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Five Questions: ETSU President Noland talks favorite food, music and career moments

Brandon Paykamian • Aug 1, 2018 at 6:30 AM

From getting the ball rolling on a new, state-of-the-art fine arts center to helping create a revitalized football program, East Tennessee State University has experienced a lot of growth since President Brian Noland first took the helm in 2012.

After growing up in Sterling, Virginia, Noland’s higher education began at West Virginia University, where he studied political science before obtaining a master’s degree in public policy studies and then a Ph.D. in political sciences at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

It was in Knoxville that Noland began learning more about educational administration. He later served as chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education System before becoming president of ETSU.

Weeks before the 2018-19 school year, Noland stayed busy, but he took time to speak to the Press about his personal and professional life.

Noland briefly:

Favorite song/music artists Bruce Springsteen and Rush. Favorite song: “Limelight” by Rush
Favorite food Pizza
Favorite movie Star Wars (1977) 
Guilty pleasure Hot fudge sundae Pop Tart and Diet Coke for breakfast
Family Donna Fox Noland, wife, and son, Jackson Noland 

What first got you interested in a career in education?

“Dr. Robert Diclerico at West Virginia University taught my Intro to American Government course and I was moved by the manner in which he was able to connect with students and bring passion to the subject. He inspired my love of teaching and higher education, and I decided if there was a goal in life that I wanted to pursue it was to become a faculty member. I got into administration through another faculty member, Dr. John Peters, who was the provost at University of Tennessee Knoxville when I was there. I had a graduate assistantship working for Dr. Peters and was able to see how he blended some of the theoretical things I was learning in graduate school with practical applications. He pointed me into institutional research and administration.”

What motivates you in your profession? (What have been some of your biggest goals?)

“The hope that, each day, I will do something that furthers the opportunities for our students, faculty and staff to realize their dreams. It is the opportunity to work with individuals and hopefully, through some small act, positively impact the institution that they call home.

“One of my primary goals has always been to demonstrate the impact ETSU has on this region. I try to bring some weight around the institution’s mission of improving the quality of life for the people of the region.

“I am looking forward to the physical transformations that will occur, including the opening of the new Culp Center and the opening of the Martin Center for the Arts in 2020. Maybe more than that, I am looking forward to seeing our ability to capitalize on the opportunity in front of us as a result of the health systems’ (Ballad Health) merger. We have an opportunity to grow our clinical footprint and enhance our research to improve population health outcomes, thereby actualizing our institutional mission to improve the quality of life for the people of this region.”

What memorable moments come to mind when you look back on your years as president?

“There are too many to mention, but one I will never forget is volunteering to be a prop in the slam-dunk competition while Deuce Bello jumped over me from the side. I knew he was going to do that, but I had no idea Hanner Mosquera-Perea was then going to jump right over my head. I was scared to death!

Other memorable moments that come to mind include the chorale reunion for Professor Emeritus of Music Tom Jenrette’s final performance. All of the alumni came back to perform and many of them had tears coming down their faces as they sang. I will never forget that. The moment was even captured by artist Bill Bledsoe in his painting, ‘Jenrette’s Last Stand.’

I will also never forget being on the field for the first game in (William B.) Greene Stadium — hearing the marching band play the Tennessee Waltz, the team running out on the field. It was an amazing moment.

Finally, I will always remember when an undergraduate student came to see me as a freshman, talking about dropping out. For the next three-and-a-half years, I mentored this student and when that student walked across the stage at commencement, it really was the moment of a lifetime. The student gave me a thank you letter that day and I still carry it in my briefcase to remind me of why I do what I do.”

What do you think makes ETSU unique compared to other institutions?

“We are a major university with all the moving parts, but still have the feel of a small college. When you walk across our campus, there is a sense of community, of pride. We have evolved into a major research institution but have not lost that sense of a personal touch.”

What do you think you will be doing after serving as ETSU’s president?

“I hope I am still alive! Really, though, no matter where I am for the next stage of my life, I hope that I have the ability to continue with teaching and/or administration in some way. I want to be able to work with students and remain part of a vibrant and dynamic community.”

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