As Maryville College’s Bicentennial Commencement approaches almost as fast as the final exams, I took advantage of President Bogart’s open office hours to ask him a few questions. His open office hours are an opportunity for students to spend time with a friendly, intensely focused person.
I wanted to hear his big-picture view on a number of topics, reflections on this year and find out what might be in the near-future for Maryville College.
When I asked for the interview, he got comfortable in his chair, smiled and said, “Gladly.” East Tennessee is poised for job growth, and Bogart commented on MC’s ability to keep pace with the rest of the area.
“East Tennessee is a great place to live. We’re a brain gain operation here. More students stay here than are from here,” said Bogart. “MC Works is in close partnerships with businesses, government, and nonprofits. The Career Center actively seeks and builds relationships that bring students and educators together to look for ways to meet each other’s needs. The college is actively involved in recruiting companies and entrepreneurs as partners and helping them grow,” said Bogart.
MC is often promoted on its commitment to diversity. When it comes to non-traditional and international students, Bogart emphasized the importance of these groups on campus.
“We want more nontraditional and international students,” said Bogart. “Both groups are important parts of diversity. Our job, as a college, is to help people better function in a diverse world. The world is full of age, experience and perspective diversity.”
“What we see in American education is an appreciation of multiple paths of learning. It adds a lot to have classmates who are not 18-22 and directly out of high school. There is an intentional effort to grow both groups. With the rapid drawdown of troops on Iraq and Afghanistan, more vets will be able to further their educations. We’re a full Yellow Ribbon school. We welcome them and their families,” said Bogart.
The Yellow Ribbon Program allows education funding beyond established Post 9-11 GI Bill thresholds. Bogart has been at Maryville College for nine years and helped with many important improvements—some of which he believes have changed the way campus is viewed.
“I’d have to start with Anderson Hall,” said Bogart. “The tower is literally our logo. It was very deteriorated when I got here. When it was renovated with the quality of work involved, we got an incredible space that reflected the academic tradition of MC. Being in good repair says we’re energized about the future as well. I believe our best days lay ahead of us.”
“Improvements to infrastructure is what I’m most proud of. No one thinks about it until it’s too cold in the winter or too hot in the summer or we can’t open a website, or some other problem.” Bogart also shared his hopes for the future renovations on campus.
“Sutton Science Center is overflowing,” said Bogart. “We need more space. We are working to raise funds for a lab building. If we could move all the labs to a separate building, we could modify Sutton and make better use of it. The Sutton Science Center project will be sudden. One day, boom, there’s construction zone tape.” Some of these projects are already underway.
“We’ve had long-term projects underway to renovate and expand the student wellness and fitness center,” said Bogart. “Alumni Gym was the first major part of that project. We want to address the health and fitness needs of all the students, not just the athletes.” Bogart also talked about the renovations for athletics.
“Today, Cooper hosts 14 varsity teams, but there were only five teams when Cooper was built,” said Bogart. “We need more space. The baseball team now has their own locker room. Soon the tennis, soccer and softball teams will each have their own facility. That will give us some space to work with while we go room by room through Cooper and make much better use of it. This is a big project so we’re working on it a little every year.”
As college president during the bicentennial year, Bogart has the privilege of attending all of the events surrounding this historic time. “Most memorable so far would have to be the play about Isaac Anderson, “Sturdy as a Rock,” said Bogart. “The MC story plus student creativity can’t be beat.”
Bogart had advice for this year’s graduates. “My advice would be: always be reading a book not directly related to your work,” said Bogart. “I read all the time. A lot of my reading is serendipitous and self-directed. It’s related but not directly.” At the end of the interview, He invited me to the presidents’ conference room and showed me the portraits of all of MC’s previous presidents.
“We have to work with a very long term-horizon in mind. So far, this college has been here 200 years. We’re pouring foundations today that will benefit students many, many years from now,” said Bogart. “There’s nothing like a Bicentennial to make you realize life is a relay race.”