Q&A: Interim chancellor Venkat Reddy discusses UCCS’ success, future

April 11, 2017

Jasmine Nelson

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     Before his start at UCCS 26 years ago, interim Chancellor Venkat Reddy moved to the United States from India to attain his master’s degree and then his doctorate’s degree from Pennsylvania State University.

     On Feb. 15, Reddy assumed the position of interim chancellor after Chancellor Emerita Pamela Shockley-Zalabak retired.

     Reddy began his career at UCCS in 1991 as an instructor, and in 1992 he became an associate professor. By 2004 he was a professor of finance and was named the dean of the College of Business in 2005. He also took on the role of associate vice chancellor for online programs in 2010.

     The Scribe interviewed Reddy to ask what he believes is the future of UCCS and what his goals are as interim chancellor.

Q: Emphasized in the university’s strategic plan are: accessibility, inclusivity, diversity, sustainability and innovation. What characteristics of UCCS are most important to you?

A: At the end of the day, our goal is to really make our students successful. Every one of those go toward helping our students succeed.

     Having diversity is not just about having somebody of different color, but diversity also increases intellectual dialogue.

     Diversity increases creativity; diversity increases innovation, because when different people from different cultures and different thought processes come together, we can create a lot of great things.

Q: What are you the most excited to work on as the interim chancellor?

A: To continue to strengthen our online programs, which have become a very strategic piece of our student population. In fact, the latest number shows that almost 14 percent of our student credit hours are coming from online classes.

     Another area is to make sure that we complete the Ent Center and also make sure that we have good foundation and architectural planning for the William J. Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center.

     Finally, we need to make sure that we set our place for the cybersecurity initiative that we have.

Q: How do you envision UCCS 15 years from now?

A: In 15 years, I hope that we will be a very diversified campus and through diversified revenue sources, that we will be a force to reckon with, that we have distinctive programs, that we will be well known for our research, creativity and innovation and that we will be well known for our cyber-security initiative.

     I envision a really big campus and a campus that we all can take pride in as well as one the community takes pride in, and I envision that we serve not only our region, but well beyond our region, because we are going to be so strong.

Q: How are your actions, procedures and goals as interim chancellor different from Shockley-Zalabak’s?

A: If you look at what Chancellor Shockley-Zalabak has done, she took a scrappy campus 15 years ago and built it into what it is today. She had tremendous energy, tremendous momentum; we are considered the economic engine in our community, so now we have an opportunity to take it to the next level.

     Different only in the sense that we are a much bigger organization now. Things that worked in the past may not work in the future.

     Some of the things I am looking at are how we can impact the culture of the place so we pull more people together, because we need more help, and create a culture of empowerment, create a culture of collaboration.

     We need to be much more thoughtful about how we organize ourselves so that we can continue our success into the future.

Q: What criteria do you use to evaluate yourself as the interim chancellor?

A: I believe that everybody is blessed with some unique quality they can contribute to the success of the organization and their own success.

     Having a strong set of core values, ethics and integrity are the foundation for any role. Beyond that, you need to be able to rely on people, to build good teams and really look out for a vision that everybody can believe in, a single vision; we are all working as one team.

     We are not on opposite sides; we are on the same side, trying to build a strong organization. I would really want to build the organization on people more than anything else because people can make magic—buildings don’t.

Q: In an article published by the Scribe, students said they would like an accessible chancellor who participates in student life. Do you fulfill that expectation?

A: I think the chancellor has to make every effort to be accessible to all their stakeholders.

     I already met with the student government, I’ve been to some of the games to be a part of the student population, watching, but I think I just have to figure out a way to make time.

     I think students can really give rich information to me, and we need to figure out the right settings.

     The thing is, this organization has to be transparent. I should be able to tell you anything and everything unless it’s a personnel issue or something that’s so confidential I can’t share, but at the end of the day, this campus is as much yours as it is mine.

Q: What issue at UCCS needs the most attention?

A: I think one of the challenges we have is a third of our students are low-income students, and a third of our students are first-generation students, and that’s a problem and an opportunity. I always worry about ‘How do we figure out different ways of bringing scholarship money so that we can get them to school?’

     I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: helping one first-generation student graduate translates to helping an entire generation of that student graduate college. That’s a powerful thing. But it’s also a challenge.

     I will not say parking is a problem because you know that it is, but that’s not something we should be worried about, I think we should worry about bigger things than that.

     I would also love to see more diversity on our campus in students, faculty and staff. I would love to see more international students.

     We could also use more space; we are growing fast, and that’s going to be a continuing challenge, so the challenges exist, but I think what we have going for us is highly energetic, highly motivated people.

     You don’t see too many sad faces on this campus; people really are in high spirits. They want to do some good things, I think that’s going to trump a lot of problems that we might be having.