Updated: Jul 30
The Flyer interviewed incoming Salisbury University President Carolyn Ringer Lepre May 3 regarding her values, background and vision for the university’s future:
Q: What is your vision for SU?
A: I think I’m coming in at a wonderful, wonderful time. There is a strategic plan President Wight has put together with a whole host of different people at the institution, and I see just so much good in that plan … in terms of academic excellence, diversity and inclusion, raising the brand reputation and the identity and profile of the institution. I’m looking forward to learning from different community members … and bringing my own ideas and experience to help move those initiatives forward.
Q: Have you identified any challenges on campus?
A: I think there are challenges with diversity and inclusion on every campus. While I don’t have anything in particular to highlight right this minute, I know I have yet to meet a community where there isn’t more work to do … One of the reasons I love being in higher education is we’re always in a state of continual improvement, we always want to go from good to great … I think there are a lot of great things we can do. I’ll go back to the word “celebrate”. I think celebrating difference is one of the critical things a university can do ... It’s not about telling people what to think, it’s about showing how extraordinary all this difference is, and that’s something I think everybody can appreciate.
Q: I understand you have a background in English, journalism and communication. How has this influenced you as an administrator?
A: I am thankful that was where my path has led me—down that sort of journalism, mass communication route. I don’t think there’s an industry you could go into where being a good communicator, being able to write, is … [undervalued]. It makes doing any job, certainly this one, maybe easier because you have that background of getting information in, synthesizing and figuring out how to communicate it out … I think that skillset has served me well.
Q: What are some things you would want students to know about you?
A: I hope they know that I am here. At the end of the day, I work for you, and I want to make sure you are succeeding in whatever ways you define success. When I think about the world today, I have twin 19-year-olds who are in college, and I think about their mindset and their desire to solve so many of the huge problems that are facing us as a society, it makes me excited to come and learn about what is it you need? And how can I help you get it? ... I want students to know I hope I get to know all of them, and I hope to learn.
Q: Are there any plans for future programs or collaborations for SU?
A: I think it’s too soon to tell. I want to make sure I am listening first ... What works at one university is not necessarily appropriate or makes sense for another university. While I have lots of ideas, and I certainly do, they might not be the right choice and there might be a better idea … because I haven’t done enough of that learning yet. There’s more to come.
Q: Are there any goals for the relationship between SU and the Salisbury community?
A: Yes. That’s one of the things that attracted me to this opportunity; the idea that we are sitting in our namesake city, and we are intricately involved. If we can provide access to the community to all the amazing resources the university has, whether it’s athletic events, theater, art exhibits [or] lectures, sharing with the community is key. And vice versa: let’s learn from the community, what are their needs? And can we help with workforce development? ... Anytime we can have that integration, it makes us so much stronger.
Q: Do you plan to teach?
A: I would love to teach. I’ve taught many different things writing, editing, design, media diversity courses [and] research methods … I’d love to have that conversation—it’s the very beginning of all this, but I would welcome the opportunity to be back in the classroom.
Q: Is there anything fun you’re looking forward to?
A: Absolutely. We [Lepre's family] are definitely beach people. I’ve never actually been to Ocean City; I know that that’s probably crazy. We’ve never been there before, but we’re looking forward to learning about the history of the region. I hear I have to go out and get some crabs … But we’re really looking forward to getting to know the local communities and experience the shore and the different things there are to see and do.
By OLIVIA BALLMANN
Photo courtesy of Salisbury University Public Relations