Muir 'loving every minute' at UW-Waukesha

Published on: 9/26/2013

In July 2011, Harry P. Muir Jr. traded the year around climate of Arizona for the winters of Lake Country to become dean of the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha.

Since then, he says he has been "having the best time in my 30-plus years of college administration and loving every minute of it."

Muir was born and raised in southern California, later lived on a Kansas farm, and spent much of life in the Southwest.

He received a degree in secondary education from the University of Kansas in 1972. He earned his master's degree in higher education administration from the same university a year later and in 1982 earned his doctorate in higher education from Kansas State University.

An associate professor at Northern Arizona University, Muir has been an executive in the administration of higher education at colleges and universities in Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona; Texarkana, Texas; and Manhattan and Wichita, Kansas.

1) What prompted you to give up year-round warmer climate for Wisconsin's winters?

"Yes, it would appear I am doing a little swimming upstream since most folks are headed to Arizona and Texas as they reach the point in their career that I have. But, I have always been a person who looked at every new opportunity with a positive outlook. As CEO/dean of UW-Waukesha, I am having the best time in my 30-plus years of college administration and loving every minute of it."

2) What is the largest factor or advantage that prompted you to take the dean's position at UW- Waukesha?

"When I interviewed for the position I asked students what the No. 1 strength of UW-Waukesha was and they did not hesitate. They said the teaching and learning relationship in the classroom."

3) Which do you enjoy more, teaching in the classroom or working at the administrative level?

"I love both. When you are teaching, the interactions with your students are incredibly invigorating. I can remember coming home after teaching and was so jazzed I couldn't get to sleep until well after midnight every night that I taught. You get immediate rewards when you teach. As an administrator oftentimes your rewards come through the efforts of others and/or you aren't able to recognize them until years later."

4) What do you find most enjoyable about your job?

"Working on finding ways to improve the way we provide our programs and services. Also, I love working with people. The interesting thing is that regardless of people's political philosophy or differing points of view, people from Wisconsin are united in their support of education in general and their recognition of the importance of higher education to the future of the state."

5) What is the greatest challenge and difficulty in your job?

"Each state has its unique characteristics and laws related to higher education. The biggest challenge thus far has been in identifying the unique nature of Wisconsin laws that affect higher education."

6) Why did you choose higher education administration as a career?

"The career found me. I applied for my first job in higher education as a counselor and special programs coordinator thinking that with my masters in higher education administration and half of my hours in counseling that it would be the way to go. I didn't even get an interview. Two years later, a resume I had sent out earlier led to an offer to a position as director of the special programs at a small private liberal arts Catholic college. Thirty-eight years later I have never regretted the that decision."

7) Who was the most influential mentor in your life?

"The mentor who influenced me the most professionally was Sr. Therese Wetta, my supervisor at Kansas Newman College. She was a fair and even-handed college administrator with integrity and a strong sense of social justice. I learned a great deal from her and what it means to be a good college administrator, but more importantly about higher education and what our mission should be."

8) How do you spend your free time?

"Five years ago, I probably would have said attempting to improve my golf game or spending time with my kids. Now, it is exploring Wisconsin with my wife and spending time with my kids and grandkids."

9) Where were you born, raised and what influenced your childhood?

"I had a very diverse background. I lived in southern California during the Beach Boys "surfs up" era of the 1960s and then was a farm boy during my adolescent and college years. The irony is that over Labor Day weekend a few weeks ago, my wife and I saw the Beach Boys at the Walworth County Fair and it was the first time my wife had ever seen them."

10) Why should a student select UW-Waukesha?

"UW-Waukesha provides the highest quality of the first two years of college that I have ever experienced or evaluated. The learning experience students receive at UW-Waukesha is of the highest quality. The fact that we are also the most affordable or lowest cost option makes us that much better as an option for parents and students. I am excited that we are offering a four-year degree in partnership with the UW-Parkside for the first time this fall. The degree is called the Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences."