Editor’s Note: This is the first in an occasional series of conversations with Dr. Randy Woodson, who was named NC State chancellor on Friday, Jan. 8. Woodson comes to NC State from Purdue University, where he served as executive vice president for academic affairs and provost.
Dave Pond, University Communications: What attracted you to the chancellorship at NC State?
NC State chancellor-elect Randy Woodson: This is a great institution. It has a long history and I’ve been aware of it for a long time. Not personally connected to it – that is, I was never a student or a member of the faculty here – but I know a lot of people here. It’s an institution, frankly, that is very similar to my experience and background, and it’s in a part of the country that’s very exciting. So it looked like early on to be the right kind of fit. The more I looked at it and talked with people, and the more they looked at me, it became clear that it was going to be a great fit.
This institution is very strong, and North Carolina’s commitment to higher education, frankly, is among the highest in the country. 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.
DP: How are NC State and Purdue alike?
RW: They are both land-grant universities with a strong connection to the state, largely through the history of extension, and they have strength in agriculture and engineering and a real commitment to the way they do things. I typically describe as discovery 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.
Also, there’s the work ethic of our student body. I know about the students here, and as I think about them in comparison to Purdue, they are outstanding students who are very focused on getting the educational job done.
DP: What do you consider your professional and personal strengths as they pertain to your new position as chancellor?
RW: I believe I am an effective communicator who is extremely effective in building consensus – working across competing interests to bring people together to come to common ground. One of the reasons I’m very interested in moving into this job at this point in my career is because I feel like my strength lies not just in academic experience, but in the ability to work with a lot of different constituents. I really enjoy working the political process, working with alumni, working with friends of the university and working with faculty and staff. The role of the provost is more about the university itself – it’s more insular – so the chancellorship affords you the opportunity to move beyond that.
DP: Finally, what do you feel is a chancellor’s role is as it pertains to interactions with students on campus?
RW: The chancellor has to be a visible and effective leader to the students. I’m not sure how that’s been done in the past, so I don’t want to suggest it hasn’t been done, but for example, building leadership among the students is a critical role that the chancellor can play. 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.