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Ready to Lead

Harlan M. Sands, vice dean and chief financial officer of The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, has been selected as the seventh president of Cleveland State University following a national search.

He officially begins his presidency June 1 and succeeds Ronald M. Berkman, who is retiring. However, Sands has been on campus since May 1, working with Dr. Berkman to ensure a smooth transition.

“This is the opportunity of a lifetime,” says Sands, who was attracted to CSU, in part, because of his passion for urban education, having spent his entire academic career at urban universities. “I truly believe in the mission of urban universities and in the unique impact they have. I understand the importance of urban universities to first-generation students, as well as the challenges these students face in pursuing higher education. I am committed to helping them succeed and graduate. I also am committed to CSU’s research and partnerships that are expanding knowledge.

President-elect Sands with wife Lynn and sons A.J. and Samson

“Cleveland State is a great urban university. Through its commitments to higher education access for all, student success, Engaged Learning and connectivity with the community, Cleveland State is uniquely positioned to transform lives in a way that very few institutions can match,” he adds. “I am honored and humbled to be chosen to lead this prestigious university and am excited to work with students, faculty, staff and community leaders to continue and enhance CSU’s important educational mission.”

With nearly two decades of experience as an administrator, research center director and faculty member at urban research universities, Sands is a highly regarded and widely respected higher education leader. He comes to CSU with a proven track record of advancing academic excellence, elevating faculty endeavors, championing research, and aligning strategies and operations to meet the emerging needs of higher education in the 21st century.

Bernie Moreno, chair of the CSU Board of Trustees, calls the selection of Sands “a grand slam.

“He will be a major asset as Cleveland State continues to expand its academic and research quality, enhance value for students and grow its national reputation. He will be the visionary leader CSU needs to further its position as a leading urban research university,” adds Moreno, who chaired the presidential search committee comprised of students, faculty, staff and members of the Cleveland community.

Prior to serving as vice dean and chief financial officer at Wharton, Sands served as senior vice president of finance and administration and chief operating officer at the University of Louisville, where he implemented several large-scale, revenue-generating opportunities in enrollment growth, student success and business support. Prior to that, he served as vice provost at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where his responsibilities included budget and finance, auxiliary services such as student housing and dining, and student success operations. He began his tenure in higher education at Florida International University as a faculty member in the Department of Criminal Justice. He later advanced to assistant and associate dean of the College of Health and Urban Affairs before serving as FIU’s associate vice president for research.

Before entering academia, Sands served 11 years in the United States Navy as well as four years as an assistant public defender in Miami. His many career accomplishments include distinguished service during Operation Desert Storm.

He received his bachelor of science in economics from The Wharton School in 1984. He also holds an MBA from George Washington University and a JD from George Mason University. He and his wife of 17 years, Lynn, have two sons, Samson and A.J.

President-elect Harlan Sands

  • Served as a White House military aide under Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton
  • Worked as a public defender in Miami
  • Led a cutting-edge research center at Florida International University
  • Served as a Big Brother in several communities

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