Recently I stood in the school cafeteria, blankly staring at the daily lunch selection. As I pondered upon what I would choose to nourish and strengthen my body and do it the good it needs, I turned and saw President Holland walk past me.
I decided I’d take my chances and position myself behind him in line. Before I could work up the courage to strike up a conversation, he was offering to buy me lunch if I would sit and talk with him. On the outside, I maintained my composure and told him that it wouldn’t be a problem. On the inside I did a mental fist pump of victory.
As we sat down to eat, I felt as if I was having lunch with an old friend. I was blown away at how personable and open Holland was.
He started by asking me questions about my major, my family, my upbringing and life in general. He asked about problems that I’d seen in the years I’ve been a student here.
I said that I felt that both the student body and the various organizations and departments on campus aren’t unified. I told him how I felt like some professors had lost their passion for teaching, and how some of the subject matter can become outdated quickly. I expressed my concerns about a lot of the bureaucratic red tape at the school that seems to do anything but empower students to do the new and extraordinary things that can set our university apart from others.
I was impressed as I realized that he had listened to my concerns. He answered each of my questions as they came. If he didn’t have an answer, he asked for my advice.
For example, he informed me that within the week he was going to have a meeting with the administration and staff to discuss aligning the goals of all departments and organizations to create a more united campus.
He followed with an explanation of how he has seen an excessive number of groups and committees and is working to make the processes at the school more efficient.
He shared with me that he’s planning to teach an American Heritage class next semester, and I can imagine that he’ll be setting an example of the organization, structure and passion that a professor should have for the subject.
This lunch reminded me that all too often we look at leaders and authority figures and forget that they are human. They’re not just drones that fake a smile and shake hands with everyone — at least not Holland.
He really is concerned about providing each student with the best opportunities possible during their attendance at this institution. He is our advocate, and that’s more than most universities can say. It’s another thing that helps make this place great.