When Dr. Daniel Wubah and his wife Judith first stepped onto Millersville University’s campus in February 2018, they saw potential—the potential of an impressive state university to become a world-class comprehensive institution at the top of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) pack—and the potential for a fulfilling next chapter of their lives.
Dr. Daniel Wubah began his tenure as the 15th president of Millersville University (MU) on July 1 and has hit the ground running with Listening Tour stops to hear what all members of the University community including current students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors and friends think is working and not working at the University they love.
“As a new leader in a new organization, based on what I’ve seen from previous presidents I’ve worked with, you have to spend time building relationships, listening and learning about the organization in order to lead,” says Wubah, who served as Senior Advisor to the President at Washington and Lee University immediately prior to his appointment at MU. “The Listening Tour is an effort to build relationships with our community both on and off campus. I get to hear about people’s aspirations and hopes for this University. It’s a major effort to really understand the institution; to come up with ways to be more effective.”
While he’s been surprised by some of the conversations he’s had during tour sessions, most of what he’s learned has been positive; and has affirmed what he thought to be true during his presidential candidacy—that there are many people who are committed to the success of this University.
“I’ll give you an example,” Wubah said on a late summer day in his office with his wife, Dr. Judith Wubah. “I met a woman in Dining and Conference Services. She has been here for 42 years working as a dishwasher. That is commitment. That is dedication.”
And that is the kind of long-term passion the new president has for this University. While he’s only been here a few months, Wubah has already made some key changes to ensure the effectiveness and success of Millersville as a whole. He reorganized a few departments including relocating Academic Advisement under the Division of Academic Affairs to provide a renewed focus on this area.
“Advising is the bedrock of student success. If that fails, you’re in trouble,” explains Wubah. “I looked at our retention and graduation rates. It’s 38 percent for four years. That number is too low. In order to improve, we need to pay closer attention to advising.”
Overall, Wubah’s focus is to support students. That takes many forms including University services, facilities, programming and scholarships—all of which are made possible through private support.
Before he joined MU, University Advancement launched a three-year $32 million campaign for students, “Imagine the Possible.” The campaign supports student scholarships ($10 million), student learning experiences ($16 million) and Marauder Athletics ($6 million). To date, the University is approximately 65 percent toward the goal and Wubah has been active in the campaign since he arrived.
“I believe the president is the chief fundraising officer at a university,” he says. “Normally, the largest donors to a campaign are alums, but here the largest donations have come from friends of the University. Each donor I talk to says that Millersville University is an important part of the local community. That kind of support is very unique.”
An extraordinary example of that community support is the $2 million endowment entrepreneur, philanthropist and friend of the University, Patrick Tell, generously established to support music students at MU. The music department was renamed The Tell School of Music, which is the first time a school has been named in recognition of a donor at MU.
This kind of unique support—both within the University and in the surrounding community—is what attracted the Wubahs to MU during their search. When the position at Millersville became available, the couple had been through several searches before, but said none of the other universities felt like the right fit. That was not the case when they came for the campus interview.
“At the campus visit we felt an immediate fit,” says Judith Wubah, who left her post as Associate Director at Washington and Lee University’s Corporate and Foundation Relations in June to assume her duties as First Lady. “When we came we had a dinner with the search committee, and this was the most welcoming committee we had gone through. They were willing to do anything they could do for us.”
Millersville is similar to other universities the Wubahs have worked at including Towson University and James Madison University, both of which began as normal schools that grew into teacher’s colleges and then universities. Millersville’s medium size seemed manageable and exciting to the couple.
Also, MU’s proximity to Philadelphia where their eldest daughter and grandchildren live, and location adjacent to Lancaster, a medium-sized city, in the Susquehanna Valley, really appealed to them.
“Both of us have our first degrees in botany, so the fact that Millersville University is the only university in the PASSHE system with a botany concentration was really attractive to us,” says Wubah. “The potential at this school is great. When we visited and we talked to people, we saw that this was a place where we could make an impact.”
While this is Wubah’s first presidency, he is not new to leadership. In academia he has held various positions including deputy provost and vice president for undergraduate education at Virginia Tech; associate provost and professor of zoology at the University of Florida; associate dean of the College of Science and Mathematics and special assistant to the president at James Madison University, and department chair at Towson University. Wubah earned his bachelor’s degree with honors in botany and a diploma in science education from the University of Cape Coast, Ghana. He earned a master’s in biology from the University of Akron, and his Ph.D. in botany from the University of Georgia.
Judith Wubah has also held many esteemed positions including as a faculty member at James Madison University and the medical school at the University of Florida, and as the founding director of the Office of Health Professions Advising at Virginia Tech. She earned her bachelor’s with honors in botany and a diploma in science education from the University of Cape Coast, Ghana; her master’s in biology from the University of Akron; and her Ph.D. in development biology/teratology from Thomas Jefferson University.
The largest leadership role Wubah has held is as King of his tribe in Ghana. He was coronated safohene of the traditional Asante (Breman) tribal region in September 2017. The title makes him king of approximately 20,000 people in his family clan.
“I have the responsibility of being a leader in the tribe, so I have to keep my attention on what’s happening in Ghana as well as my professional role here,” says Wubah.
He does that through daily phone calls before he comes to work and additional calls on weekends. He returned to Ghana to take part in the Afahye Festival at the end of October. During that time he took part in daily calls to stay up-to-date on university business.
Finding the balance between his two new roles has been a challenge, but one that Wubah relishes. Similarly, Judith Wubah has been adjusting to her new role as First Lady and says she loves being part of this new community.
“I am still trying to learn about this University,” she says. “I am looking to see if I can get involved with mentoring students in some way. I was Virginia Tech’s director of health professions advising, and that was one of my most rewarding jobs.”
While the University community may not see the First Lady at the Listening Tour stops, one place you can definitely find her is at Marauder Athletics events.
“I am a great sports fan,” she says. “I am not great at playing them, but I will cheer as loud as anyone. We have been to plenty of football and soccer games this fall.”
While the Wubahs are only in their first year at the helm of Millersville University, both are excited by what they’re learning and are looking forward to the future.
“It all comes back around. We’ve been very impressed and we are glad that we landed at the right place—the right fit for us in terms of our aspirations and the institution’s as well,” says Wubah. “The potential is just amazing. There’s a lot that’s about to happen.”