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Dr. Tim Hudson hits the ground running (and listening) as new Arkansas State University chancellor


An idiom is a phrase that has a figurative meaning—like “hit the ground running.” In the case of Arkansas State University’s incoming chancellor Dr. Tim Hudson, it’s a good description of what he has recently done. Even though he doesn’t officially become chancellor until Tuesday, May 1, he has already hit the ASU campus running—and listening.

Hudson, who was named ASU’s second chancellor March 2, 2012, has already been on campus a couple of times in order to participate in special events, such as taking part in ASU’s Convocation of Scholars week and throwing out the first pitch at the Red Wolves’ baseball game against Western Kentucky — a "strike" according to community leader Ed Way who was perched in his usual spot behind home plate. He then met and visited with Coach Tommy Raffo’s team.  Hudson is an avid baseball fan.

Oh, by the way, ASU won that game.

“It is both humbling and thrilling to be named chancellor of Arkansas State University — humbling because the entire ASU family was engaged in the selection process and thrilling because I feel like I have been given the opportunity of a lifetime to work at the very sort of institution I love, in such an attractive community,” said Hudson.

And as he promised in the press conference that announced his appointment, he also “hit the ground listening.” For a man destined to attend thousands of meetings, he put a high priority on his very first one — with student leaders and Student Government Association officers.  "Students are our raison d'tre.  They are telling me their stories and helping me understand what ASU means to them — and they are teaching me to “howl!”

“He wanted to learn to howl,” laughed SGA president Hunter Petrus of Jonesboro. “So, we all stood up, sang the fight song, taught him how to howl and to make the wolf head sign with his fingers; it's a work in progress.”

“The meeting was a big success,” continued Petrus. “We had strong dialogue with him about how students feel about ASU and what improvements the students would like to see. We all had a great first impression of Dr. Hudson. We could tell he is a hard worker and dedicated to the university and to the students.”

Listening? Well he met with Faculty Senate and Staff Senate leaders, the Deans’ Council, faculty in their offices, department chairs, members of the senior executive team, and the Board Trustees.  He met Arkansas Senator Paul Bookout, Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin, and Arkansas Congressman Rick Crawford and consulted with St. Bernards' Chris Barber on a possible economic development initiative.  He toured the student life offices and even snuck into the Police Department early one morning to to say hello and thank you.

"On my interview day Officer Seneca Knight helped Dee Dee and me find a place to park, I wanted to say thanks and to let the entire department know how much I appreciate the role they play and their professionalism." He and Dee Dee were guests of honor at a community reception hosted by Jonesboro’s Liberty Bank and helped dig new dirt at the sorority groundbreaking.

He spoke to the faculty of the College of Fine Arts and attended an ASU theatre production, "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," at Fowler Center with the incoming Fine Arts dean, Dr. Donald Bowyer and Interim Dean Dale Miller.  "I'm a theater hound and have seen plays around the world.  Truthfully, I have never enjoyed a production any more. There is clearly great talent and great leadership here.  We'll be regulars at the Fowler Center."

By all appearances, Dr. Hudson is happy to be the chancellor at Arkansas State University and a new resident of Jonesboro. His face carries a perpetual and genuine smile that marks him as open, friendly, interested and accessible in his new surroundings.

His second excursion to the campus was even busier, more running and more listening. For example, he immediately formed a transition advisory committee to help provide him with advice and counsel.

“I want everyone to know that I welcome their input and especially their ideas, directly or through the committee.”

He was visible at the Faculty Honors Convocation and spent time with Head Football Coach Gus Malzahn and his staff.  Dee Dee then joined him for a weekend meeting of the Chancellor’s Cabinet.  They interacted with members of this key support group, enjoyed a cookout and attended the Red Wolves spring football game where Dr. Hudson mingled with a record crowd of over 6,000 Red Wolf fans and ASU supporters and was introduced on the field.  "Being on the field was energizing — you could sense the excitement and optimism.  I offered to call a couple of plays, but thankfully, Coach showed great leadership and declined.  I did NOT offer to make a tackle!"

Briefings on enrollment management, participating in planning for fund-raising campaigns, visiting with the International Programs Office staff, and scores of other listening sessions followed.

Then there were more meetings regarding the site visit for accreditation review by the Higher Education Learning Commission which he visited during a quick foray to Chicago, meetings about the draft of the long-term campus master plan, delivering welcoming remarks for featured speaker Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. at the “Paint the Town Green” banquet for the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce, and attending ASU’s rugby match with Life University after learning all about the sport from new South African friends he met thorugh Trustee Mike Gibson.  "My ten-year-old son Nathaniel is absolutely thrilled that ASU has a great rugby team and is lobbying his mom to let him play already.  He plans to enlist Coach Huckaby's help."

Hudson spent some quality time with the leadership of the Strong-Turner Alumni chapter in what he described as among the "most delightful and important" meetings so far.

“We were very, very impressed with Dr. Hudson,” said Victor Hill, an ASU admissions counselor and member of the Strong-Turner Alumni Chapter. “We believe he will support our mission and our inclusion on campus.”

Dr. Hudson and wife Dee Dee, also a Dr. Hudson (she holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership) are getting to know the campus and various facets of the community through informal dinners and coffees.  They greeted a local crowd at the Elks Lodge at a Leadership Jonesboro fundraiser, listened to the local band "Brewers" music, negotiated temporary housing in a downtown loft with local entrepreneur Clay Young, and visited Jonesboro schools where their three children (Daisy is also ten and Gianna Grace is 14)  will enroll.

Dee Dee took doughnuts to the university staff members who are preparing the chancellor’s home on East Nettleton before the Hudsons and open it to the community.  "I wanted them to know how much I appreciate what they are doing for our university and for our family," she said. "And who doesn't like doughnuts?"

“We have had Sunday brunch a couple of times and then drove around Jonesboro,” said local architect George Krennerich. “I’m really impressed with his interest in the community and the campus. He will be great for ASU and I think Jonesboro will embrace him and his wife Dee Dee." Hudson grew up near New Orleans and shares with Krennerich an "active" interest in good food and good times.
“Every family has its unique geography,” continued Hudson. “We have relatives scattered from Missouri and Alabama to southern Mississippi. As Dee Dee says, coming to Jonesboro feels like coming home,” said Hudson.

And now he has more running to do, preparing for his first Board of Trustees meeting on May 4.

Dr. Hudson views work and life as seamless.  "It is a privilege and a joy to work with great colleagues, build relationships and make friends while making a difference in the lives of our students and the quality of life of our community."

In other words, the ASU job fits him like a glove—another apropos idiomatic expression as ASU enters a new phase, one headed for that next level — with Dr. Hudson as chancellor.
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