The new woman in charge

Helen K. Lafferty was appointed interim president of Youngstown State University. Photo by Elizabeth Coss / The Jambar

By Elizabeth Coss

The long-awaited announcement of the interim President of Youngstown State University was made Oct. 10 by the board of trustees. 

Helen K. Lafferty will take over as interim president effective Feb. 1, 2023 after being unanimously chosen by the board of trustees during a special meeting, most of which was taken up by an executive meeting. 

Lafferty, a graduate of YSU for both her bachelor’s degree in education, theology and philosophy and master’s degree in education, administration and psychology, has represented YSU as a global and national board of trustees member since 2020. 

Lafferty has been a part of Villanova University for 40 years and has experience as being the previous vice president of the university, an interim vice president of academic affairs and an associate dean for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Villanova. 

Currently, Lafferty is an academic professor for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Villanova University but will be taking a sabbatical to preside as interim president of YSU. 

Helen K. Lafferty
Photo courtesy of YSU

Despite being chosen as the interim president, Lafferty does not plan to be a contender for YSU’s presidential vacancy next fall. 

John R. Jakubek, chair for the board of trustees, said he believes Lafferty will be an integral component to the university moving forward. 

“We have a great administration here at this university,” Jakubek said. “I think she really solidifies what we have here. She’s just … she’s going to complement the great individuals we have going forward.”

Jakubek also said some issues the university is facing, like enrollment, will continue to be challenges under Lafferty. 

“Demographics are changing, the number of students entering colleges probably for the next several years is going to be down. We had a 4% decline this year and it’s [in] student enrollment. So, these are some of the things we’ve got to work on,” Jakubek said.

Other areas the university plans to continue working on with Lafferty as president will be academic programs, student retention and budgeting issues, according to Jakubek. 

Going forward with Lafferty as the interim president, Jakubek said he feels confident with her appointment. 

“She’s well-experienced with these roles and so forth,” Jakubek said. “I think the university and community could feel comfortable having Helen Lafferty as the interim president of Youngstown State University.”

A virtual press conference with Lafferty is scheduled to take place Oct. 17. The university is still looking for a national search firm to oversee the process of finding the next official president of the university. According to Jakubek, the search is not expected to begin until 2023. 

All final terms of Lafferty’s appointment as interim president will be discussed and decided during the next board of trustees meeting scheduled for Dec. 8.