Tag Archives: Dr. Marrero

An Interview with the President

  Marrero Talks Spring Commencement, FYE Program and Reflects on His First Semester as President

Madison Watkins, Editor-in-Chief

Last week, the Inkwell interviewed with University President Dr. Kyle Marrero for the last time this semester, and discussed spring commencement, the FYE program, the future of this campus and his thoughts about how his first semester as president has gone. 

 

Spring Commencement

Marrero confirmed the spring commencement ceremonies for Armstrong students will be on this campus. The specifics of the ceremony like the location and time have not been decided. 

Marrero said they won’t be using the Civic Center or Convention Center as venues in the spring because they weren’t available. 

“Once the decision was made, we checked all the availability and it wasn’t available… We’re going to make the decision that’s best for students and then figure out the venues after.”

Regarding how parking may play out for those ceremonies, “So we’re talking about everything from utilizing parking here and providing shuttles or even [utilizing parking] over at the Armstrong Center… but making sure we’re getting people back and forth so they don’t have to walk it directly. So that’s what we’re looking at right now.”

 

Challenges of the Job

 While Marrero considers himself a “glass half-full” person he did admit that some of the biggest challenges of the job so far are the consolidation and budget.

“I knew consolidation obviously was going to be a challenge culturally: the distinctiveness, the value of both campuses and where they could see themselves in that. And I think the challenge is that they can see a better future than they had before post-consolidation, and that’s where the strategic plan is coming in… And I think that’s the challenge is for people to see themselves in that moving forward.”

“Budget is the second challenge; you know with the declining enrollment from the previous year and then what we’re facing from an allocation reduction… So, we’ve had to make a lot of hard decisions that both institutions haven’t had to face in recent history. My first 90 days was going through some of the largest budget reductions in the history of the institutions and I’m proud of how we did that from an efficiency and effectiveness standpoint and how we ensure the people that were in place in jobs didn’t lose their jobs, that we really focused on vacant positions and then operational efficiencies to reduce operational costs.”

 

First-Year Experience (FYE) Program 

Marrero said administration is planning on revising the FYE program. 

“We’re absolutely committed to having the different modules within the course itself, which is academic mindset, financial literacy and diversity inclusion… we want to look at that and assess and make sure that the advisors were all trained, the faculty that were teaching were trained, they went through a training module… was it perfect? No. Can we make it better? Absolutely.”

Regarding whether or not more professors will be brought in to teach the class instead of advisors, “we’re gonna assess all of that and there’s a financial component there too. You gotta understand that faculty were paid $3,000 a course to teach it… If I want any takeaway out of this is it’s I’ve been in higher education for 26 years. I’ve been at it four different institutions during that time period. I’ve seen it where advisors teach it at all and where faculty teach it all or some combination. The best practices model in some cases end up being the advisors, particularly when it’s a prescribed curriculum of onboarding freshman. Faculty are incredible at teaching when you give them academic freedom… Let’s look at it all and really assess what we need to be best for the outcome of the students.”

 

Looking To The Future

On the topic of what topic of what events to look forward to next semester, Marrero recommended three Town Hall discussions he’ll be hosting over the course of the semester. The topics will be privilege, respect and social responsibility panel discussion in December, social justice in February and gender and sexuality in March. 

 

As we close out the semester, Marrero wants us to keep in mind that we should feel thankful for the opportunity to be a family and friends. “We can never forget as part of our vision statement; ‘People, Purpose, Action: Growing ourselves to grow others’ in the community. If we want to create the optimal environment on our campus we will need to continually care for each other,  our colleagues and our students as well as provide the best environment we can.” 

 

Interview with University President Dr. Kyle Marrero

Dr. Marrero Talks: Commencement, 5-Year Plan and Inclusive Excellence Report

 

Madison Watkins, Editor-in-Chief

With October quickly approaching and a hurricane evacuation already disrupting the academic calendar, the fall semester is in full swing. With a new semester comes new updates to the university. 

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Headshot of University President Dr. Kyle Marrero Photo by Georgia Southern University.

Within the first month of classes, a new commencement plan was announced for the university. Administration announced a new strategic plan detailing how they will unite the three campuses. Lastly, the Inclusive Excellence Report on how the campus community felt (in terms of diversity) was published. 

The George-Anne Inkwell Edition sat down with University President Dr. Kyle Marrero and Director of Communications Jennifer Wise to discuss these topics. 

 

Fall Commencement

One of the first questions brought up was why isn’t the university using the Savannah Civic Center for the Armstrong campus commencement ceremony this fall. Marrero responded, “I think parking… is the issue with [the] civic center, just getting access to and into the civic center itself for those guests coming into downtown.”

On whether or not the Civic Center is an option for the Armstrong campus commencement in Spring 2020, Marrero said, “I’ll get a follow up from the committee. I think actually they’re meeting this [last] week to finalize the spring site. We’re even looking at Forsyth Park… but I don’t think it is available as of the last time we checked to do an outdoor ceremony… we should have an answer in the next week or two exactly where it’s gonna be and Civic Center is certainly still an option.”

