Following in the huge footsteps of the popular Dr. Carl Hite — who gave his heart and soul to the community and its higher education needs for 17 years — it would be natural to assume the new CSCC president arrives with a twinge of trepidation.
Walking onto the doormat of a legacy can be intimidating. But if he’s feeling it, Seymour certainly isn’t showing it.
We base our belief on the man’s own words. In a sit-down interview with Cleveland Daily Banner staff writer Christy Armstrong, who handles the CSCC news beat, the new Cleveland State helmsman made it clear. He is here to preserve the growing cause of community colleges and he’ll do it by nurturing the unconditional relevance of CSCC — both to the Cleveland and Bradley County area community, and to the students who rely on the two-year school for continuing education.
In an article published in the Jan. 9 edition of this newspaper, Seymour left no doubt he will rely on staff, faculty, students — and the community — to open up to him with their concerns, questions, suggestions and beliefs.
He also addressed the subject of “change,” an issue that always rests on the tips of tongues of those who will be reporting to a new leader.
“We have to plan for the future, but it’s not change for change’s sake,” Seymour told our newspaper.
As exhilarating as change can be, it also can heighten anxiety at a time when questions outnumber answers. So when change comes, it needs to be for the right reasons.
To change simply to shake up the status quo — while it can pay great dividends in the long run — can also backfire, especially when applied to a process “... that ain’t broke.”
Based on our interview, Seymour — who comes to Cleveland from a vice presidency at Jackson State Community College — plans to fully engage CSCC personnel and will look to them to help determine the college’s direction.
Consider these points the new Cleveland State president made in our front-page article:
- “Engage every student” will serve as the CSCC slogan now and in the future.
- Being “responsive” to community partnerships and education needs will be a priority. In his words, “If we’re not responsive ... we’re not doing our job.”
- Fostering relationships with area businesses and other organizations that will bridge the gap between existing practices in education and workforce demand — that is, preparing a quality pool of future employees — will remain a CSCC focus.
- “Strategic planning” for the future will involve faculty and staff. In his words, if the existing needs of education create questions, then “... we’re going to develop those answers together.”
- Unlocking the doors of workforce development by using CSCC as the key — a practice Hite sounded long and hard in the latter years — will take center stage under Seymour’s approach. “It’s something even more needed in society now,” the longtime educator told us.
Seymour made no secret of his early impressions of the local school, its personnel and the campus.
“Cleveland State is a quality place,” he said. “We received such a warm reception.”
As a veteran administrator in higher education whose in-state resume includes such notables as Maryville College, Lambuth University and Jackson State, we suspect he already had a favorable impression of CSCC. But to quote a familiar adage, sometimes “... seeing is believing.”
And now, Dr. William Seymour has seen. We trust the school’s high level of performance will continue to help him to believe.
The availability of quality education — such as that seen at Cleveland State and Lee University — should never be viewed as merely an amenity in any community. Instead, it is a mandate.
Higher education not only bridges the gaps between workforce development and workplace needs, it also builds the bridges.
We congratulate Dr. Seymour on his selection by the Tennessee Board of Regents.
We welcome him to our Cleveland and Bradley County hometown.
We encourage all to find the time, the place and the means to show their support for this trusted professional, and the fine institution which he now leads.