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Exclusive: Glenn McConnell talks about his new job

ashain@thestate.comMarch 22, 2014 

Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, presiding over the Senate, helps close out the 2013 session of South Carolina Legislature in June.

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Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell gave up his 34-year political career and to go all-in for the job he craved – president of his alma mater, the College of Charleston.

An hour after he was hired by school trustees, McConnell, 66, spoke to The State newspaper about his plans for transforming the state’s third-largest college with nearly 12,000 students:

What will you do before starting full time?

He plans to spend a few weeks balancing his duties as lieutenant governor while visiting stakeholders on campus. “I can make both of them work. ... I’m going to spend time taking inventory of everything there and learn the personalities and the issues. And I want to spend time with board members and have a clear vision of where they want to go.”

What are some of your first tasks after you start full time?

“I want to look at the model of operation at the school. We have got to make some changes to survive as an individual school. … We have got to get the college to where it attracts money and not just keep asking for it.”

How will you make the more attractive to donors?

The school must become more research focused, McConnell said. He will work to have legislation introduced so the school can offer doctoral degrees. “I need a bag of tools to shape our future … We need to have collaborative arrangements with other schools in the state and make those (advanced) degrees available in the local community and that will attract research money. We need to have a targeted research approach and try not to duplicate what other schools are doing.”

How will you work to ease the rift with students, faculty and alumni who protested your potential hiring?

McConnell compared his task with when he became the first Republican Senate president pro tempore since reconstruction since 2001. “My message as president will be to be as inclusive as my (leadership) in the Senate. I’m going to bring the groups together and work to build a consensus. When I took over as Senate president pro tempore, it was one of the most contentious moments in Senate history. People were losing their chairmanships. I had to reach out and heal all those different pieces.”

How will you address increasing minority enrollment?

“We have got to make the college look like South Carolina. We are going to address the diversity question. I will reach out to the black (legislative) caucus and others. I will reach out to churches, alumni and guidance counselors. I don’t want people to think of the College of Charleston as a rich, elitist place. Everyone should see some future at the College of Charleston.”

What is it like to become president of the college where you were student president?

“The school gave me my start. It’s been a unique trip. When I was student government president, president (Theodore) Stern let me be part of his process to shape his vision for the university. I am proud to again get a chance to shape that vision.”

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