ROCK HILL — If Winthrop presidential finalist Ulysses Hammond is named the universitys next leader, he said it would be like coming back to his roots.
Hammonds desire for Winthrops top job, he said, is very personal as well as professional for me.
His parents and grandparents grew up in Lancaster County, and his mother earned a teaching certificate from Rock Hills Clinton Junior College in 1942.
The oldest of nine children, Hammond grew up in Washington, D.C., and spent his summers in South Carolina, he said.
Im very familiar with the area and familiar with the culture as well, Hammond said Tuesday as he wrapped up his three-day campus visit.
He hasnt taken the traditional route of a higher education degree, Hammond told faculty members on Tuesday.
He earned a bachelors degree in political science at Kenyon College in Ohio and has a masters degree in public administration and a juris doctorate from Wayne State University Law School in Michigan.
In Washington, Hammond made history as the first black person to run a federal appellate and general jurisdiction court.
While I was a judicial administrator, I never ever lost my connection with higher ed, he said. Thats when I was working as a volunteer at Kenyon College.
He served on Kenyons board of trustees, alumni council and fundraising team for 11 years combined.
At Connecticut College, hes spent more than a decade as the schools vice president for administration.
A head hunter called him in 2000, he said, inviting him to apply for the colleges new role over administration.
He took over during a tough financial situation, he said, and helped the university build ties to the area.
The concept of building a college town in New London, Conn., he said, is similar to Winthrops partnership with Rock Hill under the college town action plan.
Although he has the best job at Connecticut College, Hammond said, he wants to lead Winthrop by heightening its national profile.
A Hammond administration, he said, would be a student-centered one.
He said he doesnt plan on charting Winthrop into new territory, saying, Winthrop already has a vision.
His goal, he said, would be to help the community actualize its goals and find new resources to support the school.
On academic issues and faculty governance, Hammond said hed listen closely to faculty leadership.
Listening to faculty comes naturally for Hammond both on his campus and at home, he said.
Hammonds wife, Christine, is a tenured English professor at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, Conn.
He and his wife come as a team, Hammond said.
Hammond spoke Tuesday about issues in higher education and what he would do as president at Winthrop:
Should Winthrop have a football team?
I am definitely open to this course and discussions on football at Winthrop University, Hammond said.
In college, Hammond was a student-athlete and played basketball for two years and ran track for four years. Athletics, he said, play a key role in student development whether the sport is competitive or played at the intramural or club level.
During his Winthrop visit, Hammond said he got an earful about football from students. Some students felt that football would detract from the support of other athletics and activities at Winthrop, he said.
Other students felt an Eagle football team could be perhaps a catalyst for greater spirit on campus, he said.
Based on the universitys football feasibility study from a few years ago, Hammond said, establishing the sport would be very expensive.
I think it would be really prudent for us to not only have that discussion but to have that discussion in the context of whether, in fact, (football) can be self-sustaining. I think its going to be important that it be self-sustaining.
If Winthrop could obtain a financial endowment for a football program, he said, that would be positive for the school.
Hed consider football, Hammond said, as long as it didnt have a negative impact on academic programs.
How important are liberal arts, cultural events and the arts?
Hammond views the arts as an essential part of Winthrops liberal arts curriculum, he said.
During his visit, he said, students told him they wanted more emphasis on Winthrops arts and culture in the community.
Student and faculty arts, Hammond said, can be used to connect with the greater community and improve the universitys development goals.
It helps others understand the Winthrop way, he said.
How can Winthrop recruit and retain more minority faculty members and students?
Hammond proposes using strategies at Winthrop that have worked at Connecticut College to boost the number of minority faculty members at the school.
His college recently received a $4.7 million grant to work in a consortium with Middlebury College in Vermont and Williams College in Massachusetts. The partnerships bring minority post-doctoral candidates to experience the culture, to experience the academic rigor of our institutions and then hopefully to actually become members of our faculty, he said.
He is a proponent of active recruitment something that has helped Connecticut College raise its minority faculty representation to 24 percent.
At Winthrop, just less than 12 percent of the 508 part-time and full-time faculty members are members of a minority group, according to statistics from 2011 and 2012 on the schools website.
Connecticut College is concentrating on staff and faculty diversity, he said, and has been successful now almost being one of the leaders in the nation, relative to diversity of faculty.
Boosting minority representation, he said, has been done without any negative impact on the quality of our faculty.
Winthrops student minority enrollment is higher than Connecticut Colleges minority representation.
At Winthrop, 31 percent of students are minorities; 28 percent are African-American students.
When Hammond arrived at Connecticut College, its overall minority student percentage was lower than Winthrops with 4 percent African-American students.
What do you think about Gov. Nikki Haleys plan to allocate taxpayer dollars to universities based on a colleges performance?
Winthrop has always been an assessment-based institution, Hammond said.
New statewide measurements arent something Winthrop should be afraid of, but the university must be at the table, he said, when the standards are defined.
Haleys plan would base the amount of taxpayer support that universities receive on four criteria: graduation rates, percentage of in-state students the school serves, contribution to the states economic development and rate of job placement for graduates.
Winthrops student completion and retention rates are strong, Hammond said.
You can always improve in those areas. And that would be one of the areas I would be very much involved in.
I have no doubt in my mind (Winthrop) would fair well with respect to any accountability program that might be established.
If chosen as Winthrops president, how long would you stay?
Well, I dont think Ill try and break the record Ill put it that way, he said with a laugh, referring to the longevity of Winthrops outgoing president Anthony DiGiorgio.
DiGiorgio will end his tenure in June after 24 years as the universitys executive officer. Hes the longest-serving president at any S.C. public university.
Ive always been known as someone who is goal-oriented, who basically sets goals and I complete them, Hammond said.
He wants to create short- and long-term goals for Winthrop and then just get the job done and get it done right.
Anna Douglas • 803-329-4068