In a place that thrives on ambition and near-overcommitment, the president of DePauw University pushes the pace.
Since his Sept. 2008 inauguration, President Brian Casey has started and overseen major conversations and short- and long-term reforms in just about every area of campus — housing and social life, formal and informal academic life, campus architecture, the campus-Greencastle relationship and more.
The DePauw asked Casey to sit down this weekend and reflect on his first three years as university president. Read what he had to say on the greatest challenges facing DePauw, what he'd still change on campus (everything), and why he's stayed away from Facebook and Twitter.
The DePauw: What will keep you up at night this summer, worrying?
Brian Casey: There's a lot of mornings you wake up at 3:15 a.m., you are endlessly worried about the institution's finances. We have come through a difficult period, it's going to take us a couple years to get out of it, so you worry about the finances.
And, there are always going to be more demands on resources than resources you have available. Who wouldn't want more faculty? Who wouldn't want more aid to students? Who wouldn't want more money for athletics? Who wouldn't want to raise everyone's salaries? The best you can do is to balance those wants against available resources as best you can.
TDP: What are you most proud of from your first three years?
BC: Getting to know the community. The president's office can almost structurally keep you isolated from the rhythms of campus. I'm proud of the fact that I've gotten to know a lot of faculty and students in a fairly short period of time, to understand the institution and understand what I think it needs to move forward.
TDP: What challenges will DePauw face in the next year and beyond?
BC: The institution needs to know in a very clear, concrete way, what it is, and how it can be stronger at what it is. That's going to be its challenge over the next few years, to be excellent at what it is.
TDP: Is there an area of campus you wouldn't change?
BC: Everything can always be better. Just, everything can always get better.
TDP: Reflecting back, how do you feel about the administration you've put together?
BC: I'm extremely proud of this cabinet, and firmly believe that this is one of the best administrative teams in higher education. This is an extremely talented group of administrators.
THE PERSONAL SIDE
TDP: If you could bring anyone to campus, alive or dead, who would it be?
BC: If I could have the dream Ubben, and I got to spend time with them, it probably would be Teddy Roosevelt. The guy was fascinating.
Teddy Roosevelt would be exciting and exuberant, but someone I would love to invite to talk would be David Foster Wallace.
TDP: Who was the coolest visitor at DePauw this year?
BC: On a personal level? Oscar Arias. I admired him for a long time, and we spent a long time talking about his life. So from a personal level that was the visit that moved me the most. The guy's amazing, holding meetings with Nicaraguan rebels in buildings while the rebels are shooting at the building. He's like, well we had to keep the meeting going. But, they were shooting at him, I would have said, "Meeting over."
TDP: What's something you wish people talked more about or knew more about DePauw that they don't?
BC: I wish people beyond campus spoke more consistently about the academic quality of the institution. If I'm on airplanes people talk about greek life, or the Princeton Review rankings, and the Princeton Review rankings particularly irk me. I get a little preachy on airplanes.
TDP: What are your thoughts on low sports-games attendance?
BC: Yeah, I think students should come to more sports games. I happen to love college athletics, so I will go to events. They're fun, and these are your fellow students.
TDP: What does it feel like to ask people for money all the time?
BC: You're asking friends of the institution to participate in its history and its improvement. So it's actually not that hard at all.
You're asking people to invest in a vision for the university. If you didn't believe in what you were trying to raise funds for, it'd be really, really hard. You have to prepare for it. But it's enjoyable in that you're building something for people. And you eat a lot of food.
TDP: Do you have a power-suit or specific outfit you wear in high-pressure meetings?
BC: You dress up, because you're embodying DePauw. So if I look sloppy, I'm saying that the institution's sloppy. But do I have a favorite suit? No, I just try to look nice. I don't have a "break out the blue power suit."
TDP: Why aren't you on Twitter or Facebook?
BC: The single reason why I'm not on Facebook is that I would have to create such an artificial relationship with students through it. I'd either have to invite all students to friend me or all students couldn't. Mediating that line between public and private life of students strikes me as too complex. And potentially painful.
Twitter? I'm tempted by it. But I've seen enough public, quasi-public people say ridiculous things on Twitter so I think I'm a little anxious about that. Twitter's forever.
— Compiled by Andrew Maddocks, firstname.lastname@example.org. Photo by Margaret Distler/The DePauw