Dr. Jerilyn McIntyre doesn't have a loud voice, and she is not confrontational. She thinks of herself as a "quiet woman who wants consensus" who has to work hard to get it. But she is convinced that a quiet woman can also be decisive and forceful.
She also knows that her recent positions of academic vice president and interim president of the University of Utah call out for clear, forceful leadership.Twice she served as interim president at the U., filling in for three months until Arthur Smith arrived in September 1991 and then serving a much longer term as interim president January-December 1997 until Bernard Machen officially succeeded Smith.
More and more, she is being invited to interview for the presidencies of other universities, and she says, "The question inevitably comes up, usually from women, `You seem very quiet. Can you stand toe to toe and fight with people?' I say, `Of course I can, but if you're constantly in situations where you're fighting with people, then there's a breakdown in communications.' "
McIntyre believes that most problems can be resolved without anyone standing toe to toe.
That quality is most responsible for McIntyre's impressive success as a university administrator. In person, she comes off as soft-spoken and down-to-earth, strangely lacking in egotism.
But she also possesses an abundance of self-assurance and conviction.
She considers the academic vice presidency to be challenging and rewarding, yet stressful. It involves most of the issues that are of greatest concern to most faculty members. She says the job is "the lightning rod of the university."
The presidency, on the other hand, is an entirely different animal.
"Last year," says McIntyre, "we really were IN the position, and it was fun. It's frustrating, too, because the buck stops at that desk. But it's a very affirming position in that you deal with alumni, students and friends of the university, who are very passionate in their love for the university."
She especially enjoyed working with the Legislature. "Others might find that a daunting task," she says, "but I thought it was fun. The problems I'd studied or read about suddenly came to life."
McIntyre has a strong sense of structure and believes in hiring "really good people" and confidently delegating authority. She believes in a "team-style of management in which people are given full responsibility."
She also believes in fully understanding the context of every problem before taking action. Then she moves deliberately but thoughtfully.
"Sometimes impulsiveness is mistaken for decisiveness. I don't think that's wise."
Style is evident whenever a university president changes. Although former U. President Arthur Smith was criticized in some circles for being distant and unresponsive to the culture, McIntyre says he was actually "kind of shy," and his problems were rooted in the differences in Eastern and Western culture.
A native Californian, McIntyre remembers that Smith, an Easterner, called her after he had accepted the U. presidency and complained that Utah people were already addressing him and his wife as "Art and June."
"It made him uncomfortable, he said. He and his wife preferred to be known as Dr. and Mrs. Smith."
So he asked McIntyre, "Am I being too stuffy?" She remembers thinking for a minute, then saying, "Well, YES!" because the Western culture prefers a first-name basis, no matter what cautions are offered in etiquette books.
Officially, she begins a year's administrative leave this month while she considers her future, and that of her husband, David Smith, who is also employed at the University in editing, public relations and fund raising.
In the fall of 1999, she will either return to full-time teaching in the department of communications, or she will try her hand at another university presidency.
After receiving her doctorate in communications from the University of Washington in 1977, she joined the U. faculty. Then in 1984, she became an associate dean of humanities, through "happenstance," and found that she liked administration, "partly because you get a certain number of things accomplished at the end of every day. I liked that feeling of closure I had in administration."
She went on to become associate academic vice president in 1988, then academic vice president in 1990 before serving twice as interim president.
McIntyre is a good listener and enjoys working with people. But she also enjoys writing, which is why administrative memos during her tenure took a dramatic step upward in quality.
"Now," she says, "I need to get out of the memo mode." She is most experienced in magazine writing and teaching, and so she wants to do both again.
What kinds of changes does she think are necessary for the continued progress at the U.? She thinks that since the research and teaching components of the university are inextricably linked, they need to be more effectively explained to the public.
Although most professors are convinced they need to be active researchers to be effective teachers, most ordinary citizens don't get it.
"I think that if the connections are made," says McIntyre, "there is a wonderfully rich form of instruction at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. At the U., we have a lot of programs where we deliberately involve students in applying the knowledge we learn in the classroom."
McIntyre is especially proud of the work of the Lowell Bennion Center in taking knowledge from the classroom and applying it in the community through service learning courses and projects.
"I would like to see us incorporate that principle more in all we do. The university needs to effectively articulate its value. We just don't describe what we do as well as we should."