Saturday October 8, 2016

First 100 Days

In his first 100 days as the University of Dayton's 19th president, Eric Spina has launched an ambitious VisionUD strategic visioning process and posted more than 150 Instagram photos of himself in action — from visiting alumni communities in Chicago and Los Angeles to paddling down the Great Miami River on a Sunday afternoon with the president's emissaries.

Spina took a moment this week to reflect on his opening days, his leadership style and his vision for the future.

Best moment: When Karen and I walked into a full chapel at the 12:30 p.m. Mass on my first official day, we really felt welcomed to the community. This was a visible manifestation of who we are as a university. Catholic, Marianist, welcoming. When Father Kip Stander, S.M., offered a blessing over us, it was emotional and powerful.

Biggest surprise: I'm impressed by the selflessness of the students, time and time again. They're not here thinking about how to get rich; they are here at UD to gain an education to prepare them to do something positive in the world, in their communities, for their families, for humankind. It's humbling. And inspiring.

Challenge of being the new guy on campus: I want to be everywhere, absorbing everything on campus, but I usually end up missing four or five places I'd like to be on any given day.

One word that comes to mind when describing the UD community: Connectedness. The subtext is love.

On his "addiction" to Twitter and Instagram: It's fun, and it's easy. I love the positive interaction, the instant engagement with people.

On his leadership style: I think of myself as someone who's a listener, is collaborative and provides a rationale for decisions. One of my favorite books is Chris Lowney's Heroic Leadership, which looks at how the Jesuits developed a culture of leadership. The book's four principles — self-awareness, ingenuity, love and heroism — resonate with me. It's not personal heroism. As a Catholic, Marianist university, we prepare students to make a positive difference in the world. That's heroic.

On what UD will look like in 20 years: In some ways, the same. Our values, our mission, are constant. In other ways, dramatically different. Our approach to teaching, learning and research, our venues and our footprint will be completely revolutionized, yet our Catholic, Marianist philosophy of education will remain at our core.

On how he's spending his 100th day: Karen and I will spend it on UD's campus with a wonderful mentor and friend, Tom Blumer, the retired senior vice president at Corning who served on Syracuse's engineering advisory board. We'll go to the football game and walk around campus. When Karen was eight months pregnant with our first child, he gave me some direct, personal advice that I took to heart: "Make sure you're there for every softball game, every dance recital." And I was, except for one Halloween. He taught me you can do big jobs but still be there for your family.

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