The Wichitan

Rogers committed to education, students, innovation

Brianna Sheen

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Although University President Jesse Rogers’ job title has changed and his responsibility has grown over the course of his 48 years of service at MSU, his professional ideals have remained the same, rooted in his academic background and devotion to his students.

COMMITMENT TO EDUCATION

Jesse Rogeres delivers the closing remarks at Midwestern State University graduation, May 10, 2014. Photo by Ethan Metcalf

Jesse Rogers delivers the closing remarks at Midwestern State University graduation, May 10, 2014. Photo by Ethan Metcalf

Rogers’ professional beginnings as a chemistry and physics professor have had a lasting impression on him and he said he’s never stopped missing his teaching days.

“I’ve not ever quit missing getting to know students like I did when I taught them,” Rogers said. “I will always cherish those years and certainly I will always miss teaching.”

Teaching, according to Rogers, carries a responsibility to the students.

“Your job is to make sure they’re being taught well and that you’re being rigorous and competitive,” Rogers said. “There’s a lot of integrity involved in dealing with your students.”

Rogers’ commitment to education followed him up the ranks and the philosophy has expanded over time.

“Don’t ever pass up an opportunity to learn something because you don’t know when you’re going to need to talk to someone about it,” Rogers said. “You don’t know when you’re going to need to use it in your job and I think that’s particularly true of the world today.”

Although Rogers hasn’t had the opportunity to teach since 2000, his obligation to quality education now manifests itself in decisions regarding school curriculum.

“An overriding concern is rigor and relevance of our curriculum,” said Rogers. “I’ve never had a student come back and say ‘I didn’t learn enough here.’ To the contrary, I’ve had so many come back and say ‘I went to graduate school with people from some of the best elite schools and I was scared to death I wouldn’t know enough. We used the same books in school. We knew the same things. I learned as much as my friend from Harvard.’ That makes me feel good. We are that good.”

Rogers said, he never planned to become university president but it’s a job he enjoys just as much as teaching.

“I sure didn’t set out to be a university president,” Rogers said. “There are a lot of constituencies and a lot of responsibilities. But it is also a very rewarding job. When I shake your hand when you walk across that stage, I can see what this institution is doing and know that I along with the deans and faculty and other vice presidents had a lot to do with young lives. It is a stressful job but it’s the most rewarding job probably that I’ve ever had. Certainly equal to being a professor.”

Rogers’ concern for the students is prevalent in more than just his words, according to those who have worked closely with him.

“At the end of the day, one of his strengths is he’s never lost contact with the students,” said Howard Farrell, vice president of university advancement and public affairs.

According to Farrell, who said he has worked with Rogers for close to 30 years, once at an event he and Rogers attended, a parent asked Rogers what he did at the university and Rogers said he was a chemistry teacher.

“He could’ve said ‘I’m this,’ ‘I’m that,’ all the titles, and he didn’t do that,” Farrell said.

 Jesse Rogers helped at the Sikes Lake cleanup Sept. 5, 2014. Photo by Bradley Wilson

Jesse Rogers helped at the Sikes Lake cleanup Sept. 5, 2014. Photo by Bradley Wilson

Rebecca Stogner, 2014-2015 president of the Student Government Association, said, “He’s genuinely interested in the students and so I was able to take pride in the things that I do because he’s genuine and he cared and he listened and he remembered.”

Rogers said he frequently visits with SGA to get the students’ perspective on potential changes to the university.

“I enjoy talking to student government,” Rogers said. “I would never take anything to the Board of Regents that dealt with your cost of this institution or the quality of it without talking to student government.”

As SGA president, Stogner confirmed Rogers’ numerous appearances at their meetings.

“I love how he’s constantly opening up his office, having me or the executive board come in and talk to him,” Stogner said. “He speaks with us on numerous occasions about things that they’re thinking of doing at the university and he gets our opinion before anything is done.”

Stogner said Rogers’ frequent appearances at SGA meetings are a reflection of his character.

“As a student and as SGA president, I really appreciate that because he doesn’t have to do any of that, he’s choosing to, and I think that speaks volumes about his character,” Stogner said.

