Since July 21, Dr. Phillip Way has led Slippery Rock University through a time of transition and change, and less than one year later, on June 30, he will have to hand over the reigns to the now President-Elect Dr. William Behre. By accepting the position of interim president, Way agreed to not be considered for the full-time position and took on the daunting task of guiding the university until the Board of Governors approved his replacement. While his tenure was short, Way said the year as interim president was the best year of his life.
Transitioning from Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Way had a short trip up the administration ladder to the top.
“The way we’re organized here, we are very thin at the top,” Way said. “You’ve got Amir Mohammadi, who is in charge of Finance and Administration and Advancement now, and I’ve got everything else including the [campus] police, and so it’s one small step to really having everything under me and because I’m educated in business and human resources, I know that stuff anyway.”
On the transition between positions, Way said that he enjoys getting to speak to different stakeholders that he used to not have reason to speak to.
“Basically I was spending a lot of time with faculty and administrators and some students, but the change has been a reallocation of time, such that it’s more 50-50 between the internal audiences and the external audiences, and the external would include business people, politicians, alumni, but more student contact outside the office too,” Way said. “Not just meetings with SGA and so on, but really getting out and talking to more students and staff and alumni who wouldn’t have otherwise needed to meet with me.”
While Way was the acting president, he came into the position knowing that his time would be limited.
“The chief difference [of being interim president compared to president] is that I’ve had to tee things up for the new president,” Way said. “I didn’t want to make irrevocable decisions that would limit him.”
Recently Dr. Way has set his eyes outward, applying for the position of university president at Millersville University. Although the position ended up going to former Slippery Rock University presidential candidate Dr. Daniel Wubah, Way still believes that he would make a good permanent president.
“I think, yes, I’m prepared for a presidency, I’d like it, I’ve enjoyed this year thoroughly and it seems like good timing with a new person coming in,” Way said.
The hours have been long as interim president, but Way says they do not bother him.
“I’m doing something that I’m totally, totally in love with and I’m in an institution that I love doing that work,” Way said. “So I don’t see it as work. People say, ‘How can you start so early and go so late?’ Well, I don’t notice it. It’s fun.”
Very few people know what it’s like to be president of Slippery Rock University, which leaves very few people who can give advice going into the job. In his experience, Way said that the biggest lesson to learn is time management.
“Manage your time well,” Way said. “If there is a challenge with being president, it’s time management and making sure that you acknowledge all the stakeholders who are out there or on campus and make sure you allocate enough time to go some way to satisfy their needs.”
Dr. Way will resume his position as provost on July 1 when Behre takes over as university president.