A new university president: first impressions go both ways

Samuel Sutton

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Charlie Carr, athlectic director, and Suzanne Shipley, Midwestern State University president, throw up the "stang sign" while the band performs the alma mater during the end of Eastern New Mexico University vs. MSU game at AT&T Stadium, Sept. 19. Photo by Francisco Martinez

Charlie Carr, athlectic director, and Suzanne Shipley, Midwestern State University president, throw up the “stang sign” while the band performs the alma mater during the end of Eastern New Mexico University vs. MSU game at AT&T Stadium, Sept. 19. Photo by Francisco Martinez

In her first six weeks as president, Suzanne Shipley has not had much time to sit still.

In between constant meetings with administrators, alumni and prospective donors, she is learning the MSU lifestyle and even building a social media presence in a town close to her roots.

“Everybody has been so nice to me, and it’s made it easier to adjust to the new campus,” she said. “Another thing that I like is the city of Wichita Falls. I like that my husband and I can go out and find somewhere to eat pretty quickly,” she added.

And the students have noticed her presence around campus, eating in the dining hall and attending events, from convocation to football games.

“Instead having the students come to her, she goes to the students,” said Megan Piehler, student regent and junior in mass communication.

To get to know the students, something she said she wasn’t able to do as much as she wanted to at her previous job, one of the first official events she held was a picnic at her home — the Sikes House — Aug. 31

“The picnic was a really neat thing. She walked right up and talked to us,” Piehler said.

Social media

She has also become involved through the use of social networks, including Twitter, @shipleysuzanne1.

“I’ve found that Twitter works as sort of a vehicle for connecting with students. I’ve learned how to tag other students, and how to post pictures as well,” Shipley said.

On her profile, she posts pictures with students, and tweets about her time here.

“She tries to get rid of the ‘president’ persona so that she can relate to the students,” Piehler said.

Shipley admitted that previously she wasn’t very interested in Twitter, saying that she felt it was a lot like her email.

“I’d have to read every post, and comment on them. When I found out that wasn’t the case, and learned about what it was, I couldn’t to join in,” she added.

In addition to using Twitter, Shipley uses short video clips – “Mustangs Minutes” — posted to the university’s website.

In her first post, she introduced herself to the community from inside her home.

In her second and third posts, she talked about the undergraduate research program. She talked to two undergraduates and two project managers about how the program works and what benefits that they required from it. Doing this, she was able to learn more about one of our most popular educational programs so that she can have an easier time completing her goals.

In her fourth post she walked around campus talking to students about the first week of school. Students got to see her outspoken personality. She toured the student center and interviewed six students, asking them about their first week of classes, helping her connect with some of the students while learning about the atmosphere of the campus.

Vision

English Assistant Professor Todd Giles said “I am very excited about Dr. Shipley’s vision for moving MSU further along the path of our liberal arts and sciences mission. Her hands-on approach to leadership and public support of our COPLAC (Council of Public Liberal Arts College) mission and the institution of a new first-year seminar are much needed and appreciated.”

Shipley, a former president of COPLAC, has helped that organization raise more than $25 million for the foundation and she wants to help MSU grow as well.

She said her plans for this campus are to expand its name in places like Fort Worth and to expand internationally including encouraging students from the Caribbean and Hispanic students, noting that one-fourth of incoming students are Hispanic.

“I am very fascinated with Caribbean students. They have a lot of stories, and they bring a lot of diversity to the campus.”

While she wants the school to get bigger, she said she doesn’t want it to be too big because size can be intimidating to incoming students.

“One of the many things that I want to do is to make this campus grow through the years. I want a gradual, but significant growth,” she said. 

She also talked about changing up the campus a little bit.

“I love the campus so far. I think we can add more on to it so that it would attract more students to come here,” she said.

She also wrote that there would be a lot of change on the campus, talking about the addition of a new residence hall as well as the new food services here.

“I like the new food services a lot,” said Becca Rhone, a special education junior. “Having these options made me actually want to get a meal plan this year.”

History

Shipley spent almost her entire life on a college campus. Her mother worked as a professor at Texas Tech, and she would bring her along with her from time to time. She even learned how to swim at the school’s public pool.

One thing that she said was that she always wanted to work at this campus.

“I’m from Texas, and ever since I started my career, I’ve never been back. When this opportunity came up, I jumped right at it, and I was so glad that they let me run,” she said.

Shipley attended Texas Tech in her college years, and earned both a bachelor’s, and master’s degree in German. She also participated in campus athletics and learned  the importance of being socially involved on campus. She began her academic career at the University of Cincinnati, where she worked as the director of the Honors Program. She worked at Arizona State and eventually at Northern Arizona University where she served as dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, then headed to Maryland to be the president for Academic Affairs and the dean of faculty at Notre Dame of Maryland University.

In 2007, she became president of Shepherd University in West Virginia, where she spent seven years preparing students to make a dent in society with liberal arts concepts, hands-on experience and critical skills.

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