Winthrop’s Acting President: ‘Team Winthrop’ moving forward

08/19/2014 12:34 PM

08/20/2014 10:36 AM

“Team Winthrop is moving forward,” acting Winthrop University president Debra Boyd told the school’s faculty and staff members Tuesday morning.

“Seeing ourselves as a team asks each of us to consider our part in moving toward a shared goal,” she said, reminding her Tillman Auditorium audience that students come first at Winthrop.

Boyd’s remarks came after Winthrop Board of Trustees Chairwoman Kathy Bigham welcomed employees and assured the campus that trustees have been acting in the university’s best interests. “We’ve all been through a lot in the last couple of months,” Bigham said.

The university begins its 129th academic year less than two months after the firing of Jamie Comstock Williamson, who served as Winthrop’s 10th president for less than one year. Boyd was selected by trustees to serve as acting president on June 26.

On Tuesday, Boyd said she has heard “lots of advice” over the past several months. “I’ve also had some occasion to reflect on my own career and the careers of those with whom I’ve worked while here at Winthrop over the last three decades.”

Winthrop, she said, is like a family. But, the university needs to focus on the “team aspect of the Winthrop community.”

The university’s mission, she said, “is affected by how well we are –– or we are not –– working as a team.”

During her nearly 15-minute speech, Boyd said Winthrop’s upcoming academic year “is a year of action.”

“Not only will we be searching for a new president, but we must be willing to take a hard look at what we do, how we do it, the context in which we are working, and strategically align our actions with our mission.”

To excel, Winthrop needs to increase its student enrollment, improve its retention efforts and do more to help students graduate, Boyd said.

“The achievement of all other goals is dependent upon aligning the size of our student body with the capacity of our campus,” she said, adding that recruitment efforts will continue to draw in-state students but that Winthrop will also reach across state lines and internationally.

Boyd’s Tuesday address did not announce any major changes or new initiatives. She applauded the university’s “Global Learning Initiative” program that encourages students to study abroad and provides various ways for students to explore cultures while staying on campus.

She also noted that Winthrop will continue efforts to be a “great college to work for.” The Chronicle of Higher Education recently released the names of 92 schools that ranked the highest in its “Great Colleges to Work For” survey this year.

Winthrop did not make the list but Boyd says university officials will review the results of the survey completed by Winthrop employees and “address those items that are of most concern or interest to our staff and faculty.”

She suspects, Boyd said, that university employees would like to see more compensation and improved benefits, and the option of flexible work environments.

During her speech, Boyd also gave a nod to Winthrop geology professor Irene Boland, who recently gave $200,000 to the university to establish an endowment that will support summer research projects for students. The research grants will primarily serve full-time, undergraduate students who are interested in geology and physics.

Boland, a longtime faculty member, is a Rock Hill native and Winthrop graduate. Winthrop plans to honor Boland by naming Sims Science Building room 209 after her. She’s taught historical geology in room 209 every fall semester for the past 20 years.

Winthrop, Boyd said, is dependent on donors like Boland. “We must acknowledge that we work in an environment in which the needs of our students continue to grow, while funds for meeting those needs have not kept pace,” she said.

Boyd’s focus on students –– the university’s “customers” –– is right, Winthrop trustee Glenn McCall said on Tuesday after the opening address. Setting a tone of working as a team, he said, is a good move for Winthrop.

It’s important, he said, “for parents and the students (to know) that everyone is working for their success.”

The theme of teamwork, Bigham said, was the right message on Tuesday. She described Boyd’s remarks as uplifting and upbeat. And, she said, the audience showed a supportive atmosphere.

“Today confirmed with the faculty that we have strong leadership and we are moving forward,” Bigham said. “And we are very optimistic about this academic year.”

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