Take 5 — President Jere Morehead on his appointment
Q: Those weeks leading up to July 1 when you officially took over were a whirlwind of activity. How did you prepare for this new role?
A: I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few months trying to finish up my work as provost. I hired several new deans who arrived on campus this summer. So my first priority was to make sure that I left the next provost with an outstanding group of deans. I have spent the last few months meeting with alumni, meeting with students, meeting with faculty, meeting with many other stakeholders on this campus as well as throughout the state, finding out what they want from the University of Georgia, what they hope UGA will be in the future and how they can help in making this great institution even more preeminent.
Q: As you talk with those stakeholders, constituents, supporters, donors, friends, what do they tell you about the university?
A: The great story that you hear over and over again is how much everyone loves the University of Georgia. As president, I get to tap into that reservoir of good feelings, of strong support for this institution. There is an abiding love for this institution that gives me an advantage as the new president. I want to make sure that our supporters understand how they can help UGA either with their time or their resources and how they can contribute to making this great institution one that continues up the national charts of prominence—an institution that continues to get better, an institution that stakes out new opportunities and takes advantage of opportunities that are available to us.
Q: You’ve had a variety of posts here on campus. How would you describe yourself as an administrator?
A: I like to be a change agent. I want whatever I take on to be better when I finish it, and so one of the things that I have always tried to do is to look for opportunities to make the division or the unit or the office that I’m responsible for better. I think you do that by working in collaboration with others. You can’t do anything by yourself, and so one of the things that I’ve always tried to do is make sure that I’m a good listener. I want the people around me to have an opportunity to have input, to be a part of the process of making something better. I think you can anticipate from my past that my service as president will be one that is very collaborative. I’ll listen a lot, but once I’ve listened, I’m not afraid then to make a decision. I want those decisions to be ones that will make the University of Georgia an even greater institution than it is today.
Q: How do you perceive the university as we begin this term?
A: I think the university is a great institution. We reach out across this state, as we should as a land-grant institution, to serve the people of Georgia. We have substantially improved the quality of education on this campus. The quality of students has never been higher. The quality of our faculty has never been better, but we can’t settle for the status quo. If you settle for the status quo, you will begin to decline. So we have to look for ways, look for opportunities to improve this institution, and that’s what this administration will be focused on doing. It will also be critical to grow the level of private support for our students, faculty and staff.
Q: You’ve been here for almost three decades. What advantage does that give you as a new president?
A: I think one of the advantages that I have as a person who’s spent many years on this campus is that I know the many things that we’ve done well, and I also know the opportunities that we have to improve. I don’t think it will take you long to find me making decisions that will focus on those opportunities, looking for ways to make a great institution even better. You will find in me and in everything I do a focus on excellence, a focus on how the University of Georgia can be an institution that does more than it has ever done before, does it better than it’s ever done before, and does it in a way that will bring pride and respect from the citizens of Georgia and beyond.