Brenau University's historic women's college may be quiet while students are on summer break, but Monday it buzzed as Dr. Anne A. Skleder's took on her first day as Brenau's first female president.
Planning to take it slow, Skleder wants to get to know how the university, the college, its students, alumni and staff operate as her agenda for the year, the next five, ten or more years develops.
TO FIND SATISFACTION IN BEING RATHER THAN IN SEEMING
Skleder said in an interview Friday her first goal is to learn more about Brenau as a whole and discover the identities of each of the university's campuses. She plans to visit all the branch campuses and talk to students and alumni from both the women's college and the university on what she described as a Listening and Learning Tour.
"The needs of a residential women's college student, and their desires, are different from a student who is working all day and taking classes online, or is getting a doctoral degree. It's very different, however, equally important." Skleder said. "My goal is to understand, appreciate and validate all of those perspectives and work to make sure the future aspirations of each of those groups are met, that we’re always serving our students and that we’re always trying to serve more of our students."
Skleder said she planned to talk traditions while on the Listening and Learning Tour, see what traditions were supported and if there was anything that could be added. Skleder has already experienced a few of Brenau's traditions, including the Brenau Ideal, a short poem written by past president H.J. Pearce and was included in job description materials.
"It was in the materials from first observation that I had," she said. "It is timeless. I mentioned when I had the announcement of being appointed, it applies as much today as it did 141 years ago and it applies as much for the university as it does for the women's college. When you read it, you will see there's nothing in there that speaks to exclusion. It's all inclusion. There's nothing in there that doesn't speak to aspiration, which is what this institution is all about."
Skleder added she felt like there were a number of ways she could incorporate the Brenau Ideal into the university moving forward, including how to continually "push the envelope" of the aspirations of the institution. "We have to look at how to continuously pursue excellence in a world that's changing, in a world that's not staying still and waiting for us to catch up."
As for any specific goals she was going to tackle in her first year, Skleder said she really wanted to focus on learning as much as she could.
“My agenda is being developed. And to your point and to my earlier answer, I’ve got to listen and learn a lot, get really Brenau smart before I am ready to put together that kind of agenda. But what I just said is really the key agenda here: to understand the needs of the students, understand the needs of the situation at the university and to chart a course. So my number one goal is to listen and learn and chart a course, and that will really be my first year."
EXTRAORDINARY LIVES OF BOTH PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL FULFILLMENT
A native of Pittsburgh, Skleder said she had had family from both Pennsylvania and Florida that were eager to visit her new home in Gainesville.
"They're all saying they're going to come visit, so I’m looking forward to that,” she said. “I've got a big enough house for that, and I'm looking forward to them experiencing the Gainesville that I have grown to love over the last four or five months."
With Brenau so close to Lake Lanier, Skleder said she was excited to be by the water and hopes to have time to practice her sailing, if she's not reading, trying out a new recipe, traveling with family and friends, or meeting new people.
She also enjoys the theatrical elements Gainesville and Hall County have to offer, and is looking forward to seeing the shows.
"I'm very in to theatre, so I am very much looking forward to Brenau theatre and the community theatre. I know the performing arts are a big specialty here in Gainesville."
But Skleder is more than her profession and her hobbies.
"I like to laugh, I'm very appreciative of people with a good sense of humor," she said. "I would say I take my work extremely seriously, but I don't take myself too seriously. I learned that as a young child, that was something we talked about in our family: What you're doing needs to be meaningful and do it with all your heart, but don't get caught up in yourself."
Professionally, Skleder described herself as a psychologist by trade, an educator by vocation and an administrative leader by luck.
"My goal is always about student success, so when I taught for ... nine years in the classroom and I went and became an administrator in academics, did some enrollment management, some student affairs and most recently I spent almost 10 years as a chief academic officer - Provost - doing the academic work, working with faculty, students, building programs, assessing them, aspiring them to better execution, but also working on new strategies, new initiatives: international initiatives which are really important in 2019 as well as initiatives in other areas of university, including making sure the university culture is as positive as it possibly can be."
AS GOLD REFINED BY FIRE
Skleder is the tenth president of the university and joins the ranks of nine male presidents of the university, including immediate past-President Ed Schrader, Jack Burd, James Rogers, William Clark, Josiah Crudup, Thomas J. Simmons, H.J. Pearce, Sr., Azor Van Hoose, and founder Rev. W.C. Wilkes.
"I like to focus on the fact that it's an incredible privilege to be the president of Brenau University,” she said. “Second to that, I have the opportunity to be a role model and create the visual for women to see the possibilities of leadership. Third, I have the incredible opportunity to work with both the historic women's college at Brenau, but also the very innovative and dynamic comprehensive university," said Skleder. She added she couldn't be here in this role without what came before her.
"Dr. Schrader has been an incredible leader for this institution and my goal is to build on that."
The university began as the small Georgia Female Baptist Seminary, becoming Brenau College in 1900. The name was changed to a combination of the German word "brennen" which means "to burn" and the Latin word "aurum" which means "gold," very literally translating to "to burn gold." An evening and weekend program was created for the campus in the 1960s. Brenau became a University in 1992. Since then, the university has added six additional campuses, an online program and graduate programs.
"There are many women's colleges that are only women's colleges, there are many universities that don't have women's colleges. What we have here at Brenau is the best of both," said Skleder. "The question is how do you serve students in each segment? So equally important to serving the women's college and making sure it has another 141 years is making sure the graduate students in occupational therapy and the online students in education, they all feel part of the university."
While she hasn't had much time since she got the job to get out in the community, Skleder said that was on her list of things to do, along with meeting with students, alumni and others, and getting "Brenau-smart." She said since Brenau was so deeply rooted in the community, she wanted to continue to support those connections.