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September 25, 2009
NORTH CAROLINA WESLEYAN COLLEGE, ROCKY MOUNT, NORTH CAROLINA 27804
President Outlines Plans for ‘America’s Next Great College’
James Gray, Wesleyan’s sixth presi
dent, lias taken an active part in college
life since he began his post over the
summer. The Decree staff conducted a
recent email interview with Gray on a
wide-ranging set of issues.
Q. Students don’t always understand
the exact role of the president. Please
describe your main duties.
A. The traditional role of a college
president is chief executive of the school,
and I am that for sure. But I also know
that a college is far different than a
corporation. For example, the status and
responsibilities of the faculty are much
removed from that of “employees.”
Some presidents who do not come from
a lifelong tenure in the academic world
do not understand that and may rebel
against it at their peril. I am comfortable
with the way we are governed. I report
to the board of trustees. I want to lead
more than manage, doing so with positive
motivation versus a strong-armed
We are fortunate that we have Dean
Jay Stubblefield as the direct-line
person responsible for academic and
faculty affairs, though the trustees and
I remain responsible at the end of the
day for all that the school is and does.
My main responsibilities are manag
ing and making the final decisions
NCWC Meal Plan
By Decree Staff
After caisiderable oulcty amcxig Wesleyan
students, the college has lEsdnded a new
polky that would have required all commuters
to buy a meal plan for the school cafeteria
The plan is now optkmal, accwding to
Dean of Students Randy Williams, who
came to Wesleyan after the plan had
already been implemented.
Dean Williams and other administrators
received numerous complaints fiom the
Wesleyan community before making their
decision, which Williams detailed in a
recent email to the affected students.
“We hope that rescinding this policy
demonstrates how much we value you as a
student,” Williams wrote. “The policy was
partly devetoped to engage you fiirtha-with the
resources and activities oftaed at the college.”
Many commuter students were angry on
learning of the new chaige over the summer.
One was Jessica Ashley, a senior and a
nxte of a 4-year-dd dau^iter. She commutes
35 rniles fiwn Halifax. Whesi she’s not focusing
on her coursewak, Ashley said, she is hokling
down three part-time jobs and woridng almost
15 hours per week as an intern at the Bassett
(intH; whae she assists honiekss fariilies.
She said the cafetaia chaige came to $255
“I was outraged,” she saki “My class
schedule doesn’t altow me to eat in the cafe.
Between woric and my internship and class.
I’m not even here. And I’m not going to cane
early to eat laeakf^ I have to get my dau^ter
ready for school. I was being chaiged fw
sranething I was never going to use.”
Other students had a similar reaction.
Senior Shakelia Johnson, the mother of
a 6-year-old son, commutes 20 miles
to campus twice a week, Tuesdays and
Thursdays, two days filled with classes.
On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, she
can be found off campus working as an
intern at WebPoint Communications.
When she teamed of the new meal plan
requirement, she thought it was unfair. “I have
not been in the cafeteria since the first week of
my fieshman year,” she said.
She added that a plan for commuter
students is “fine, but it should be optional
to those commuter students who want it.
Students such as myself are just too busy
or have other obligations that hinder us
from eating in the cafeteria.”
What most upset Johnson was that
the meal plan requirement was instituted
without input from students. The chaige
just showed up on her bill, she said. “We
were not made aware of the meal plan
before it took effect,” she said.
See MEAL PLAN pg 2
on our school budget, fundraising,
serving as the chief communicator and
community ambassador for the school,
inspiring alumni, hiring and managing
all employees with particular emphasis
on senior staff and senior faculty,
and in general being where the “buck
New NC Wesleyan President
Gray with Ruby Photo by C. Thomas
stops” for management of the school.
In turn, I report to our 24-member
Board of Trustees, whose main job
is to set policy and establish strategy
while the president handles day-to-day
Q. Often a college president will pos
sess extensive classroom and administra
tive experience. Your background is a
little different, in that you’ve spent time
in public relations and other fields. In
light of your experience, what particular
challenges will you face as president?
And what strengths do you bring to the
position, strengths that other college
presidents may lack?
A. A good president’s chief skills are
relationship building, leading, marketing
the school, fundraising, communicating
and cheerleading. My whole career has
taught me those skills, so in a way I have
been preparing for this job all my adult life.
Q. In the past, students have
sometimes complained that the Wesleyan
president has not been visible enough on
campus. But many students have already
been impressed by your involvement in
orientation and other activities. What are
your plans for interacting with students?
A. I will continue to be highly visible
on my geezer bike and on foot! But I
don’t want to be intrusive or micro-man-
aging. A college is like any organization
in that it’s all about communicating
openly and honestly with people. Building
relationships that benefit the school and
faculty-students-staff is all-important.
We are opening up the president’s
house to much more in the way of
receptions and events for our total com
munity. It is your house and not ours.
I know my wife, Beth, is enthusiastic
about being a major contributor to
Wesleyan as well.
