07/01/09 — New boss starts his first day at college

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New boss starts his first day at college

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on July 1, 2009 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Although students at Mount Olive College won't be moving into dormitories for the fall semester until August, a newcomer is settling in today on campus.

This morning marked the start of Dr. Philip Paul Kerstetter's first day as president of Mount Olive College -- and yes, the Delaware native has already tried the famous eastern North Carolina barbecue.

The move to Mount Olive College from Kansas Wesleyan University in Selina, Kan., where he served as president and chief executive officer, was an easy one, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Dr. J. William Byrd and the faculty and staff of the college, Kerstetter said. And his family's own prior experience with moving from one place to another didn't hurt either.

"This has definitely been the easiest," Kerstetter said. "We're veterans at this point."

He does not yet have particular plans for what he hopes to achieve at Mount Olive, and believes it would be "presumptuous" to start making such decisions before he becomes more familiar with the college.

However, Kerstetter said he believes in a holistic approach to learning, and that he will strive to keep moving forward with the long-term strategic plan that is already in place for the college. Any moves he makes will be consistent with that plan, he said.

"We will be very true to our mission," Kerstetter said.

He said he also will seek to support the college in its mission of being "transformative, which is what all good programs ought to be."

Education is not one size fits all, Kerstetter said, and in his new leadership role he hopes to continue the work already in place to make higher education more easily accessible to both traditional and non-traditional students.

"We've got to be open to all kinds of students," he said.

He also hopes to continue to foster the close relationship between the college and the Original Free Will Baptist Convention that founded and supports it.

"That will be a priority for us," Kerstetter said.

Everyone in Mount Olive has been very welcoming, he said, and he hopes to return the favor by encouraging the college to reach out to the town and surrounding areas.

"We very much expect to be active in the community," he said.

In the meantime, he plans on settling in and learning everything he can about the school, the students, the faculty and the people who live in and around Mount Olive.

"I do a lot of listening. People have ideas, people have dreams," he said.

Even though Byrd is retiring from the job of president, he will continue to work with the college as the first MOC chancellor. But before he starts, he will enjoy the first long vacation he's had in nearly 50 years of work in education as a professor, administrator and president.

He plans to spend it with his family and his boat, he said.

Byrd will most definitely be around Mount Olive in the future, although he and his wife will live in New Bern. And although the former president is still defining the role he will play in his new position, he was very clear with the Board of Trustees on one aspect of it.

"That it be part time," he said, with a laugh.