The University of Central Florida’s President-Elect Dale Whittaker conducted his first interview with five student media reporters in a panel discussion, where Whittaker expressed his desire to have meaningful and personal relationships with the UCF student body.
Whittaker called the student body at UCF “uniquely engaged, uniquely influential and uniquely powerful,” praising students for their ability to express their voices through student media, student government and having a member of the student body on UCF’s Board of Trustees, a governing council of the university.
“Very few universities have students that initiate so much and are so important,” Whittaker said.
Whittaker also reflected on the lessons he learned from President John C. Hitt and his time in leadership, focusing on integrity and collective wisdom.
“One of the things that President Hitt has done remarkably well is identify talented people, and kept them engaged with each other, supporting each other’s agendas,” Whittaker said. “It’s how we’ve grown so strong, so fast.”
Whittaker elaborated on his plans to bring new ideas to UCF, including being more external facing and engaged with the student body, and being more engaged with university stakeholders and business community in order to increase the prospect of careers for outgoing students.
Whittaker plans along with his wife, Mary, to engage with students in both informal and formal settings, to recognize the contributions the student body makes to the university as a whole.
“It’s really hard to be intimate with 66,000 people… so one of the things you’ll find me committed to is a social media presence. Just so in a sense you can keep up with what I’m doing, and when you want, you can have the opportunity to tweet back,” Whittaker said.
Whittaker’s Twitter profile currently has 2,143 followers, and he has tweeted multiple times, sometimes several times in one day, since his announcement as president-elect.
Though he plans to continue to use Twitter presence to interact with students, he said he believes that interacting online is not the same as meeting face-to-face.
“It is not about photo-ops, and snaps, it’s really about listening and having the time to understand,” Whittaker said.