Q. From time to time, there’s talk
of increasing Wesleyan’s size. What
are your long-range plans with regard
to expansion? If you would like to see
Wesleyan undergo significant growth,
what would you tell students who like the
college at its current size?
A. Our long-range plan says that we
need to increase the size of both the on-
campus student body and the adult degree
program as well. Recommendations that
seem to make sense are to aim for 1,000
students over the next three to five years.
I do not believe that will hurt our class
size or small college feeling or individual
attention to learning. It will give us a
stronger financial footing. With ADP, we
probably need to add about 200 students
over the next few years.
We have a balanced budget now, so
we are not desperate for the revenue. I
want to emphasize that. Of course our
dorms are full this fall so we need to
think about more dorm space, another
classroom building and more faculty to
accommodate that growth.
When the economy gets better in
2-3 years we hope to have a major
capital campaign to raise money for
those two buildings, rehab of our oldest
buildings, and a football stadium/track
and field complex. I am committed to
taking care of our academic side before
building that stadium, but it is impor
tant to give our students and alumni
that full, rich campus experience.
Q. Describe your priorities as far as mak
ing physical improvements to the college?
A. Right now we are kicking off a
big beautification program, starting with
major planting in October around the front
entrance and fountain. We are installing new
signs around campus. As money becomes
available, we will do much much more. We
have fixed the Wi-Fi system, repaired the
fence around the soccer field, and made non-
visible changes to our physical plant. My
dream is to blow up the Braswell parking lot
and put in green space and a fountain that
serve as a town square for our community.
Q. What are your thoughts on making
Wesleyan a “green” campus?
A. I am all for that, and we have some
plans under way. However, to be honest,
we need to put our money into other
more critical things around school like
landscaping, servers, classrooms, sports
facilities, dorms bathrooms, etc.
Many of our dorm bathrooms are
awful (but clean) due to their age. We
hope to kick off a rejuvenation program
soon. Each will cost about $28,000, so
we’ll have to phase it in.
Q. What are some other immediate
and long-term objectives?
A. We will have a new strategic plan
that has been worked on for two years by
faculty, staff and trustees. Students have
given valuable input as well. We will
share it with the entire campus and seek
everyone’s help in executing it. I have
stated most priorities above. We want
to grow the quantity and quality of our
students. Faculty expansion is critical.
Our campus needs to look better and
Q. What are your thoughts on Wes
leyan becoming a “dry campus?” In what
ways, if any, were you involved in that
decision? What’s the rationale behind it?
A. That decision was made before I
arrived. I support it because so few of
our students are 21 or older. I understand
there was one over-21 dorm last year in
which we allowed drinking but that it
This is a good example of an issue
that in the final analysis will be decided
by our community of students, faculty,
staff and trustees. If the community
wants to drink or tolerate drinking,
there are ways for young people to do
it regardless of the rules. If there is a
student-driven desire to open this issue
up, I will consult with our Student Af
fairs leaders and trustees and determine
how to respond.
But let me make it clear that person
ally I believe we have the right policy.
Q. What are your beliefs on the rights
of student journalists? Can you envision
a situation in which you would either
block publication of an article or alter the
content of a story?
A. I spent the first seven years of my
career as a reporter in with the Winston-
Salem Journal and Atlanta Constitution. I
absolutely loved it and found it the most
intense learning experience of my entire
career. There would have to be something
really bad for me to step in and censor a
student journalist’s work. If something
were to do damage to a student or another
member of community, through error or
intent, I would withhold the right to stop it.
I believe deeply in free speech and a
Q. What else would you like to say
to students and other members of the
A. We have the ability to be America’s
next great college. Join me in believing
that and working hard toward that. No
one will love our students, faculty and
staff more than I. No one will go to more
student events than I. It sounds funny, but
1 have fallen in love with Wesleyan.
Advice Given to Help
No HINI Cases Reported
By Decree Staff
Director of Health Services Holley
Fairly reported no HINI (swine flu) cases
on campus as of September 15.
The news comes as many U.S. colleges
have seen an early onset of the illness.
According to reports in the national media,
Washington State University has been one
of the schools hardest hit, with more than
2,000 reported cases, while the University
of Mississippi and Mississippi State have
each reported more than 300 cases. Closer
to home. Wake Forest University said that
some 100 students have been diagnosed
and treated for HINI at its campus in
Wmston-Salem, according to news reports.
NC Wesleyan’s new Dean of Students
Randy Williams and his staff are finalizing
a preparedness plan to help the college
respond in the event of an outbreak here.
Fairley has uiged members of the
Wesleyan community to get a shot for the
seasonal fiu. She noted that a flu shot clinic
is scheduled for October 6 fit)m noon to
4 p.m. in the Trustees Board Room in
Braswell. The cost is $30; it’s free to those
with NC Blue CrossflBlue Shield coverage.
