At the end of March, the University of Evansville announced the appointment of Christopher M. Pietruszkiewicz as the institution’s 24th president following the retirement of Thomas Kazee. As he finishes his duties as dean and professor of law at Stetson University’s College of Law, Gulfport, Florida, Pietruszkiewicz visited Evansville on May 9 to sit down with various media outlets.
The informal one-on-one with the newly-elected president — who will officially take over his position as of July 1 — allowed us to sit down, get to know him, and ask a few questions about his move to the city.
Evansville Living: What are you most excited about in your new position?
Christopher Pietruszkiewicz: I think it is building the relationships. It’s figuring out different ways to collaborate, to bring in the business community, to talk with guidance counselors and high school students and their families. If you develop those relationships, then the University of Evansville becomes top of mind when students and their families are making decisions.
My hope is that we’re a school of first-choice for those families. But if we’re in the running with other schools, stop by the University of Evansville and see what kind of transformational place it might be.
EL: What do you believe are some of the challenges you will face in your new role at UE?
CP: I think the challenges are the same challenges of most universities, and that is how do you distinguish yourself from everybody else? How do you make a difference in the mind of students as they are thinking about where they want to go to begin their professional careers?
We have a number of fabulous programs, and I think if you look at the statistics, they really are fabulous. More than 90 percent of our students do an externship, experiential learning, while they are still here. If you look at the employment statistics of what is going to happen to our students after they graduate, median salary is a little more than $48,000.
If you take a look at the number of students who are graduating from the University of Evansville and more than 95 percent of them are either going to graduate school or graduating with great jobs waiting for them, to me that’s how you are able to sustain growth. You have to have unique programs, but you also have to have a foundation that our students are going to see what’s going to happen to them after they graduate from the University of Evansville.
And the statistics show that, and my hope is that we’re able to continue to build in that direction.
EL: What attracted you to Evansville?
CP: There are some fabulous things that are very similar to my current institution (at Stetson University) and that is if you think about where legal education, in my case, is going, and where undergraduate education is going in the future, it is all being based on how prepared are your students when they graduate.
If you take a look at some of the important metrics — like what are they doing while they are here — the opportunity to be involved in externships while they are here I think is the future of what’s going to happen in undergraduate education.
Not only does something happen inside the classroom, but also outside the classroom. And being able to continue to build those models for our students I think is most attractive.
There are lots of schools that will try to build in that direction and the University of Evansville is already in those places. And that’s what we have to continue to do, is to build on those and continue to grow and prosper.
EL: Have you had a chance to explore the city at all yet?
CP: Just a little. We’ve walked around Downtown and seen the possibilities. I’ll be back on campus May 22, and so I’m expecting to be able to spend some time with Mayor Lloyd Winnecke when I get back in then. I’m looking forward to figure out how we can continue to work together.
EL: Have you gotten tips or hints on where to visit in Evansville?
CP: Well I’ve been reading Evansville Living. We have four or five magazines on our dining room table, and we have been exploring the city virtually through your magazines.
EL: What are your plans for the summer?
CP: It will be a transition period for me. We will move in shortly before July 1. It’s been a great six years at Stetson University College of Law. I’ll be finishing some things up there before I make the formal move, but I’m really excited to the opportunity. But I’m looking forward to the transition also.
EL: Do you have a favorite spot on campus yet or are you still wandering around and getting to know UE?
CP: I’m working on it, but I will say whereever the students are will be my favorite place on campus.