Third Year Questions

When I was the Provost at IWU the most common question people asked was, “What is a provost?”

IWU - Third Year QuestionsMy favorite response was, “A marginally useful academic bureaucrat.”  I used that answer sparingly, of course.

Heading into my third year as President the most common question I get is, “Why did you do THAT!?”  Well, they don’t usually ask me this question.  They ask each other, and occasionally an old friend will pass along the question to me.

Seriously, the most common questions I get are, “Are you enjoying the job?” or “What do you like most about the job?”

Being President is a consuming pursuit.  I do enjoy it and am enormously privileged to serve the IWU community in this way.  But this position is different from any other I’ve held in at least one interesting way.  On the one hand, I meet and interact with many, many fascinating people. On the other hand, the depth of those interactions can tend to be superficial.  The Presidency can become an isolating experience.

The other day I talked about this with Dr. Ken Schenck, a friend and colleague I’ve known since graduate school days.  At my invitation, here’s his guest blog post about being president.

“I get the impression that being a college President can sometimes be an isolating situation. You spend a lot of time dealing with external constituencies, and you can sometimes seem distant to those of us who are “land locked” on a campus. So the idea emerged to ask you some questions here on the blog, perhaps even to give people a forum to let you know what questions are on their minds. Here are a few starter questions that came to mind.

1. You are now beginning your third year as President of IWU. How would you characterize the first two years of your presidency and what would you say will be your focus in this third year?

2. You have been at IWU for over twenty years. How would you say that IWU has changed from what it was in the past?

3. IWU has undergone some structural changes and financial tightening in the last couple years. Do you see many additional changes still to come? Are we still in transition or is the current structure more or less what it will be for some time, as best as you can foresee?

4. Academic institutions can develop strong “us-them” tensions between faculty and administration. What words of hope and trust would you offer the faculty of IWU that the administration is their partner and not their adversary?

5. How has being President of IWU changed you personally? How do you maintain balance in your life?

Now it’s your turn. What are the kinds of questions on your mind for President Wright? I suspect he would like to know, even if he can’t answer all of them.”

Bill Clinton once said that being president is like running a cemetery.  You have a lot of people under you and nobody is listening.

Fortunately, that hasn’t been my experience so far.  I work with a stellar team of faculty, administrators, and staff.  In case anyone is interested, I’ll tackle these questions in the next few days.