It’s been a whirlwind of a day for NC State chancellor-elect Randy Woodson, one that began with his nomination and acceptance as the 14th chancellor in university history, setting off a sequence of meetings, introductions and celebrations both on and off campus to help welcome Woodson and his family to Raleigh.
And on both a personal and professional level, he couldn’t envision a more perfect opportunity, said Woodson, who will leave behind a 25-year career at Purdue University to step into the NC State chancellorship.
“I am proud to be part of the Wolfpack Nation,” Woodson said in his morning remarks before the UNC system president Erskine Bowles, the Board of Governors, NC State’s Board of Trustees and numerous NC State faculty, staff and alumni. “This is a great university.
“I’ve known about NC State throughout my academic career,” he said. “I have fought for faculty out of this place, I have competed with this university for the best faculty and I know this is an outstanding institution.”
The opportunity to work within one of the nation’s most highly regarded public university systems, coupled with a potential return to the south – both Woodson and his wife, Susan, are Arkansas natives – was icing on the cake.
“We both have an affinity with the south in general, so when you drive around Raleigh and see all the pine trees, you feel like you’re back in the part of the world that I grew up in,” Woodson said. “It was critical for me to know that the Board of Trustees, the president of the university system and the Board of Governors were committed to NC State continuing to be elevated as a nationally and internationally respected university.
“When the Board made it clear that they really want to see NC State get to the next level of excellence, that was a big selling point for me.”
Woodson will begin work at NC State no later than May 1, which will allow him to wrap up several ongoing projects at Purdue. Over the next several months, the chancellor-elect expects to be on NC State’s campus several times a month to better acclimate himself to the culture of a university not unlike the one he will be leaving in Indiana.
“Purdue and NC State are alike in that they are land-grant universities with a strong connection to the state, largely through the history of extension, and they have a real commitment to the way they do things,” he said. “I typically describe it asdiscovery with delivery. In other words, you’re not successful in your research efforts as a university until that research is having an impact in the world.
“There’s a practical bent and relevancy to the work done at NC State that is very similar to that which is done at Purdue.”
An out-and-about administrator, the affable Woodson plans to spend a great deal of time getting to know NC State students during his first several months on campus – a group he credited as “outstanding” in terms of work ethic, and one driven to succeed in the classroom.
“The chancellor has to be a visible and effective leader to the students,” Woodson said. “Building leadership among the students, being visible at student functions and events and simply being a spokesperson for the university are all critical roles that the chancellor can play.
“The students want to be engaged with the university, and they want to know who their chancellor is.”
The same level of interaction, Woodson said, will prove invaluable as he meets with members of NC State’s upper-level faculty and staff. Several high-level administrative positions need to be permanently filled, including university provost and the head of the alumni association.
“To be a great chancellor, you’ve got to have a great team,” he said. “There are some key interim positions that need to be filled, and Chancellor Woodward is managing some of that.
“The provost position is a critical one,” said Woodson, who currently serves as provost at Purdue. “Certainly, the interim provost is doing an outstanding job, but there will be an expectation that we open a search to have that position permanently filled.
“Getting all of the leadership team pointed in the same direction will be my highest priority early on.”
Early in his tenure, Woodson also plans to visit each of the university’s colleges on a regular basis, getting to know the goals, strengths and challenges of each in order to equip NC State students, faculty and staff with the resources they need to be successful in the 21st century and beyond. It’s an ambitious goal, but one Woodson said he’s fully prepared to reach.
“At this point in my career, I’m very interested in moving into this job because I feel like my strength lies not just in academic experience, but in the ability to work with a lot of different constituents,” he said. “I believe I am extremely effective in building consensus, working across competing interests to bring people together to come to common ground.”