Dr. Brendan Kelly’s transition into his role as president of the University of West Georgia took place under uncertain and stressful times. However, he has already started to prove his ability to lead the university towards a promising future.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Kelly chose to begin his role as president on March 23, 2020, a week before the original date. With the help of his colleagues, Dr. Kelly immediately focused on managing the university’s response to the pandemic, but also on planning for the future of UWG.
“We have put in place short-term priorities to make certain that we remain as successful as possible as a University in the midst of a very fluid situation with COVID-19,” said Dr. Kelly. “We are spending all of our time adapting to our current circumstances and trying to make certain that every decision that we are making right now is informing of landing in the right place.”
While getting to know his colleagues across the university, Dr. Kelly has started the framework for a new strategic plan for the university. The strategic plan includes the improvement of future student enrollment, recruitment, and talent acquisition. Dr. Kelly wants to ensure that the opportunity for higher education at the University of West Georgia remains as easily accessible as possible for students.
“One of the most important decisions I made when I came into office a few weeks ago was planning for the future in terms of university leadership,” said Dr. Kelly. “We are launching into a Provost search, Chief Business Officer, Vice President of Business and finance search right now.”
For Dr. Kelly, every single student has to be given the tools to feel competent at learning, whether it is a student pursuing a doctorate or a first-year college student.
“I want to get the most talented people I can possibly get to be part of this university so that the students have the richest experience possible,” said Dr. Kelly.
According to the University System of Georgia (USG) Chancellor Steve Wrigley and some UWG faculty members, “Dr. Kelly is an advocate for students, faculty, and staff.”
As the father of three children, including one in college, Dr. Kelly has learned how to listen. With a Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Political Communication, Dr. Kelly has a scholarly understanding of being a communicator. He stressed how these skills would help him ensure that student’s requests and needs are met and satisfied in the best way possible. What he learns from the students, he will turn into actions.
“I’ve had plenty of lessons in how productive we can be as human beings when you listen well,” said Dr. Kelly. “If I want to be listened to as a leader, I have to be just as willing to listen to those to which I’m in service.”
“And we try to create that culture of listening around the university— at least that’s the intention,” continued Dr. Kelly.
Dr. Kelly intends to create a culture of listening around the university. Moreover, it is his will and ability to connect with people that will make a difference at UWG.
Currently, Dr. Kelly has determined that the best way to connect with the community right now. He has released several video messages via YouTube, in which he updates and reassures students, faculty, and staff who are dealing with the pandemic.
“I can write you letters via email all the time — and there are certain messages that are best consumed that way — but we’re all in the process of getting to know each other, and I figured that it would be better for me to try to connect with people that way,” said Dr. Kelly. “I think part of the reason why students turned to the university is to be connected to something, and as president of the university, I want to make sure that that spirit doesn’t go away with the best method that I have available to me right now.”
For Dr. Kelly, people’s expectations are continually changing. Therefore, it is crucial that the university is ready to adapt to all kinds of challenges and changes, and that the students can acquire the same ability to adapt for when they graduate.
“The stated goal for the University of West Georgia is to be the finest regional comprehensive university in the United States,” said Dr. Kelly. “I’d like to make certain that every student who attends that university, every student who has the aspiration of attending this university, every alumnus who has ever graduated from it, feels a sense of pride with what we are doing.”
His prior positions in the education system as a professor, a university administrator, and as a scholar have shaped his strong ideals for the education system.
“One of the things I believe is that a university education should do is to provide students with the tools they need to navigate our complex world,” said Dr. Kelly.
Photo credits: Alma Beauvais; screenshot from YouTube.
Alma Beauvais is The WOLF's News Director and current junior of Mass Communications at the University of West Georgia.