Noting that she is keeping track of all flu
cases on campus, Fairiey has asked students
to contact her if they have been diagnosed
with flu by either their own physician or an
emeigency room health care provider. “I
know not everyone comes through here,”
Fairiey offered the following tips fcff
1. Avoid crowds and skk people (ca" stay at
least 6 feet away)
2. Wash hands often or use hand sanitizer
3. Cough in a tissue and then discard into a
trash can, or cough in your elbow
4. Eat a balanced diet and increase your
intake of vitamin C
5. Get plenty of sleep and exercise
6. See a doctOT if you have a fever over 100.8
By Meghan Herd & Rodney Holley
Decree Staff Writers
North Carolina Wesleyan upperclass
men, facuhy, and staff have come
together to share some pointers on what
could take first-year students to success.
Many can agree that time manage
ment is the main priority for freshmen.
“Make sure to stay on top of your
work,” said Alyssa Balzano, a student.
“If you wait until the end of the semes
ter, it will build up and between that
and finals you’ll have a heart attack.”
Mackenzie Tmgle echoed Balzano, adding
“You should get your work done first.”
Senior William Boyd said: “If you can
mange your time, then you can do anything
you want on tiiis campus. Everything is
about time management.”
Athletic Director John Thompson said
“learn how to manage your time
right away. That’s one of the biggest
differences between high school and
Resident Directo- Frankie Taal agreed
with Coach Thompson. “Students have to
remember that this isn’t high school,” he
said.‘There is going to be lots of reading and
homewak and quizzes almost every day and
students are going to have to stay on tq5 of
fliese things. Don’t pnxrastinate, because the
difference between high school and college
can be a rude awakening for new students.”
Student Lorenzo Whitley and others
called on freshmen to develop strong study
habits from the outset. ‘Try for a good
grade point average the first year,” he said.
Senior Justin Batts told first-year students
“not to fall behind the first semester,” while
Scott Cooper said to “stay motivated.”
Said StejAanie Battle, a pre-major advisor
“Stay focused and remember your purpose
for being here and everytiing will fall in line.”
Justin Lowe, a sophomore, described his
approach to earning good grades: “Spend
an hour of study time for each class that
you have that day,” he said.
Patrick Williams and others underscored
the importance of using tiie resources on
campus such as the writing center.
Scott Marsigli, a pre-major advisor
in the Student Success Center, agreed.
He said to “take advantage of all
opportunities the school offers, such as
pass sessions and workshops.”
Marcus Rich, assistant bookstore manager,
insisted that “There are a lot of peq)le willing
to help, so take advantage of that”
Said Grace Wallace, a member of the
library staff, “Don’t be afiaid to ask for help.”
It’s tempting, many interviewees said,
for freshmen to skip classes. That would
be a mistake, as junior Desiree Driver
reminded freshmen to “Show up to class.”
Dr. Fred Sanbom, assistant professor
of psychology, said “I think that it’s very
important for first- year smdents to get into
tile habit of going to class consistently.”
Cassandra Silver, administrative assistant
in Student Affairs, supported this advice.
“Even tiiough tiie syllabus may say you can
miss a day, don’t skip class,” she said. “It’s
hard to catch up when you fall behind.”
Madonna Ware, a juniw, said fliat fieshmen
shouU not only attend class, but shoukJ “sit in ttie
firet two rows of class to avokJ going to sleep.”
Wayne Mikinnon agreed with Ware,
saying “Keep your head up and pay
attention to your professors.”
Several faculty and staff members
emphasized the need to communicate.
Freshmen should communicate with
professors, friends, and anyone who can
help them. “Students should remember
that the skill of listening is the biggest
part of communication,” Thompson said.
Silver seconded Thompson’s advice,
saying, “Get to know your instmctors well”
while student Jehovah Santiago said “Ccmi-
centrate and woric with your professors.”
Other advice focused on non-academic is
sues. Sane uiged fieshmen to make sure they
surround themselves with the right peqsle.
“Freshmen should choose their
friends wisely,” Ware said, “and they
should always speak for themselves.”
Lorenzo Whitley concurred. “Watch who
you hang out with,” he said, and “don’t
party too much.” Jaren Wilcox added,
“Don’t get caught up in the partying.”
At the same time, many acknowl
edged that first-year students should
take the time to, in Wallace’s words,
“make friends” and take part in the
many activities offered on campus.
“They should stay busy,” said Tingle, a
member of the volleyball team, who also
performed in last spring’s musical. “Get
involved in a club, musical or athletics.”
Driver said to “Make your own fun.”
And Taal added, “Just make the best of being
on campus and try to be involved,” he said
‘Thae is somdhing hae for almost everyone.”
Still other advice-givers encouraged fresh
men to adopt positive attitudes and habits.
“Take the sulky look off your face.
We like you here,” said Dr. Vivienne
Anderson, professor of English.
Her colleague Dr. James Bowers said
“Throw away your cell phone and you
will be a better student and person.”
Jessie Warren, director of internships,
said fiieshmen should view college as a life-
altering experience. “Come witii an open
mind to new experiences as well as people
and ideas,” she saki “Students should
see this as an opportunity to reinvent
themselves and leave the past in the past.”
Perhaps the simplest advice came from
Loren Loomis Hubbell. Said the Vice
President of Finance: “Eat breakfast.”