As a child, Dave McFadden, dean of Manchester University School of Pharmacy wanted to be president of the United States.
Abandoning his quest for the oval office, McFadden went to college and graduate school and studied international relations. He didn’t, however, plan on the job he has now or falling in love and getting married while still in college. He says that both of those decisions have led him to stop trying to control what he’s going to do next year or even next month.
“I came to Manchester 19 years ago,” he says. “The chair of the search committee was concerned that I might not stay long. I promised to stay for three years, but I thought I would be gone in five. Nineteen years later, I’m still here.
1. You spent your elementary school years in Indonesia. How has living in another country shaped who you are today?
My father is a retired physician, but when I was growing up, he was serving in the mission field for the Church of the Brethren. He worked at a rural hospital in a very small community. We were one of three white families. My sense of the world and my place in it are a lot broader than someone who grew up in Indiana and never left. I have an appreciation for people of other cultures and empathy for people who are living outside of their own culture. I think my life in Indonesia shaped my sense of who I am and where I belong in the world.
As an educator, I have an interest in helping students and families who didn’t enter the realm of higher education with the same benefits that I did. A lot of Manchester University students are the first generation in their family to go to college or graduate school. First generation and international students don’t always have the resources and understanding that other students do. I can tell a student to contact the registrar, but the student might not know who the registrar is or what they do. It’s easy for them to say “I understand,” but they don’t. I’ve experienced being an outsider; that experience has made me a better listener and a better communicator.
2. How did your dad’s career as a mission doctor influence how you do business?
When he was in Indonesia, my dad did everything from performing orthopedic surgery to delivering babies. If someone needed something, he did it. He had, and still has, an insatiable curiosity. I have that same curiosity; I’ve always enjoyed learning new things. I have been called a “change-aholic.” I never imagined that I would be at Manchester University for this length of time, because I never imagined that I would be happy in one place for that long. I’ve had many opportunities at Manchester and this position with the College of Pharmacy is the most recent example of a new challenge and a new opportunity for me. This job brings with it a steep learning curve. I have a lot to learn about pharmacy education, but that’s why I enjoy it. That’s one of the things I learned from my dad.
3. What keeps you motivated?
Simply put, I love my job. There was a stretch in my life where I tried to plan my career, but I gave that up 10 years ago because I realized I was spending a lot of time and energy trying to shape things I couldn’t control. A year ago I would not have guessed that I would be dean of the school of pharmacy.
4. Why expand the school now?
During a recent strategic planning meeting, we knew that business as usual was not sustainable. We wouldn’t be able to keep doing things as we’d always done them. The market and economic environment were changing enough that the status quo wasn’t sustainable for the next 20 years. So we started looking for new opportunities. We have a phrase at Manchester: Mission Centered and Market Smart. “Mission centered” means we want to make sure that everything we do fits who we are and “market smart” means that we strive to make decisions that align with the needs of the marketplace. We pushed ahead with the School of Pharmacy during a time when the economy was so slow that businesses were trying not to sink. We looked at this as a possibility and knew that we needed to be aggressive in pursing it.
5. Why change from Manchester College to Manchester University?
The principal reason for our name change is that we are becoming a more complex institution. We’ve always been in North Manchester and primarily offered undergraduate programs. By adding the pharmacy program, we’ve added a campus in Fort Wayne, and pharmacy is a professional doctorate, which is a higher degree than we’ve awarded in the past.
There is no standard definition for a college versus a university, but universities are generally understood to be more complex. Now that the institution is Manchester University, we call ourselves the Manchester University College of Pharmacy. Instead of these programs being appendages to the college in North Manchester, they are all part of the university.