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PROGRESS: Seven months in, GGC president not bothered by interim title

In this file photo, interim Georgia Gwinnett College President Stanley “Stas” Preczewski speaks at a graduation ceremony. Despite having the interim title since July, it doesn’t bother Preczewski, who believes the interim title doesn’t change the job description. (Staff Photo: Jason Braverman)

In this file photo, interim Georgia Gwinnett College President Stanley “Stas” Preczewski speaks at a graduation ceremony. Despite having the interim title since July, it doesn’t bother Preczewski, who believes the interim title doesn’t change the job description. (Staff Photo: Jason Braverman)

For the second time in his career, Stanley “Stas” Preczewski is an interim president of a college institution. Yet because of his personality, and the way Georgia Gwinnett College was built, Preczewski believes the interim title doesn’t change the job description.

“Whether you have interim before you’re name, the decisions still have to be made and the responsibility is still the same,” Preczewski told the Daily Post in a recent interview in his office. “You just have that word out front. I operate the same whether it’s there or not there.”

The appointment, which began on July 1, follows GGC President Daniel Kaufman’s recent move as the new president of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce. Preczewski served as provost since GGC’s founding in 2005.

Preczewski was also interim president of Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville from July 2011 through June 2012. While he learned some lessons in his first stint as an interim president, Preczewski said GCSU’s more than 100-year-old history is a stark contrast to GGC still being in the development stages.

There is no timetable for the Board of Regents to name an official president, spokesman John Millsaps said.

The standard process for finding a college president includes the formation of two separate committees: a campus search committee and a Regents search committee.

With a military background as a retired colonel, Preczewski said he makes decisions based on the mission and the vision of the college. He also doesn’t treat the interim title as a sort of on-the-job interview for the permanent position.

“I’ve never made a decision, ever, in my life that benefits me, in fact I’ve done things that have hurt myself,” Preczewski said. “We’ve always operated, and will always operate, in the best interest of the students. If we do what’s in the best interest of me, generally that’s not what’s best for the students. … There’s only one reason a college exists, there’s only one reason we have jobs. It’s because students choose to come here. They choose to come here because they’re successful here.”

While the job description hasn’t changed, Preczewski’s duties have since he was provost, which he admitted to being largely internal to the campus. The president’s duties are largely external, and deals with every stake holder that touches the university: students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, donors, legislators and the Board of Regents.

“Everybody has a slightly different twist of what they would like to see a college to do,” he said. “You’re job is to find that middle point. It’s not a science, it’s an art.”

Meanwhile, Preczewki is proud to share retention statistics that show 87 percent of students who started in August remain on campus, a two percent improvement from last year. The school’s new advising center is also credited for a three-fold increase in retention of at-risk students.

Last year, the General Assembly agreed to a six-year draw down of $1.375 million per year for GGC. Preczewski said the college can handle the drop in funding because it knew it was coming and planned for it.

“We’ll take the cut, since we know it’s coming, and it will have no effect on the quality of our education,” he said.

Institutions around the country are beginning to take notice, for reasons that include managing with less money. Preczewski said he’s been invited to speak about GGC’s model at national conferences. And he’s proud to share the recent U.S. News & World Report No. 5 ranking that GGC received for Southern public colleges.

“We’re getting a reputation for quality,” he said.