Brien Lewis is President of Transylvania University
Brien: “‘What is it like to move to a new place and start a new job as a University president during a pandemic?’
I’ll admit it is not a question I ever thought I would have posed to me and the simple answer is it is a little surreal. It is challenging to leave a community without feeling like you got to say goodbye and thank you in a proper fashion. We all appreciate a sense of closure when chapters of our lives come to an end, recognizing that—despite best intentions and good efforts—the nature of relationships changes somewhat when you don’t encounter people as frequently as you once did.
It is also interesting to try to build new working and social relationships with people who—in some cases—you have only “met” on the screen of your phone or laptop. I never imagined hiring people for key positions who I never encountered first in person—but I am very pleased to say that these talented people are every bit as engaging in person as they were in virtual environments. Whether that means I am a good reader of people or just darn lucky will remain to be seen! I can also only hope that people who are connecting with me are getting a true sense of who I am. Again, time and experience will tell.
People have also asked what my biggest surprise has been. In a word: patience. Faculty and staff, students and parents, alumni and community members have been remarkably patient and understanding as we have all worked through complex issues and fluid situations. I can totally understand and appreciate that people want clarity and they want answers yesterday—as a parent of two children in university, I am similarly anxious. Yet almost unanimously they have been calm, supportive, and seem to recognize that these are issues no one has dealt with in our lifetimes and the answers are rarely easy or concrete. I am immeasurably grateful for their willingness to wait for answers, to offer encouragement, and to share in working towards solutions.
Although we have not been able to explore all that Lexington has to offer due to the circumstances, everything we have seen and everyone we have met have offered warmth, humor, and a helpful hand with good cheer. We know without question we made the right choice in coming here—perhaps especially during such unsettled times.”