 

Hurricane Evacuations

What happens if another hurricane is projected to hit the Chatham County area?

If a storm is projected to hit mainly Savannah, but not Statesboro or Hinesville and we have to close this campus, would just this campus be closed or will it be part of the official procedure to close the University as a whole?

“Well, we’ll always consider all options… There could be scenarios for weather-related events that only one campus would be closed while others are open,” Marrero clarified.

Marrero also stated that students will not have to make up the class days missed due to Hurricane Dorian.

“Because of the folio assignments and our ability to post [online assignments], that keeps us engaged and moving forward. We don’t want to lose another three or four days, but at this point we’re good,” he explained.

 

5-Year Plan

Next, the new strategic plan was discussed. This 5-Year plan is part of a new strategic plan to aid campus cohesion and establish the new university’s mission and vision. Some students are left wondering, “how does this help me now?” A large amount of the student body will have graduated in five years. 

“Strategically, what we know is there’s already progress in place in terms of what we’re doing to expand the student experience and what we’re doing for the programs.

There’ll be new programs as soon as next fall on this campus that’ll bring [a] new market, new student populations to this campus. 

What we’ll see… is more integration holistically with the community… and more opportunities we’re inviting Savannah and the region onto the campus. So we’ll see much more of a connection with campus and community…immediately. We [also] want to see further expansion of clubs [and] sports opportunities for students to engage in outside of class.

So, within even the time if you’re a sophomore, you’re going to start to feel that here in this next 12 to 18 months as some of these plans come to fruition,” he elaborated.

 

Inclusive Excellence Report

The next few questions discussed the Inclusive Excellence Report published by Dr. Damon Williams and his colleagues. One topic frequently discussed in the report when discussing the climate of the Armstrong campus was “the pain of consolidation.” Regarding the feelings voiced in the report and how he can make the Armstrong community feel like a part of the university as a whole,

“With the new strategic plan… it will invite and expand and provide evidence of the value added of what we are as a consolidated institution that will start to see the efforts, the wins, the opportunities that it creates regionally for us all and that’s hard right now,” he said. 

From the report, the consolidation leaves people unclear on how they will be personally affected. “That’s the real feelings that people have and how they’ve actually expressed them within a context of a survey mechanism on Diversity Inclusion. It wasn’t surprising but interesting to me that those viewpoints were shared and not necessarily in the confines or questions specific about diversity inclusion but more expressed about their feelings about consolidation still and those are real and it’s important for me to hear them, understand them, empathize and sympathize but more importantly, it’s for my job to set the vision and direction of the future and what that’ll mean their value added and why they’re still so important to the success of the institution… From the inclusion report from Dr. Damon Williams… if you looked across a constituency basis in that report of students, faculty, and staff almost across every question that you could benchmark with our Statesboro or even our Liberty campus colleagues and students and staff you would see that Armstrong had more negative perceptions in other words across the board…

I have a learning network I meet with once a month which are faculty and staff on all three campuses that are my sounding board… I posed the question to think the scores that showed a more negative perception based from the Armstrong campus on diversity inclusion issues were true to the issue of diversity inclusion or more of a reflection of just still feeling, for lack of a better term, done to on consolidation or a negative context of consolidation. 

It was an interesting dialogue because… some of those comments had nothing to do with diversity inclusion, they were more [about] how they feel and I think that was bottled up at least what I got back from my learning network was people haven’t had a chance perse in a survey mechanism to voice their concerns.” 

In February 2020,  GSU will launch the first full institutional climate and engagement survey open to every faculty and staff member. One of the recommendations in the report for the university to better itself is to lift up the strategic campus integration journey across Statesboro, Armstrong and Liberty campuses by getting senior leadership engaged in conversation about one university and one heartbeat, particularly at Armstrong. Marrero said they plan to move forward with more specific open forum town hall meetings to improve morale. 

Williams will be returning in October to evaluate the town hall meetings as feedback on the report. The George-Anne Inkwell Edition will hold monthly interviews with Marrero. If you have questions for him, send them to us at chief.inkwell@gmail.com

 

Sit Down with Dr. Kyle Marrero

Ethan Smith, News Editor

Dr. Kyle Marrero began his tenure as the 14th President of Georgia Southern and the first official President of the university since the consolidation on April 1.

Marrero garnered much praise, much of it coming from the University of West Georgia, by his actions in leading the university towards breaking records in enrollment, graduation rates, degrees earned and annual economic impact.

I got the chance to sit down with Dr. Marrero and learn more about his plans for integrating the estranged campuses under Georgia Southern University, about his thoughts on the enrollment decrease and about many other topics derived from pressing concerns of the student body.

Can you give us an introduction about who you are and what you are all about?

“I have been with the University System of Georgia since 2013 as President of UWG,” said Marrero. “Before that, I was with the University of West Florida. I thought I would do the whole west thing since I also worked with West Hawaii. I wouldn’t consider myself a likely presidential candidate since my entire background is the arts… But I love developing young people and that is what I am here at Georgia Southern to do,” he concluded.

