5 July 2011

A Conversation with LSC President Steve Gold

Portrait LSC President Steve Gold

MEET LSC PRESIDENT STEVE GOLD. On July 5, 2011, Steve Gold assumed the role of interim president at Lyndon State College. Here are some of President Gold’s reflections on taking the leadership position at LSC.


We hear you retired from state government in 2007. What about this position coaxed you back into service? It was truly an offer I could not refuse. While I have enjoyed retirement very much, I could not resist the opportunity to be a part of the Vermont State Colleges system, for which I have great respect and with which I worked closely in two of my State jobs (Welfare To Work [Reach Up] Programs Director and Commissioner of the Dept. of Employment and Training), and to have a unique, new and exciting but time-limited experience working in a higher education institution like LSC. Additionally, three of the four other presidents, Dave Wolk, Joyce Judy and Barbara Murphy, are all good friends of many years so I knew I would have a wonderful peer support group from the start.


What do you see as your greatest challenges and opportunities in the coming year? My personal challenges will be learning about LSC’s programs, how the enterprise functions, and developing effective relationships with its administration, faculty, staff, and most importantly its students. I think my greatest challenge will be to do everything I can to ensure that this will be a great year for the College and, at the same time, to provide for a smooth transition to the next permanent president. In terms of opportunities, I am really looking forward to being in such a stimulating environment. I want to engage with as many members of the LSC community, especially the students, as I can. I have a great deal to learn about the college and its programs and I expect to discover many opportunities as I go forward with that learning.


What are you most looking forward to in serving as Lyndon’s interim president? I am looking forward to the whole experience, but especially observing and supporting the students, both in their academic pursuits and in their extracurricular endeavors. I am certain I will come away from this year having gained new insights, deeper understanding and great hope for the future of Vermont, the United States and the world through my exposure to LSC’s students.


You’ve worked in many different aspects of Vermont state government. How does that color your view of higher education? I worked in human services for most of my career, and as a result I have a very keen appreciation for the practical importance of attaining a higher education degree. This is true both for personal success in economic and civic terms, and also for success, in the face of the great challenges facing our state, our country and the world, in the our shared future. Although my undergraduate degree was a basic liberal arts degree without any vocational focus, I believe degrees from colleges with programs like those at LSC that provide both an exposure to the liberal arts and a targeted focus on advanced professional skills are essential to success in the 21st Century.


We understand you’ll be on campus for the first two weeks in July, then start in earnest in early August. What is your strategy for the first two weeks? I intend to meet with as many college leaders as I can and to learn my way around the campus. I have three core questions for each person I meet: What is most important for Lyndon State College in the coming year? What is most important for you in your professional or student role at LSC in the coming year? What do you want from me as interim president in the coming year?


How would you describe your management style? I think listening is much more important than talking. I think that mutual respect, courtesy and honesty, even when there are disagreements, are essential. I think that working together collaboratively and recognizing and using each person’s unique strengths is the way to accomplish extraordinary things. I expect mutual accountability. I think I am very good at recognizing a good idea when I hear one and am willing to move it forward. A college, like a government program, exists for the people it is designed to serve; that needs to be in the forefront of all our thinking and doing.


Will you be commuting to Lyndon from Montpelier or taking up residence on President’s Hill? I will be commuting for the first two weeks or so. I plan on residing at LSC at least four days a week, Monday through Thursday, starting sometime in August. I anticipate that there will be many weeks when I will be in residence for more than four days and nights.


This is the first time many members of the Lyndon community will be hearing from you… is there anything else you’d like to share with us? I have some principles on which I base my own work life and which I try to instill in those who work with me.

The order of priorities for each of us should be: first, our health; second, our family; third, our work. I learned that from Con Hogan when he was Secretary of Human Services and it has served me well.

We can accomplish tremendous things if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit. I learned this from Sister Elizabeth Candon when she was Secretary of Human Services.

Each of us needs to figure out to what we are ultimately committed in our work. When Sister Janice Ryan was my Deputy Commissioner at Corrections, she once sat me down and told me “I work for Justice, not for Corrections.” My public sector work was about creating opportunities to make real, positive changes for those who hadn’t had much success in their lives.

Effective leadership is not about you; it is about what you enable others to do.


What do you like to do in your free time? I am an avid fresh and salt water fisherman, which also means I am an optimist and given to hope. I try to work out regularly; I was an athlete in high school and college and as an adult in central Vermont; my sports were football, lacrosse, basketball and white water canoeing. I enjoy watching college sports, especially basketball and lacrosse. I love to go to live arts performances: music, especially jazz; dance; performance art. I listen to jazz recordings. For relaxation I read crime novels.


And finally… Is there any truth to the rumor that you accepted this position in order to spend more time fishing Lake Willoughby? It would be hard to spend more time fishing on Lake Willoughby than I have done in the past four years in May and October, but I must admit that the proximity of LSC to Willoughby has not escaped my attention. Perhaps there will be some late afternoon two or three person meetings on that lake in my boat this October and next May.


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