Photo courtesy of CCU photography
In the middle of October, Coastal Carolina University hosted several presidential search listening sessions where Martin Baker from the Buffkin/Baker Search Firm listened to the CCU community list the qualities they want to see in President David DeCenzo’s replacement.
All sessions were open to faculty, staff, students and the community. However, student attendance was extremely low. Many students don’t know much about the president and what his role is.
Freshman computer science major Brandon Pardue was unaware of the listening sessions.
“If I had known about them, I would’ve tried to find the time to go to one. I do see the importance of the role of the president. I know who he is, but I think I would care more if I knew more about he who is and what he really does,” Pardue said.
Vice President for Executive Initiatives/Chief of Staff Travis Overton attended all of the listening sessions and was concerned about the lack of student attendance which inspired him to schedule times to meet with student clubs and organizations to talk about the importance of the president’s role and the ongoing search.
“Unfortunately, we did not have a large amount of students’ participation in the listening sessions, however, I did take the time to visit various student organizations and, in visiting those organizations, one thing that I heard very clearly is students want a president who is open, assessible and visible among students. They [want to] know who the president is and have the ability to interact with the president,” Overton said.
He went on to provide a detailed explanation of the role of the president and how it impacts the campus.
“I think the most critical thing for students to understand is that the president, being the agency head for an institution, sets the direction, vision, the strategic planning, all of that is set by the president. Therefore, when students are thinking about what their environment is on campus, the president plays, not the only role in setting that, but plays a humongous role in setting that environment and setting the tone for the campus,” Overton said. “Particularly, for our current environment, President DeCenzo has been very clear in saying that he wants to make sure that Coastal maintains a family-like atmosphere. As that being his expectation, he works to ensure that everyone at the university works to adhere to that and I think that’s an example of how a president actually works to set the tone for an institution.”
Overton came up with an exercise that he shared with the student organizations he spoke with that he believes is helpful in understanding the impact that the president has in setting the tone on campus.
“The first thing I would say is for students to be able to take a pause and assess the environment you’re in at Coastal and ask, ‘which of those parts of that environment do you believe that the president has not influenced?’ Overton said. “I think that once a student does that exercise, I think the student will realize that in all reality the president influences a large amount of what I experience. So, I think it’s important for that self-reflection exercise for students to engage in which allows them to be able to better understand how the role of the president impacts so many facets of the student experience, both on the academic side, but also on the student development and student affairs side from the overall student experience. I think there’s a lot that a student is able to learn when they think of that broad impact of the president of the institution.”
The president is a critical part in creating the campus environment, and it’s important the next president has the qualities our campus needs to continuing thriving. DeCenzo has valued innovation, community and has created an amazing atmosphere at CCU.
Students hope to see greater visibility, accessibility and more interaction so they can be more aware of the role of the president, who the president is and feel a more personal connection.