Dr. Knight settling into the office of PUC president.
HK: Of course the setting is wonderful. We're not rural; we're a destination campus, because we are located in the spectacular mountains of Napa Valley! Napa Valley is now the second most frequented tourist location in California, after Disneyland, so it's a little bit of a misnomer to say we're rural. We certainly want to maximize the location, location, location aspect of PUC.
The second thing is that we have a wonderful faculty and staff here who are well-known for their academic prowess and acumen and faith commitment. This is certainly a campus characterized by the integration of learning and Seventh-day Adventist faith as we approach our work out of a deep reverence for our Creator.
I also love the student body. I went to the Welcome Back party on Sunday, for example, and I said to my husband that this is very much an Adventist college, but with California style. There's that sense that PUC is a little more casual, and that there are really special young people in this particular region. We want to serve them well. So already a number of things have caught my attention. I feel very privileged to be here and to be leading out in a college with this fine reputation, as evidenced by our recent U.S. News and World Report ratings. PUC is again ranked in the top tier of colleges in our particular category.
How do you see your role at PUC?
I want to provide intentional leadership to get us to the next level of excellence, and we're looking at what that is for PUC. We certainly want to restore good financial health to the institution, and we want to grow our enrollment. We also want to keep on being a first-rate institution academically. We're having our WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) accreditation visit coming up soon, October 25-28, and WASC is looking at our educational effectiveness-that is, how we are doing at fulfilling our mission? So I really see my role as helping to operationalize our academic and spiritual mission.
What are some of your goals for your first year as president?
The first one is to restore financial stability to the college. I also want to connect with our multiple constituents-our alums of course, folks in the regions that we serve, the different conferences, our conference leadership. I want to get out and about and get a sense of what people need from PUC and whether we are meeting their needs. We want to be a viable choice for our Adventist families in the region, to know what they want and to deliver the product that they want for their young people.
Also with our accreditation visit coming up, I want to work on educational effectiveness on campus. We want to have a really vibrant, relevant, memorable, engaging learning environment, so that every classroom that you walk into you will be transformed. I want to challenge faculty members who are already doing such a wonderful job, to keep thinking about continuous improvement in their courses. Our students now, the Millenials, are really in a whole different learning modality than we were. They're using technology in a very seamless and natural way. Are we really engaging them in the modality in which they learn? We want to provide a powerful context for learning here, and empower our faculty and students with the tools they need to participate in a powerful and transformative learning experience.
You mentioned connecting with our constituencies. Do you have any specific plans on how to stay connected with our alumni?
Already there are a number of alumni events planned. My advancement vice president Pam Sadler and I will be out and about up and down the state, seeing alums in Southern California and Northern California. By early next year we will be heading to the East as well, to Tennessee and to Andrews, my former institution. So we'll be visiting with alums, visiting with donors, thanking them for their gifts, and seeing how they may want to continue helping PUC as we move forward.
I didn't attend PUC myself, but I did spend 18 years in Northern California at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, so I've always been aware of the fine reputation of PUC. I love interacting with people, and so I want to be able to connect with our alumni, find out who they are, their concerns, their joys, and get a sense of how they feel about the school and how to maintain those critical connections with them.
Along that line, what are your plans for connecting with the local community in the Napa Valley?
I will be meeting the mayors of St. Helena, Napa and Calistoga in the next few months, and I've already met with one of our county supervisors. There will be some newspaper profiles on me in the Napa Valley Register and the St. Helena Star. There's a PUC-Napa Valley Advisory Council that will be meeting in the next couple months as well. I'm a member of the local rotary club as president here, so I will be attending the rotary from time to time as my schedule allows.
Also, I'm now starting a Presidential Inaugural Series that will be one major event each quarter, where I plan to bring in speakers who can present on topics of broad import to the community at large, not just the Adventist community. I just got my first presenter confirmed: Dr. David Williams, professor at Harvard School of Public Health, will be speaking for us on the topic of "Religion and Health: Findings, Challenges and Unanswered Questions." He's a Seventh-day Adventist, and he has agreed to come on November 14 at 4 p.m. I think in Napa Valley with the emphasis here on health and wellness, organic food, and environmental sustainability that the topic will also appeal to non-Adventists. People are interested in knowing more about the research showing that it's not just what you eat and what you drink, but also a belief in God, and that sense of well-being that comes from faith in a loving Creator that helps people to live longer and enjoy a more enhanced quality of life. So that's my first speaker, and I'm working on two other speakers, one for winter and one for spring. These are the type of speakers who will be of broad interest, not just to Adventists, but also to non-Adventists as well.
Do you have any message for our alumni?
I'm very honored to be president of PUC, and I look forward to meeting with them, hearing their stories, and hearing their vision for how we can keep moving PUC forward to that next level of excellence.
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