How do you plan to unite the three campuses and make Armstrong/Liberty feel more included?

“You have to listen and know the stories at all three campuses,” he started. “You have to cast a vision across all three campuses. I want this university to be one Eagle Nation, not three,” he continued. “A strategic enrollment plan is an amazing way to do this because you have to know who you’re catering and recruiting to. Getting all three communities involved will help everything as well. Who are we? What would you say Georgia Southern is right now? It should be ‘One University. Three Campuses’, not the other way around,” he concluded.

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Dr. Marrero reads the Inkwell Edition with EIC Madison Watkins. Photo from @GeorgiaSouthern Twitter.

What specific goals do you have in mind for your first year as President?

“I instituted an Educational Collaborative Concept at UWG and it is four years into its maturity and I plan on bringing it here to GSU,” said Marrero. “It brings together all facets of education including technical college, K-12 and higher education… allowing students to explore career opportunities in 9th grade and allowing them to see the campuses early on is instrumental,” he continued. “Allowing students to make active choices for their life is key to success and I plan on making that a goal in year one,” he concluded.

How do you plan on fixing the decreasing enrollment issue?

“An immediate issue is that less enrollment causes financial issues which hinders us from improving things at the university,” he began. “We need to be open about the enrollment issue and realize that it is a problem. Having a budget deficit of $15 million on July 1 is striking, but we are going to make decisions and a promise to our students to process how we can increase enrollment. To make sure this doesn’t happen again, putting strategic plans in place will prevent that from happening,” he concluded.

What would you say to students who wanted to graduate as an Armstrong Pirate and not a Georgia Southern Eagle?

“I have empathy and sympathy. I was not directly here so that is what I can provide,” he started. “It is not fair to me or anyone not directly involved to criticize the consolidation decision. What GSU is trying to achieve through the consolidation is a unified vision. Most major colleges have college-based graduations and a big ceremony and that is what we are doing in the Spring,” he continued. “Change and new traditions are hard. Now that I am here, I promise the students that we will look at the graduation formula and assess it in the summer. My guess is that some of the graduation will be really cool and some of it can be improved,” he concluded.

So, you have a strong relationship with the Arts, how do you plan on making arts programs become more integrated with student life?

“The arts are a lot like athletics. Three years at West Georgia, I missed three football games. Much like athletics, the arts bring the community together. Connection to community is key. Elevating the arts, especially here on the Armstrong campus, will be instrumental to bringing not only the students together, but the entire Savannah community.”

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Dr. Kyle Marrero speaking with students from the Statesboro campus. Photo from @GeorgiaSouthern Twitter.

How much time do you plan on spending at the Armstrong campus on a regular basis?

“My goal is that I hope students think I have the superpower of transporting,” he began. “I want to feel like I am in two places at once. I want the students to know that I am present as much as humanly possible. My family and I are actually looking for a place in the Historic District of Savannah because I want to be here,” he continued. “I want to be back-and-forth as much as possible. I am going to be in Savannah as much as I am in Statesboro and Hinesville. An Eagle can fly 220 miles in one day without stopping and all three GSU campuses are about 220 miles away from each other in a full circle, fancy that,” he concluded.

Greek Life has hit a considerable detour since the consolidation. What is your standpoint on Greek Life being on both campuses?

“That is the first time someone has asked me about that problem. Greek Life is critically important,” he started. “It helps build friendships for life. The university’s biggest donors usually come from Greek Life. It is important that Greek Life has a positive impact on students and the families they are a part of. It is an interesting time for Greek Life because it has been at most of an attack it has ever been. We want to ensure Greek Life on both campuses is feeding positivity into the university,” he concluded.

Athletics were basically stripped away from the Armstrong Campus a few years ago, is there anyway athletics can play more of a part in student life here in Savannah?

“The baseball game at Grayson Stadium is an amazing example of how we can get athletics more involved in Savannah. Making that connection means having events in Savannah, streaming for games away from Savannah and locations to watch games,” he continued. “Intramurals can be a huge part of that on the Armstrong campus. I do not want to see the athletic fields and courts begin to fade away. They need to be used. We have an incredible opportunity to involve local schools with camps and get them on this campus at a young age. Competitive collegiate athletics can’t be duplicated but we can try to come as close as possible to it as we can,” he concluded.

Anything else you would like to add or say to the student body?

“I am excited to be here and be a part of the Eagle Nation and one Georgia Southern,” he started. “I want to know the stories and experiences of every student and see and feel the value of being a part of an amazing institution. I want to hear the heartbeat of the student and allow them to know its real. I need to be present for the students and be accessible. I don’t just want to sit in my office. I want the students to know that I am their president and that I am here for them,” he concluded.

President Marrero is already becoming a prominent and engaged member of Eagle Nation and has made his presence felt in such a short amount of time. The successes from his past endeavors are what qualifies him to lead this institution through this unification process, and his tenure as president will is likely to be long and fortuitous for the university.