Brian Noland originally wanted to become a teacher, but the twists and turns of his career have led him to be one of three finalists for the presidency of East Tennessee State University.
“I didn’t get into this business to be a college president,” he said in a school staff forum Thursday. “I didn’t get into this business to be a chancellor. I got into it to be a faculty member.”
Noland, chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, visited the campus of ETSU Thursday for campus forums and a community reception. He was one of three finalists selected from 49 applicants to succeed Dr. Paul E. Stanton Jr. as ETSU’s next president. Stanton will retire in January.
Originally from Sterling, Va., Noland worked at the Tennessee Higher Education Commission from 1998 until 2006 as the assistant director of academic programs, director of academic affairs and the associate executive director. While at THEC, he helped develop and implement the Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship program. He went to West Virginia from THEC.
Most of the questions Noland fielded from the various university constituencies during Thursday’s forums, which began at 8:45 a.m and continued all day, were asked of Robert Frank on Wednesday. Frank, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Kent State University in Ohio, attended campus forums and a reception Wednesday.
Throughout the presidential search process, the argument that salaries are too low at ETSU has been discussed. According to an internal study, ETSU’s salaries for faculty are last in the nation. School staff said they face the same situation with pay.
Noland said ETSU was fortunate, though, in that employees there have not been furloughed or experienced layoffs. Many schools have had to reduce their employees to deal with continuing budget reversions from state governments.
Still, salaries could be improved, he said.
“We’ve got to look at diversifying our revenues,” he said in the morning staff forum. “State support may improve a little but it’s never going to be where it was.”
He suggested fundraising, grants, contracts and the recruitment of out-of-state and international students as ways to increase revenue to help increase salaries. Students who are not residents of Tennessee pay more tuition.
Asked by Margaret Miller, director of ETSU’s financial aid office, if Noland would continue his policy of listening to knowledgeable faculty and staff to make decisions as he did when he worked at THEC and sought her advice on financial aid issues as it related to the lottery scholarship, he said he would.
“You got to listen to the boots in the field,” he said. “Administrators have all kinds of crazy ideas,” adding that didn’t always make those good ideas.
He said he would not only solicit input directly, but encouraged everyone to contact him.
“I have an open-door policy,” he said. “I have an open-email policy.”
Just like Frank, Noland too was asked about whether he would entertain the return of the football program to ETSU. That program was eliminated in 2003, because it was losing money.
Noland said any discussion of football should involve campus and community.
“I need to see the feasibility study,” Noland said. “I need to get a sense of the cost. We can do anything if there’s community support.”
Noland was asked about encouraging diversity on campus in the staff, student and faculty forums. He said diversity on campus is paramount to what a college environment is. Diversity includes having varied races of students and faculty, students from other nations, veterans, non-traditional students and others who bring a broad range of views and experiences to the campus.
“Diversity underlays every aspect of the university,” Noland said.
During the faculty forum a question was raised about the perception that Noland has limited understanding of faculty life.
He responded by saying he taught several courses while trying to author several papers in one semester and also worked on a revision to a paper he had previously submitted, so he understands the nature and pressures of faculty work.
The first question asked of Noland in the first student forum Thursday was about his approach to involving students in administration.
He again referenced his open-door policy and said he wanted to meet students as much as possible.
“I want to get out around campus,” Noland said. “I want to play ball in the Basler Center” for Physical Activity.
One more candidate has been invited to the campus for forums, community tours and a reception: Sandra Patterson-Randles, president of Indiana University Southeast. She will be on campus today.
Following Patterson-Randles visit, Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan will meet or speak privately with members of the local search committee who selected the finalists to glean their thoughts on her, Noland and Frank.
He will use that information to recommend one candidate to the full Board for acceptance or rejection.