When I have the first year students over for pizza I’ve come to expect that every year at least one will ask (a little hesitantly but extremely politely) what it is I actually do. Every time this question is asked — and it’s asked more often than you might think! — it reminds me that the work of a college president is generally (and generously) assumed to be important even though most people have little sense of what it actually involves.
In response I found myself describing some of the highlights of the last week:
I met with the Academic Planning Committee to discuss ways to engage faculty across campus in discussion of educational values and learning outcomes, attended a Tusculum Institute advisory council meeting to discuss how their work on preservation and local history aligns with Sweet Briar’s strategic priorities, and enjoyed a American Shakespeare Center production of The Duchess of Malfi offered as part of the Babcock season. (The Duchess is infrequently performed, and for many in the audience this was the first chance to see it on stage — what a great thing to have available for students on our campus.)
It was great fun sharing lunch and a Gager series concert with a donor who was visiting campus. (The program featured Spanish music. Who knew that Spanish teacher Carlos Fagundo is also a marvelous pianist?) A team was here as part of the Virginia Department of Education review of our teacher education program: I had the chance to talk with them about Sweet Briar and about why Sweet Briar is so proud that graduates go on to become highly skilled and liberally educated teachers. Three nights I had first-year students over to the House for pizza and got to hear about their first weeks on campus: one afternoon I led a NIA “playshop” for the Holistic Nutrition and Fitness class and got to talk with them about the relationship of joy and health; and one morning I went to a “Town and Gown” meeting of the Lynchburg City Council and the presidents of all the other local colleges. (We discussed community wide emergency preparedness and response, mainly. LOTS of fodder for nightmares in emergency planning scenarios!)
And then there was the more routine work — meeting with the leaders of various campus offices, checking in on projects like the library construction and classroom renovations, analyzing updated enrollment and financial information now that the new school year is underway, participating in the occasional conference call with a Board committee.
In short, what I actually do is encourage, support, and promote everything that everybody else at Sweet Briar does. Which certainly makes for lots of meetings to attend and a lot of spreadsheets to review, but just as certainly makes for an inspiring and rewarding experience almost every single day. Which is why I often say I have the best job there is —