Editor-in-Chief Lexy Gross had the opportunity to talk to incoming President Robert Davies Wednesday afternoon. Gross asked him about his new position, his expectations and his immediate reactions.
Lexy Gross: How has your day gone so far?
Robert Davies: We drove yesterday afternoon with members of the board and my wife. We went through Murray and visited a few places. As you know my daughter is really into horses so we went to the Equine Center and they gave us just an amazing tour. We spent about two hours out there and really had a great time.
We drove to Nashville, Tenn., and found out our plane was delayed. We knew the board was meeting at 2 p.m. and as soon as the wheels touched down I got a call. The plane steward looked at me, knowing my phone was ringing, and so I didn’t answer it the first time.
I got a call again, I took it that time, since we had completely landed, and it was board Chairman Constantine Curris and he said the words I was dying to hear. I got choked up and said yes, although I barely got it out.
So I started making phone calls to people back in La Grande, Oreg. I called key people I wanted to thank before all of it came through; I was just going crazy. Then my email started clogging up with notes from people welcoming to Murray. My Twitter account even got a spike in new followers.
So we took off and were in the air for another half hour … when we landed I turned on my phone again and had 72 emails and so many messages, congratulating me and welcoming me to the Murray community.
Talking to people from Murray State has been fantastic.
LG: How was your visit at Murray State?
RD: Monday I got the chance to talk to students ¬– I went over to Winslow Dining Hall and snuck into the Wellness Center and got a tour from Shelby. We met with people at the front desk, met other students asked questions and had lunch with students as well. Then I went through the interview process.
They always say to be yourself and I don’t know how else to be. You just get that sense of connection that’s very positive at Murray State. I just had a blast at the open forum getting and answering questions. I had a very solid meeting with the board Tuesday and they gave me razor-sharp questions. I thoroughly enjoyed the process.
LG: What will be your first steps at Murray State?
RD: I want to meet with people, meet with faculty, staff and students and community members. One things I’ll be thinking about during the next two weeks is developing a transition team, who should help me with that from different constituencies. I would like to make one or two more trips back to Murray before we start.
I’m in the discovery phase – I’m trying to figure out those intangible elements that make Murray State such a special place. What will enhance our academic quality? That takes time, it’s not something you can rush through but you have to move through the groups, defining what we need to do short term and long term. We have to figure out how to deal with the challenges that face us, changing demographics, realities and new technology.
Across the campus, one thing I picked up over the visit, is the transparency and inclusion. We need formal structures to make that happen, those are the things that speak out.
LG: How are members of the Eastern Oregon University community reacting to this change in presidency?
RD: I’ve gotten many emails saying they are very sorry I’m going and giving me well wishes. The neat thing is that a lot of people have pointed out very specific things I’ve accomplished over the last five years.
A custodian said I always made him feel like a president by stopping and talking to him. People are saying they appreciated that I went beyond just the faculty senate and included staff and students.
The student body president talked about working with the presidential search committee and how I interacted with her and Student government. A lot of people are sad I’m going and its hard, our family loves EOU, but the opportunities at Murray State are just incredible.