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People skills an asset to Shepherd president

March 08, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. -- Suzanne Shipley believes her greatest strength as president of Shepherd University lies in her ability to work with people.

"I understand human relationships," she said, a quality that helps her work through everyday problems that face the leader of a 4,300-student university.

She is in daily contact with students, faculty, administrators, politicians, alumnae, local officials and residents of Shepherdstown. She refers to her ability to communicate as one of "the large tools on my shelf. That is probably what people saw in me," she said, referring to her interview for the job she now holds.

Shipley was hired as Shepherd's 15th president in June 2006 to replace retiring president David Dunlop. She came to Shepherd from the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore.

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Hers is a familiar face at football and basketball games, plays, concerts, student-sponsored events, fundraisers, receptions and community events. Then there are the meetings that crowd her daily schedule, including the one for which she had to cut an interview for this story short.

An average weekend finds Shipley at three to five events. During the week, it's another two or three. 

"I go to all I can," she said.

Shipley is often accompanied by her husband, Randy Wadsworth, a pharmacist at Washington County Hospital, a job she says he loves.

"He's very happy there," she said.

The couple lives in Popidicon, Shepherd's traditional president's home on campus.

Taking up much of her time is the university's effort to develop a strategic plan to lead the campus through the next five years.

"We've been working on it for six months," she said.

The plan covers improving the student learning environment, staff development and salaries.

Shepherd's faculty includes 116 full-time professors and 170 to 200 adjunct faculty, most of whom teach a single class.

Other goals of the five-year plan are to increase the number of full-time faculty and improving the general appearance of the campus, Shipley said.

Shipley hopes to find the money to build a parking garage that would benefit the university and the town.

"We would have to agree with the town on the location," she said.

One faculty member credited Shipley with having the ability to "look at the big picture, as well as knowing how to handle the details of the job."

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin recently said he wants to cap the state's PROMISE program to current levels.

The program provides free college tuition to in-state students who maintain required academic standards. The amount goes up as tuition increases. Manchin wants to cap it $4,500.

Shipley sees pros and cons to Manchin's proposal.

Poorer students would have to make up the difference between the cap and any increase in tuition, she said.

On the plus side, a cap would mean the cost of the program would remain the same year after year, making it easier to budget, she said.

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