Timothy L. Hall, formerly President of Austin Peay State University in Tennessee, was chosen as Mercy College’s 12th president in January 2014. He started his new job last month, and took some time to chat with us about his plans for the Dobbs Ferry institution, which serves some 10,000 students study in more than 90 undergraduate and graduate programs .
What drew you to this position at Mercy College?
TH: I’m attracted to the Mercy College mission of “providing motivated students the opportunity to transform their lives through higher education.” I believe a college education is about more than accumulating credits or even preparing for a good job. It’s about transforming a life.
What do you hope to accomplish as the College’s 12th president?
TH: I want to help the college continue its tradition of providing a “high-touch” educational experience in which students get lots of individual attention. John Henry Newman [Oxford academic and cardinal in the Church of England] described a university as “an alma mater, knowing her children one by one, not a foundry, or a mint, or a treadmill.” I want to make sure that Mercy keeps knowing her students “one by one.” I also want to see our students accumulate more than college credits or college debt, but a college degree, so we will focus an enormous amount of attention on creating the conditions that support the success of our students.
What are some of the challenges you expect to face in this new role?
TH: Many of our students are the first in their families to go to college, and these students face special challenges when it comes to persevering all the way to a college degree. But America’s future needs these students to be successful. Creating conditions to support this success are not always easy, but Mercy College has already gained national attention for its innovative efforts in this area, and I expect to see us continue and expand upon these efforts.
How would you describe your leadership philosophy?
TH: I’ve always been struck by [Chinese philosopher] Lao Tzu’s comment about leadership: “When the best leader’s work is done, the people say, ‘We did this ourselves.” I believe that all of us can do more than any of us, and that leadership is the work of empowering all those in a community to help the community move forward. I hope to lead in such a way as to keep the spotlight on the good things being done by Mercy’s faculty, staff and students.
How do you plan to work with the Westchester County business community?
TH: In my former community, I served on the chamber of commerce executive board, the economic planning council, and the industrial development board. I knew, and the community knew, that the university was an important economic partner in the community. Here at Mercy, I hope to be similarly involved in the business community, because Mercy College is an important member of that community. Community partners work best when they work together, by understanding their common interests and seeking to advance those interests.
I understand that your previous college stood out in its use of technology to support student success- why do you feel technology is so important to today’s students?
TH: Technology increasingly offers the promise of helping us to personalize higher education for our students. As the world continues to grow more “high-tech,” people increasingly expect more “high-touch” experiences. Technology can help a large college like Mercy, with more than 10,000 students among its various campuses, give students a “high-touch” education.