JA19 web - Page 47



WRIGHT Like many universities, sports are important at
Georgia Southern, but how do you ensure that the focus
remains on learning and graduating students?
MARRERO Sports are a key brand attribute for many col-
leges and universities, including Georgia Southern. Sports
connect people with academic institutions, and they play
a very important role in maintaining awareness of institutional brands. They attract student-athletes, many of
whom are also good students, who must ensure they balance their focus on academics with athletics. We are
proud to say that our student-athletes have higher graduation rates than non-athletes. Sports can keep alumni
engaged which can have a positive impact on fundraising
programs that support sports programs— and academics.
WRIGHT As a society, have we over-emphasized higher
education as a requirement for success, thus alienating
students who are better served in technical schools,
which provide skills and hands-on learning opportunities— and employment opportunities that better fit their
interests and abilities?
efits of four-year degree, I know is not for everyone. In
West Georgia, our K-12 partners, the technical college,
Chamber of Commerce and others set a goal to identify
options that could help us ensure every 18-year-old was
aware of opportunities to be employed, in college, or
aware of trade schools and the work opportunities their
training offers, such as welding, HVAC, truck driving and
others, or enlisted, choosing a career in the military. A
young person with a welding certificate can earn $60,000
a year. We emphasized the need for young people to learn
about opportunities, make a choice, and set a goal, thus
shortening the time it takes them to find a job, and to the
extent we can, emphasize their need to have a plan.
MARRERO This is a question we hear from parents, educa-
WRIGHT You grew up in a musical and theatrical family,
tors, and community leaders. It starts with the questions,
“What opportunities do four-year degrees offer our students? And what other opportunities are available that
they can consider?” Although I certainly support the ben-
have experience as a classical musician and opera singer,
and your degrees are in music, vocal performance, and
include a bachelor’s and a master’s from Bowling Green
State University in Ohio, and a Doctor of Musical Arts
from the University of Michigan. How has music shaped
your life?
MARRERO It doesn’t seem obvious. Opera singer to univer-
sity president. Yes, we have asked, “How did we get
here?” In the arts, we were always underfunded, so we
had to work hard at it, and make every dollar work hard.
I’ve found that leading people, whether in arts or administration of a University, requires the same skillsets,
including vision, communication, strategy, results, and
performance. Leaders are criticized at every turn. You
must have thick skin and collaborate with others to get
something done. You cannot be an effective performer, or
perform effectively, by yourself. Those are the ideals that
propelled me to be an effective leader.
WRIGHT What does your family think about moving to
Statesboro?
MARRERO We embrace Statesboro. It’s a social environ-
46
JAMES
J U LY / A U G U S T 2 0 1 9
ment and we like that. We’re going to get a second place
in Savannah which will provide opportunities to spend
time at our Armstrong and Liberty locations. It will also
provide opportunities for my wife and I to enjoy the arts
in Savannah. Savannah also represents an important economic asset to the state of Georgia, with its ports, and
Information Technology Incubators. And for Georgia
Southern, it can elevate our research talent, our hospitality management program, and connect us with healthcare
providers through our nursing program.
I
n an era of heightened political
divide, leaders in the higher education profession nd themselves walking a ne line in attempting to remain apolitical. The political divide continues to widen
between many who make large
contributions to their favorite
schools, and those voices of public
opinion emanating from the ranks
of academe and the student body.
It struck me during my own 25year tenure in higher education how
some university administrators willingly
condoned a restriction of free speech. Some
public speakers were approved because their political
views were closely related to those among the faculty
and student activists. However, other speakers were
banned, boycotted, harassed or cancelled if their views
weren’t in sync with the same groups.
Higher education should be a forum where differing
opinions are welcomed, debated and yet respected. Not
vilied or restricted.
The late Dr. Henry King Stanford, president emeritus
of the University of Georgia and the University of
Miami, liked to state, “The mission of a college or university is to arouse the curiosity of their students, helping them learn how to ask questions. It is not to tell
them what to think, but to teach them how to think for
themselves.” Stanford continued, “The role of higher
education is not to open up a student’s head and pour
in the knowledge. The role is to encourage them to seek
the knowledge for themselves.”
I recently read the biography of a founder of one of
Georgia’s private colleges. It appeared clear that that this
person clearly had both feet on the “right side” of the
political fence. I couldn’t help but wonder, “What would
they think about “Safe Spaces” and “counseling services
for students who were traumatized by the 2016 presidential election.
Really? Have we reached a point in American society
where college students need professional counseling as
a result of a presidential election? Shouldn’t we be
teaching them to face life’s challenges, rather than cod-
dle them when things don’t go their way?
People don’t receive participation trophies in the game of life.
College should be a formative
time when young men and women
grow up, learn to face life’s challenges, and mature into adults.
Sometimes in life, your team
wins—sometimes they lose.
Instead, some in higher education
seem to be playing the role of indoctrinator and babysitter.
Regardless of your political position, I’ve always believed that politics and
continued on 48
J U LY / A U G U S T 2 0 1 9
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