder mechanisms.

Since I enjoy motivating faculty and staff to recruit new students, there will be a strong emphasis on external relations with faculty and staff engaging groups and families to give them a vision for Christian higher education and Cedarville University.

The Office of Strategic Growth looks forward to partnering with our campus community and various constituencies to impact our world for Christ.

The most important and often the most frequently overlooked groups in the university environment are mid-level academic and staff leaders. The reason mid-level managers are so important is because they represent the future leaders of the university. They also are coachable, have high levels of energy, and are looking for opportunities to prove their value and worth.

In my career in higher education, I have enjoyed finding mid-level leaders with potential and forming mentoring relationships. Since I enjoy leadership and executive coaching, spending time with key leaders is my way of giving back and investing in their future.

In order to grow an institution you have to find leaders who can be spark plugs to either generate ideas or get things done. Often mid-level leaders have an opportunity to walk across departmental lines and can encourage collaborative projects. Therefore, the ability to mobilize a university for growth is dependent to a great deal on the ability and interest of senior leaders to engage mid-level leaders.

As I look at our University, I am amazed at the talent in various areas across our campus. I do believe getting key academic and staff leaders involved can create enthusiasm and energy for the future.

Since growth is so important for our future, one of my strategies will be to mobilize key mid-level leaders to use their creativity, drive, and enthusiasm to move our University forward. Our most important resource is our people and engaging the talent across our University is important to our future success.

I do enjoy exercise and recreation. One of the things impressed upon me during my undergraduate experience at a liberal arts college was to develop a lifelong interest in recreational sports to gain wellness as well as business and social networking value. As a result I have always enjoyed tennis, racquetball, softball, ice-skating, basketball, and golf.

Since I enjoy coaching, I've had numerous opportunities to coach baseball, basketball, and softball. I always enjoy taking on the challenge of a team some might consider average and instilling confidence while teaching basic skills to help it grow to their potential. I have even enjoyed umpiring Little League baseball and men and women's softball. I was the type that loved being dramatic calling a player out sliding into home. I did learn that my speed and hustle helped me immensely to gain the respect of coaches, players, and fans as I quickly got into position to be able to make a good, firm call.

I probably enjoy basketball the most and enjoy playing noontime basketball with faculty and staff. It is interesting that I have been a part of starting noontime basketball at three different universities. I find it fascinating that when friends I have played with at these universities contact me to catch up on life always first say they miss playing with me on the court rather than reminiscing about the work we accomplished at the university. It still shows me you can build lasting friendships on the court.

As I continue to learn the important benefits of wellness and exercise, I have ventured more into personal training and even “spin classes.” I want to take more time to encourage others to work out consistently, even if it is walking every day. I realize each day I am fortunate to still be an active participant in recreational activities. People often ask me if I am competitive, and my standard answer is I am still extremely competitive in basketball, but in golf I could care less how I do because I just enjoy the fellowship and the outdoors.