Madison College met its eighth president during the Aug. 20 convocation at the Mitby Theatre. Dr. Jack E. Daniels III “emerged as the first choice of the board of trustees, as well as faculty, staff, students and community members, from throughout our district, who shared their comments with us,” said Dr. Carolyn Stoner as she introduced Daniels.
“We are positioned to build on the strong foundation that‘s already in place and with new ideas and the fresh perspective of Dr. Daniels to climb to new heights in the future,” Stoner said shortly before allowing the president to address his new constituents.
She also presented Daniels with a hooded jacket to prepare him for the unpredictable weather indigenous to Wisconsin, and a lapel pin to “officially mark the beginning of (Daniels’) tenure as president of Madison College.”
After a warm standing ovation Daniels expressed his gratitude to all of Madison College for the support he has received. The new president then began exhibiting his jovial disposition by addressing one of the most common questions he has received since arriving on campus. He discussed the factors behind his decision to move from pleasantly temperate Los Angeles to the unpredictable Wisconsin climate.
“We’re staying 17 miles away and my trip took 21 minutes,” said Daniels to the amused spectators. “In L.A.,” he later explained about his old daily commute, “you’re spending four hours in your car.”
Considering the commitment he knows his presidential duties will entail, Daniels insists, “It is about balance; because as much as my commitment is to this college and these students and this community, there’s still a life on the other side.”
His family life is that other side. Like any wise husband, Dr. Daniels introduced his wife, Kimala, during his commencement speech. He also talked about their son, a two-year-old labradoodle named Paxton.
“You can’t enjoy the weather from your car; and if I have to get to the big city, I know how to get to Chicago,” said Daniels. He is, in fact, well acclimated to “Midwestern weather.” He is a proud Chicago native with family still residing in Illinois.
Aside from a much friendlier commute and proximity to kinfolk, Daniels discussed why this was an opportunity he couldn’t pass on.
“Outside of the very high reputation at Madison College has been their whole effort on student success and constantly moving forward. This is a forward thinking, forward moving college,” Daniels said. “If there is a roadblock that’s put in front, we discuss how in fact do you navigate the roadblock. Sometimes you go over it, sometimes you go under it and sometimes you go through it but you find a way to navigate it.”
Additionally, Daniels recognized the indispensible people that make up the college. When commenting on the staff and students he has met, he joyfully affirmed that they have demonstrated “warmth and commitment; that’s special.” He went on to elaborate on the “strong Midwestern work ethic.” This work ethic, to him “is oftentimes, in California specifically, missed that.”
Succeeding Dr. Bettsey Barhorst, who served for nine years as president and helped push Madison College’s massive transformation, will not be easy but Daniels is confident he is up for the task and “is very comfortable here” and leading the school into the future.
For the first few weeks of his presidency, Daniels’ itinerary includes six key stages for success. Firstly, he plans to observe. From there he wants to listen, compile the findings, analyze the information gathered and communicate with all parties. After the first five steps are complete, Daniels will then formulate his plan for Madison College.
One part of this plan, will be “sustaining enrollment and improving yield.” Daniels recognizes that it will be a key challenge. “Budget woes will continue,” he acknowledged. It is an obstacle that Daniels is prepared to clear, even considering the tasks now facing the school in a post-Act 10 environment and the subsequent resource restraints. His experience dealing with budget difficulties, at previous positions, helped assure the committee of his suitability as president.
Daniels also values the other side of education to help nurture student success. When asked about the importance of student clubs and athletics, he stressed their value to the student body. “We have a sense of community that is so rich because folks want to stay.” It also “gives students a different view, and gives them a global aspect of how they’re going through their college career.” Overall, he outlined how great of a learning experience it can be. “It’s not just the activity of the club; it’s what you learn from the club. It’s that connection you have with your college. That’s what builds that camaraderie.”
He is also very proud of the tradition Madison College athletics has built. “You’ve got some very, very strong teams: from baseball, women’s basketball.” And despite being relatively new on campus, he is well aware of the top ranked volleyball team.
Regarding these activities’ greater role, Daniels recognizes their significance as well. “There’s another interesting fact too, it’s not just the players or scholar athletes that are on the team, but it’s who they take with them.”
Daniels does have a personal goal, although he isn’t confident he can reach it.
“Sure, I want to break 70 at the golf course,“ he chuckled. Although he believes his only chance at it is on a video game, he feels like his professional accomplishments are up to par.
After serving countless students at several colleges within many college districts, Daniels said “I feel very comfortable with what I have achieved over my career, I feel very comfortable being here as president.
Dr. Daniels was hired based on many factors. His main objective at Madison College is fairly simple and reflects his years of dedication to the students he has led.
“My lasting legacy will always be about how did I impact students’ goals. And were they successful at reaching their goals: whatever that might be. What role did I help play in that to help facilitate that?”