Andrew T. Hsu took the helm as the College of Charleston’s 23rd president on Thursday, May 16, 2019.
A leader in academia for more than 20 years, Hsu brings a wealth of experience to his role at CofC. He previously served as the associate vice president and dean of the Graduate School at Wright State University from 2010 to 2013 before serving as dean of engineering at San Jose State University from 2013 to 2016. Most recently, Hsu served as provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs at The University of Toledo in Toledo, Ohio.
As president of the College of Charleston, Hsu aims to elevate the visibility of the university’s academic programs on the national and international stage, celebrate the College’s roots as a liberal arts institution and strengthen the campus community’s efforts to provide a diverse and inclusive environment for all students.
Hsu sat down with The College Today to share his thoughts about the College and higher education ahead of his first official day on the job.
What do you hope to achieve in your time at the College?
I certainly hope to help raise the profile of the College of Charleston. It’s an amazing institution with a great history. Three signers of the Constitution and the three signers of the Declaration of Independence are founders of the College. This is such a great institution, but we need to raise its profile to make sure that the world knows that we’re a first-rate, global institution. The second thing I would like to achieve, of course, is to help our students improve their learning so that they can be successful not only as students, but as citizens.
Why is a liberal arts education so important in today’s society?
Today’s society is changing very, very rapidly and not only that, today’s society, at least in many countries, is becoming increasingly polarized. In order to help our society improve, we need to help our students understand different angles, how to interpret the world, how to work in a diverse society like ours. A broad liberal arts education not only helps students develop critical thinking, but it also helps students to see things through very different angles and oftentimes through opposing angles, and that is what our society needs. And because of the rapid change in terms of our society, in terms of technology and its influence on society, technologies that are current today may not be here next year, so students have to develop lifelong learning skills. A broad liberal arts education is the best way to help students develop those skills.
What is the importance of diversity in a university setting?
There are several reasons that diversity is important. One, the world is a diverse place. The economy of the world is becoming increasingly integrated and if you work for a global company, you oftentimes have to collaborate across borders and, in fact, in different languages. So, in order to prepare our students for the real world, the students need to have the experience and have the knowledge of diversity, and there’s no better place to get that experience and get that knowledge than in a college environment. And the second reason that diversity is important is that our population is diverse, and as a public university, we have the responsibility of educating every student regardless of their background, and that is why it is extremely important for a public institution like ours.
How do you foster inclusion so that all members of the campus community feel welcomed?
I think that there are two things that we have to do well in terms of ensuring inclusion – and I’ll always say that diversity without inclusion is not very meaningful. So, in order to ensure inclusion, there are two things we have to do well: One is education and the other is support. Education is a long-term project; it cannot be done through just one lecture or one seminar. We have to do it both inside and outside of the classrooms. We should embed inclusion into the courses that we teach, especially at the freshman level. And we also should have plenty of opportunities for students, faculty and staff to have dialogues outside of the classroom to develop an understanding of how we interact with each other and how we understand angles that are different from our own. The second thing that we have to do well in order to ensure inclusion is through support. We have a diverse student body. We need to make sure that everybody feels welcome and we need to make sure that everybody not only feels welcome, but also can be successful on this campus, and that requires the university as an institution to provide the support for all students to be successful.
How will you engage faculty and staff in helping chart the future direction of the College?
The best way to engage faculty and staff is to make sure that they understand that their opinions matter. What we need to do is to develop a strategic plan for the College of Charleston with the participation of all faculty, staff, students and other constituents. The best way to ensure success is to make sure that every participant feels ownership of what is developed. And one way to help people develop ownership is to help them participate and to make sure that they understand this is going to be a document that is going to help guide the university for the next five to 10 years, and that it’s going to help shape and reshape the university for the next 250 years. It’s not going to be a document that’s going to collect dust on the shelf.
Why is it important for students to be involved in the life of the College and have a well-rounded academic and social experience?
Clearly, education happens both inside and outside of the classroom. So, if a student only participates when he or she is in the classroom, then he or she is only getting 30 percent of the benefit. A lot of things happen outside of the classroom. We talked about diversity, we talked about understanding opposing views and being able to understand why people may have a very different view from your own. Many of those things would happen outside of the classrooms. And also, in order for students to be successful academically, they need to be healthy, they need to be happy, they need to be confident. So, they need to have friends. They need to participate in sports events. They need to join a club. So, those are things that they need to participate in order to benefit fully from college life.