Dr. Scott Gordon began his duties at SFA as the ninth president of the University on Sept. 19. During his time at SFA, Gordon said he has received a warm welcome, practiced transparency and has plans to transform the University into a model of the new American University with the help of students and staff.
“In this model of the new American University, we really want to develop a curriculum that is multidisciplinary [and] that is hands-on,” Gordon said. “[We want] a curriculum that’s interactive with the community, so that students can get a variety of applied experiences.”
Gordon explained that an American University means a university that is responsive to students, the region and the needs of the region.
“I mean that from a development standpoint, from a curricular standpoint and an institution that is easily navigable for students,” Gordon said.
Some ways that Gordon said he has been practicing transparency is with the Breakfast with the President event that was recently held, along with meeting and visiting with deans of each college and taking questions.
“Another thing that’s happening is we’re going to take on the road a budget presentation, so that students, faculty, staff can see how the budget is developed, where the money comes from and where it goes,” Gordon said. “I think that’s important because a lot of times, budgets are not as clear and transparent as they can be. As a result, rumors start to develop.”
Gordon said he is currently in the process of meeting with all academic colleges where he’ll have open forums.
“They can ask anything they want, and I will answer them,” Gordon said. “Everything from what I like most about SFA [or] what I like least to ‘How much money do you have in your budget?’ Those are all questions I will take.”
The SFA president also said that he’s working with SGA President Scarleth Lopez to gather an interdisciplinary team.
“I’m going to be putting together a student advisory panel made up of students from all across campus,” Gordon said.
“I want to look at students of different age, race, socioeconomic backgrounds, veteran status."
"I want as diverse a group of students as I can and meet with them on a regular basis to ask, ‘What’s working for you? What’s not working for you?’ I think asking students that is just as important as asking faculty, staff and administrators, too.”
The SFA president also said that he’s developing a President’s Advisory Council.
“A lot of our colleges and academic programs have executive advisory councils,” Gordon said. “This would be a representation of each of those councils that serves on a President’s Advisory Council to give some input on what’s happening campus-wide for various programs.”
He also said he plans on creating a website for budget transparency.
“That website’s going to list all the budget requests are coming in across campus,” Gordon said. “It’s going to list where the budget requests have been funded and where they haven’t been funded. All this stuff is going to be very open and available for people to see.”
Gordon, a first-generation college student, said that if it weren’t for scholarships, loans and federal aid he wouldn’t have been able to go to college.
Gordon said that although he couldn’t call home and ask his family college questions while at college, he said he had faculty and staff at his university who guided him.
“That has really shaped who I am as a faculty member and as an administrator,” Gordon said. “We need to mentor. We need to guide. This whole concept of getting all the new students in the room and saying, ‘Look to your left. Look to your right. One of you won’t be here.’ That’s crap. We need to be here and say, ‘Every single one of you is going to graduate, and we’re going to do what we can to help you graduate.’”
Gordon said he believes faculty and staff should help students be successful.
“That’s a goal that we have,” Gordon said. “Every decision I make, I look through that lens of, ‘How does this help students be successful?’”
Gordon said that most of his days are filled with meetings with legislators, donors, coalitions for economic development and other administrators. He said he does a lot of listening and travels to Austin often.
A big issue on campus has always been on-campus parking. Gordon said that the University has to have a better logistical arrangement of classes, schedules and parking.
“If you have 13,000 students, all taking classes between 10 and 1 on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, you’re going to have a parking issue,” Gordon said.
“But if you have classes that are spread out a little bit differently, you might be able to remedy some of that.”
Gordon said that the issues that the University is dealing with are minimal compared to some institutions.
“Is it something that we need to still look at?” Gordon said. “Absolutely, but we also have to make sure we realize that we’re not in a horrible situation here.”
Gordon said that it costs $50,000 to build one parking spot in a parking garage.
“If you had a parking garage that had 100 spots and each one is $50,000, it’s expensive,” Gordon said. “Surface lots are about $15,000 to $20,000 per spot. So, when you look at all the parking out there, what you’ll realize is there’s a lot of money put into parking.”
Apart from being SFA president, Gordon is a member of the Nacogdoches Rotary, Nacogdoches Economic Development Corporation and the Nacogdoches Booster Club.
“I think being active... in the community, has really already started to help build connections between the University and the community,” Gordon said.
Gordon said that with his responsibilities, he tries not to get stressed.
“If I should come close to getting stressed, I love to walk,” Gordon said. “My wife and I walk around campus quite often. Some people may not recognize me because usually I wear a baseball hat, and I’ll be in my shorts and T-shirt. I love anything to do with water. I swam in college. Water skiing, boating, swimming, anything to do with the water, I love it. I love to drive. It’s my Zen time. I love spending time with family.”
Gordon said that he loves what he does and said it’s a lifestyle.
“Being on a college campus, being involved, going to all the Fine Arts events, the sporting events, all of that, to me, is what I enjoy,” Gordon said.
Gordon said that if students see him on campus, he wants them to stop and introduce themselves.
“Don’t be afraid,” Gordon said. “I’m a real person. I want to get to know the students. I don’t want them to feel as though they can’t come up and talk and say ‘Hi.’”