BY: Elise O’Neill-Eckman
Have you ever wanted to sit down and have a casual chat with the university president? Recently, I had the chance to do just that.
What is your favorite spot on campus?
“I can only choose one?!” We both laughed and Dr. Fitzsimmons continued, “I love Sarah’s Glen. I love all the pieces of Sarah’s Glen so that might be my single favorite spot on campus, but I also love the library and the second floor of Davis Hall and I love the balcony and rotunda of the Health and Life Sciences building.” She is also partial to the track and the James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletics & Events Center right now.
Do you have a favorite student engagement or social program on campus?
“I love Relay for Life and the energy it brings. I love a lot of the programming student life does. So those are probably my two favorites. I really love the holiday market that a number of our students will make things and sell. Because of what I study and what I taught for years, I love that we have a Political Science Society and the group called Estudiantes Unidos. I’ve been really impressed with the kind of programming they’ve done.”
What are the top 3 words you would use to describe Shenandoah University?
“I would say, home, inspiring, and rigorous.”
What about a phrase?
“Reach for the stars.”
What are you proud of accomplishing so far as president?
“It’s not measurable, but think that we have transformed our culture to be extraordinarily focused on students and student success. We’ve built lots of big, fancy buildings, but that sense of refocusing so that we are all focused on our students and student success. It doesn’t mean making things easy, but it means creating a culture and programs and processes that are supportive. [Ones] that push our students to be high achievers, to be resilient, to push on them when there are problems. I am really proud of that culture at Shenandoah.”
If you had an unlimited budget for the university, what would you do?
“I would make the university education absolutely accessible to everyone no matter how much money their families have.”
Where do you see Shenandoah in the future?
“There is a lot of discussion about what is happening with higher education,and Shenandoah, as you know is bucking a lot of the trends. There are a lot of schools where enrollment has declined, Shenandoah has increased our enrollment. We’ve set expectations higher and higher every year. In the future, I think you will see a Shenandoah that is even stronger, both in academic rigor and reputation, and that we will be nationally recognized. We will be recognized because our students will be successful here and after graduation. What we do will be very forward thinking. The world is changing so rapidly, you don’t have time to rest on your laurels, you don’t have time to pat yourself on the back as an institution, and you don’t have time to simply hone what you have done for 50 years. You’ve gotta be thinking ahead of the curve. I think Shenandoah is doing that well, and we model that for students. I have full confidence in that whatever fields our students graduate in, they will be able to stay ahead of where their career pathway is going.”