Rogers’ involvement with the students does not stop at Student Government Association. Rogers said he makes it a point to show support to students at sports events.

“I’ll go down on the field after a football game; I’ll go down on the court after a basketball game,” Rogers said. “I don’t want to steal their thunder but I want those young people to know that I know that they’re working really hard. I’ll walk by the band and give them a thumbs-up to let them know that I’m proud of them. There’s so many opportunities to support people.”

RESPONSIBILITY TO STUDENTS

Rogers said the most important job for the new president will be getting to know the students.

“It can’t be done overnight,” Rogers said. “Get out there. Walk across the campus. Talk to the students, ask them about their major. ‘How are things going? What do you want to tell me? What do we need to do to improve this place?’”

According to Rogers, some of his favorite memories are when his former students come back to see him.

“When they come by and tell me that somehow I’ve made a difference in their life, I feel like I’ve lived my life well,” Rogers said. “I promise you, as young people you will have that opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives and you do it in many different ways.”

CATALYST FOR CHANGE

 Jesse Rogers gives opening remarks about funding and the legislative session in Shawnee Theater Oct. 14, 2014. Photos by Lauren Roberts

Jesse Rogers gives opening remarks about funding and the legislative session in Shawnee Theater Oct. 14, 2014. Photos by Lauren Roberts

Stogner said that Rogers has made a difference at MSU in various ways.

“I admire how he puts himself out there to be visible presence and how he has relationships that keep this university thriving due to his fundraising capability,” Stogner said. “It comes with age and experience and I think that Dr. Rogers has been an incredible leader on this campus.”

Like Stogner, Farrell also said that Rogers’ leadership skills have bolstered MSU.

“There’s so many dramatic things that have happened and even though that takes a whole host of people working to make something like this a success, you always need the leadership that is crucial to a successful undertaking and Dr. Rogers has provided that,” Farrell said.

Stogner said, “He is one of the best leaders I have ever seen and as an individual who has those kinds of ambitions, I would aspire to be like him. He has surpassed all expectations I had of dealing with a university president.”

In addition to being a successful leader, Rogers has also been described as a catalyst for change. During his presidency, MSU has become a Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges, and the Dillard College of Business received a new building and gained the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business accreditation, putting it in the top 5 percent of business schools worldwide, among other changes.

“A lot of the major things – from buildings to programs to services to activities to reputation – he’s had a huge part in making those things possible,” Farrell said. “That’s going to leave quite a legacy for him. As a catalyst for change, I think he really pointed this institution into the future; we can look across the street and see Dillard, and of course their international accreditation AASCB.”

Under Rogers, MSU also became the only Texas COPLAC school, the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges. Rogers said he shares the COPLAC philosophy of expanded learning.

“I love the philosophy of the COPLAC schools,” Rogers said. “They turn out a lot of professional students. COPLAC expresses an attitude toward broad based learning.”

In addition to supporting a liberal arts education, Rogers said he thinks it’s important to keep the curriculum relevant.

“I want to be sure we’re teaching the right things,” Rogers said. “A major obligation of the university is to turn loose of those things that no longer are of use, aren’t relevant artistically, aren’t of use scientifically, and move on to those things that are.”

As an example of this ideal, Rogers cited the recent changes made to the curriculum.

“We just put in the curriculum the other day a minor in gender studies,” Rogers said. “What are the major issues facing us today? What about inclusion of everyone in our economy and our life? 65 percent of our college graduates and our college attending students are women.”

Farrell said Rogers’ contributions to MSU are more than equitable to his time as president.

“The dramatic things that Dr. Rogers has done far supersede his tenure here,” Farrell said. “In a very short amount of time, he’s accomplished incredible types of things. He has that ability to take a very challenging occupation – the university president – and do a lot of really incredible things that always enhance the academic integrity.”

As Rogers’ time as president comes to a close this August, he said he never wanted to take jobs at other schools, despite offers.

“I wanted to teach and do research and write and be with my students,” Rogers said. “And actually I’ve had opportunities to take jobs at other places, at other universities, but it just never seemed right. I never really wanted to leave because always something new was happening. Every freshman class was different.”

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