For NC State’s new chancellor Randy Woodson and his family, it’s been a week of proposals and congratulations.
The opportunity to lead NC State, surrounded by the pine trees of his southern childhood, won over Woodson despite counteroffers from Purdue, where colleagues were loath to see him leave after a 25-year career in West Lafayette, Ind.
While the family was in North Carolina, Woodson’s only son made a successful proposal of his own, to his girlfriend. Woodson’s only regret: that his son chose the Old Well on the campus in Chapel Hill as the setting, rather than the Belltower in Raleigh.
Prior to his first speech on campus at the Park Alumni Center, Woodson sat down with the Bulletin to discuss faculty and staff issues.
1. You have a reputation for building rapport with faculty and staff. How have you done that?
It starts with being honest, open and accessible. It’s important not just to tell people what they want to hear but to explain what you’re doing when you’re in an administrative capacity.
I think my colleagues at Purdue would say that what I’ve tried to do is to help them understand the issues that we’re working on and why they’re important. If we’re making a decision, it’s important for faculty and staff to understand the rationale.
2. What attracted you to the chancellorship at NC State?
I’ve known a lot of people here over the years, so I’ve known about NC State and had high regard based on what I’ve heard.
Like Purdue, NC State is a land-grant university that has an important role to play in connecting people throughout the state and serving their needs through academics, research and service.
NC State was one of the only places I’d ever consider leaving Purdue for. And as I continued learning more about NC State, I became more and more interested.
3. You’ve been through a time of tough budget cuts at Purdue. How do you see the situation at NC State?
All of public higher education is going through a difficult time. You don’t have to read too many newspapers from California, Illinois or other states to see the impact.
Compared with other places, what’s special about NC State is that North Carolina has historically valued higher education and invested in it quite strongly. Clearly the public officials of the state understand what higher education brings to North Carolina.
I’m impressed with that level of commitment. An important part of my job will be to reinforce the value that higher education brings to the state.
4. What will your first actions be when you’re on campus starting in April?
I need to spend time getting to know the faculty, staff and students and learn as much as I can about the institution.
One thing I know is that I’ll be on the road a lot. This is a university where people across the state feel a sense of ownership of NC State. People need to know who Randy Woodson is and feel confident that he has their best interests at heart.
Some of this will begin before April, though I have to be true to my commitment to my current employer.
5. What would you like faculty and staff to know about you that they may not have heard?
It will be awfully important that I build relationships quickly so people feel empowered by my leadership and comfortable with who their chancellor is.
I’m very open and accessible. I get myself in trouble occasionally with humor.
My role is to help this institution become what it’s capable of and to lead our faculty, staff and students in achieving those goals. I’d like my legacy to be that I leave NC State a better place.
On a personal note, I met my wife in kindergarten, though we didn’t start dating then. We grew up in the same small town and were high school sweethearts. We’ve been married 31 years.