Presidential forum series: Dr. Dennis “Jody” Encarnation

Dr.Dennis "Jody"Encarnation speaks to students. Photo taken by Chantelle Simmons

Dr. Dennis “Jody”Encarnation expressed his vision for the College and his position on controversial issues such as the merger and the College Reads program to students during his campus visit yesterday.
(Photo by Chantelle Simmons)

On March 12 college presidential candidate Dr. Dennis “Jody” Encarnation visited campus to speak to students and faculty.

Encarnation attended the College from 1970 to 1974, earning a bachelor’s in political science. He earned his Ph.D in political science at Duke University and later attended Harvard where he became a senior lecturer and program director for the School of Government and assistant and associate professor for the School of Business.

“In my mind I have a pretty clear vision about where I think the College needs to be and how we need to get there,” Encarnation said.

His vision for the College is based on two observations: transformations inside the College such as the high volume of graduates from professional schools like education and business and transformations in the community of Charleston such as massive development changes like Boeing and Silicon Harbor. Encarnation believes both transformations can benefit the College and city.

Encarnation also has a “20/20 vision” that entails asking local companies to offer more scholarships, internships and work study programs, along with making computer science and business an interdisciplinary center of excellence. He  affirms that the College cannot do everything well and needs to tap resources and people at different colleges in the state.

Furthermore, Encarnation is looking to create a new funding model for the College. He states that the current college funding model can be characterized by a “two legged stool,” with one leg being student tuition and the other state funding. Encarnation argues that neither leg offers prospects for growth and there needs to be a third source of funding. “We need to find ways to fund things that we do well,” Encarnation said.

Students were then given the opportunity to present questions to Encarnation.

The first question asked how he would advocate for students. Emcarnation noted that at Harvard, all deans and the president taught classes. “One of the most important things to me is to not be stuck in a corner office, or on the road all the time raising money, but to interact with students, and there is no better way to do it than in the classroom,” he said.

He also noted that student advocacy includes making the College affordable. Encarnation came to the College on a scholarship and is committed to offering more scholarships.

The next question pertained to the controversial CofC-MUSC merger. During this segment of the event, he referred to the merger as the “m-word.” “Mergers and acquisitions fail more often than not when they’re hostile and when the response to them internally leads to the loss of the resource that you’re acquiring. Often that means people,” Encarnation said.

He states that language matters and the conversation between the two institutions was not designed for a positive response from the get go. “If you really wanted to do this, you’d find a better language to do what they’re suggesting,” Encarnation said.

Both colleges are looking at programs where they can collaborate, which Encarnation believes is the best place to start. “A merger of anything that  just goes ‘one plus one equals two’ is just adding. You have to demonstrate to each other that you add value to one another. Otherwise why would I want to do this?” Encarnation said.

He also adds that there is no funding for the merger. “We’re asking people to go out and create joint programs with no additional resources to do that,” Encarnation said.

He argues that that is a sign of lack of commitment and for all external groups  supporting the merge to put their money where their mouth is. Encarnation concluded the question stating that there are other models aside from the merger that should be considered.

Another question asked focused on diversity on campus. Encarnation stated that there is no “silver bullet” and it is going to take many approaches such as more scholarships, high school  to college pipelines using summer camps, increased collaboration with local high schools, and programs offered by the College.

Encarnation then addressed the recent slash in funding for the College Reads Program by the state due to controversy surrounding Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, stating that the College should look elsewhere for funding in regards to freshman programs.

“I’d like to lead us from this vision to the execution of it. And that’s the thing I do best,” Encarnation said.

To read Encarnation’s profile click here.

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