NAPERVILLE - After two months at the helm, North Central College President Troy Hammond says he’s gotten his feet wet and then some.
Hammond met with the Daily Herald Friday to talk about his first 60 days in office, including his goal to meet 1,000 alumni before his first board meeting and his children’s love of the ice cream buffet in Kaufman Dining Hall.
Q. Two months seems like a short time, but your calendar indicates it’s been very busy.
A. It’s been a very full two months of being introduced to all aspects of the campus community. I’ve been to a lot of functions that have allowed me to meet and interact with a lot of city and county leaders.
You quickly realize being president of North Central College is a big part of Naperville. We, as a college, contribute a lot to the city and DuPage County intellectually, economically and culturally. But we also get a lot back. It’s a great relationship, and I’ve been thrown right into the mix.
Q. So you’ve literally met hundreds, if not thousands of new people in two months?
A. I can confirm it is into the thousands because one of my goals was to meet or speak with 1,000 alumni by the time I got to the February (22-23) board meetings. I made it a real goal and (staff) had to account for the people I was meeting and make sure there were no duplications.
They scheduled a large number of events for me to interact with alumni. I reached my goal during an event in conjunction with the board meeting. We were at a function when we called up a young lady and made a big deal about it. No confetti cannons or balloon drops, but she got a gift bag from North Central College, and it was a neat time.
I’ve met more than 1,000 alumni alone. I’ve also met all the faculty and all the staff and hundreds of students and community members.
Q. What has your message been to all those alumni?
A. The message to alumni has been that they are really vital to our success. A lot of people think of this as a purely financial relationship, but it’s so much more than that. Gifts are important for a private liberal arts college, but there are so many other ways to make an impact, like volunteering to speak to classes and attending events.
Q. And your theme when talking to staff and students?
A. A consistent theme I’ve tried to communicate is about really aiming high in what we’re doing. It’s a theme about distinctiveness in the things we need to strive for and ... to ultimately improve the education for our students and raise the stature of the college.
Q. How would you describe your relationship with the board of trustees?
A. Some people have the impression the board of trustees is this group that parachutes in a few times a year, goes to a couple meetings and moves on. We have a board that really cares deeply about this college. They’re just very committed to the success of NCC.
It’s great, as the president, knowing there’s a big group of people who have my back and want to do everything possible to see me and the college succeed.
Q. When you were hired, you told us you’d be doing a lot of listening for the first year or so. How has that gone?
A. Obviously there’s decisions that have to be made during the course of time, so the spirit of that message was me wanting the community to know my general posture is going to be one of hearing their voice.
When it comes to major strategic directional moves, I’m not coming in on day one rushing to conclusions about things like that. There is a draft of a strategic plan for the college for the next five years. I certainly plan to take that up and push that forward, but I’m going to do that, maybe the latter part of this year after I’ve had time to fully appreciate what we have here and be able to add my own substance to that.
Q. If you were an incoming student, what would you be studying, knowing what you do about the college?
A. My interests would be the same as they were when I went to a small undergraduate college like North Central. We have fantastic general core requirements that I’d spend my first two years focusing on and diving headfirst into everything I could. There’s no pressure to pick a major until the end of your second year.
My message has been that students don’t have to know their whole life’s path when they get here. This is the time to maximize their opportunities for interacting with the faculty and students in all different areas. I also strongly encourage them to find a way to study abroad for a term. That’s a fantastic way to open your global worldview.
Q. Have you found your favorite spot on campus yet? A place to hide when you need to get away?
A. I have not had that opportunity. There’s a Calvin and Hobbes book at my house that has a picture of Calvin and Hobbes throwing snowballs and the title is “The Days Are Just Packed” and that’s how it is. I haven’t had that opportunity to find that spot yet. But that’s OK. I’m having fun.
Q. How has your family adjusted to campus life?
A. They have loved being able to take advantage of the activities that go on here all the time. There are really neat events all through the weekend. All four of my children have come with me to different functions and events on campus.
They’ve experienced a lot of neat things, including Kaufman Dining Hall. They really enjoy the concept that you can just go in there and eat and there’s this dessert and ice cream buffet in the corner. They really thought that was pretty cool. They’re having a lot of fun with it.