Since arriving on Haskell Indian Nations University's campus one year ago, Linda Warner has endured praise and flak.
That's expected when a new university president comes aboard and wants to make changes, especially at a 124-year-old school that runs deep in tradition.
"If I had come here and it had been boring, I probably would have been a short-timer. But this place is anything but boring," Warner, 59, said, laughing. "I learn something new every day."
This week, Warner sat down for a one-on-one interview with the Journal-World, reflecting on the past year and talking about her goals and concerns.
Safety is one of her concerns.
Unlike Kansas University's Lawrence campus, which has a $464 million budget, its own police department and four traffic control booths, Haskell has an approximately $9 million budget, relies on Lawrence police and has no traffic flow restrictions.
"I am concerned about the openness of the campus," she said. "We have asked the (federal) central office to look at their resources to think about how we might at least know who is on this campus."
Warner said that Homeland Security officials visited the campus in the fall - something it's scheduled to do every three years. She said they suggested limiting automobile traffic. After the visit, however, rumors circulated that she had asked Homeland Security to build a wall around Haskell.
Warner said that there is no truth to that rumor.
"I would be darned surprised if we put a wall up around this place," she said.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs didn't reply to repeated e-mails and phone calls about Warner or the Homeland Security visit.
Warner said she didn't think it would be unreasonable to put devices, such as traffic arms, at major accesses.
"Right now, it is a dollar issue," she said.
Warner also said that further study was needed to determine where to put the devices and how to use them without isolating the university from the community.
"We want the Lawrence community to feel like they can come out here to our events, so it's not a prison," she said.
Such events will include Haskell's yearlong 125th anniversary celebration, which kicks off in January. Warner said there would be events each month with a big celebration in September 2009, the official anniversary of the school's founding. She hopes to recognize Haskell's reach across the nation by honoring an alum from each state.
She also hopes the celebration will raise awareness of Haskell's potential and persuade its friends and alumni to donate to the endowment association.
"With a 125-year anniversary, that will give people yet another reason to start looking at what we are doing and feel like they want to contribute," Warner said. "We feel like people can make a contribution, even a small one, and make a difference around here."
Warner would like to make an even bigger difference herself, but time and funding are an issue. She also admits to being a perfectionist.
"If I could wave a magic wand, we would do all kinds of new things in 2009," she said. "But I am not going to push anything because one of the things that you will find from people who know me well, is I'd rather not do it if we are not going to do it well."
Warner still hopes to add a fifth baccalaureate degree in public health and an online doctoral degree in education. She believes that both can be accomplished, just not within the next year.
What she has been able to do is build partnerships with universities besides Kansas University and Baker University. For example, the University of North Texas wants to add the topic of indigenous philosophy to its environmental philosophy doctoral program. So, the colleges are talking about team teaching. Besides North Texas, Warner plans to form partnerships with the University of Missouri and tribal colleges in Oklahoma.
"What I've done is look to other professional relationships that I have had and move us into partnerships with other universities," Warner said. "So, we are branching out a little bit. We are not going hog wild, but we are making some connections that will benefit us. Certainly, the University of Kansas will be our primary partner."
She's also eager to start working on Haskell's next long-term plan with the Board of Regents. As for talk that she is trying to disband the 15-member board, she said "that's just nuts" because it is federal regulation. She doesn't have the power and she says she wouldn't want it.
"If I have got an advisory board of 15 people and we all agree to go one direction, then guess what? When it blows up in your face, we all get a hit of it. Not just me," she said.
Warner said she wants to do more indigenous governance, which is inclusive rather than exclusive.
"We are beginning to engage in some new strategic planning for Haskell and that will require that the board be more engaged than they have in the past, and so I think that really quite the opposite is true, you will see us reaching out to (regents) more as we start this planning process and start to get things rolling."
Although the year seemed to "fly by" for Warner, she says there has been progress. She reviewed and assessed the entire campus in her first 90 days, seeking input from faculty, students, regents and the community. She then began to implement some changes. Warner said her biggest accomplishments were introducing the "Healthier Haskell" program and launching Haskell's first research center.
"Healthier Haskell" is a 10-month program launched last August to encourage better fitness, nutrition and wellness. The focal point of the initiative is a walking program in which individuals and teams track their miles. Collectively, the goal was to walk around the world, or 24,901 miles.
"It's over 100,000 miles," she said with a grin.
She said the program sparked others from around the country to join their effort.
"It's really had an amazing sort of domino effect for Indian Country that I didn't expect," Warner said.
She's hoping to reach even more people and put Haskell on the national map with its new Research Evaluation and Dissemination Center, which became operational in late February. The center serves as a clearinghouse for research and professional development. Warner said Haskell finally will have a place to showcase the work that its students and faculty produce.
"I just like the idea of us being able to at least put the abstracts and maybe a link to the full paper on our Web site so that it's a repository of stuff," she said. "So that people can start saying, 'Oh, you are looking for something on environmental studies? Look at Haskell's Web site. Oh, you are looking for something in education? Look at Haskell's Web site.'"
"So, it will take us a while to build a reputation for doing stuff well, but we certainly have started off with some amazing things."