Dr. Kyle Marrero won’t have to wait for summer break to take the helm at Georgia Southern University. April 1 was announced as his start date Thursday when the state Board of Regents confirmed him as the next GS president.
The state fiscal year begins July 1, which has often been the contract date for college and university presidents. Regent Laura T. Marsh of Statesboro, who chaired the Regents’ Special Committee that interviewed the candidates from the short list provided by the campus-based Search and Screen Committee, said there are several reasons why Marrero will be starting sooner.
“One is that he’s excited and we’re excited, and I think he’s ready to get to Georgia Southern and start working on his vision, get to know people and get started,” Marsh told the Statesboro Herald.
Another reason is that Georgia Southern’s interim president, Shelley C. Nickel, who was previously executive vice chancellor for strategy and fiscal affairs and treasurer for the Board of Regents, plans to retire this summer. Marsh said the university system wants Nickel to return to Atlanta first to help train some people before retiring.
Nickel “has done an outstanding job with Georgia Southern, coming in and being the interim president,” Marsh commented.
After announcing Marrero as their only finalist Jan. 9, the regents met by phone Thursday morning and unanimously voted to hire him as president of Georgia Southern, which now has more than 26,000 students on campuses in Statesboro, Savannah and Hinesville.
The decision creates a vacancy at another University System of Georgia institution, the University of West Georgia, where Marrero has been president since 2013.
“So we wanted to have plenty of time to get an interim president appointed at West Georgia and to begin the national search, but we felt like another two and a half months would give us plenty of time to do that, and he’s ready to get to Statesboro and get to work,” Marsh said.
Marrero was not reached by phone for direct comment Thursday. But he did reply to an emailed request for an interview soon. Marrero forwarded the request to staff members at both Georgia Southern and the University of West Georgia for help in scheduling and closed his message with “Go Eagles!”
After previous GS President Dr. Jaimie Hebert resigned effective last June 30, Nickel in the interim role led Georgia Southern into its first full academic year as a consolidated three-city university. Georgia Southern previously consisted of the Statesboro campus, but the regents-mandated consolidation with the former Armstrong State University, which had a main campus in Savannah and a one-building campus in Hinesville, took effect Jan. 1, 2018. The consolidation process occupied the middle 12 months of Hebert’s two years as president.
“Dr. Marrero is the right person to lead Georgia Southern University as it continues to expand its footprint in Southeast Georgia,” university system Chancellor Steve Wrigley said in a press release Thursday. “Kyle’s higher-education experience, combined with his focus on strengthening academics and building community partnerships, will be an asset to Georgia Southern’s campus community and the region as a whole.”
The campus-based Presidential Search and Screen Committee worked with a search firm to go through applicants’ resumes and other information and then conducted multiday interviews with a number of applicants, Marsh noted. This committee did the hardest part of the work, she said.
The search committee then provided her Board of Regents’ committee an unranked list of about four candidates. She did not confirm the exact number, but the search committee was required to list at least three and no more than five.
“All of the finalists they sent us were outstanding. They were all qualified,” Marsh said. “They all, I think, would have been great presidents of Georgia Southern University. Our biggest problem was having to choose between great candidates.”
“But we feel like right now that Dr. Marrero is the right person at the right time to truly unify Georgia Southern University and take it to the next level,” she added.
Asked why, Marsh said that Marrero is energetic, has proven fund-raising ability at a time when the university needs to grow its academic and athletic foundations’ resources and has “a lot of experience working with public-private partnerships and with the business community.”
While at the University of West Georgia, Marrero founded the Carrollton-Carroll County Education Collaborative for “K-16,” or kindergarten through college, student success. Before his appointment at UWG, he served as vice president for university advancement at the University of West Florida, where fundraising and alumni relations were central to his job.
But the number-one attribute fitting him for the GS leadership role is that “he’s a unifier,” Marsh said.
“I believe that he will come in and do an excellent job of unifying the campuses of Georgia Southern as well as the business communities,” she said. “He has quite a vision for the economic impact he would like to see Georgia Southern make in Southeast Georgia and in the state and in the country.”
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.