Originally published Aug. 26, 2013.
That's how new Huntington University President Sherilyn Emberton describes her experience since she assumed her duties on June 13.
"I have been blessed with a great transitional committee that has been helping me to initiate points of contacts within the community and Fort Wayne area," Emberton says.
She adds that the committee, which is comprised of Huntington Mayor Brooks Fetters, HU alumni, current students and representatives from the United Brethren Church, has taken her on a 360-degree sweep of the area.
"In the last 100 days, we've tried to hit as many places and events that would be a good opportunity to introduce myself to the community," says Emberton. "I've been to most of the county and regional fairs, met with city leaders and economic councils in Huntington and Fort Wayne and I'm currently visiting local service organizations."
Emberton also met with several members of United Brethren Church, which held its annual conference earlier this summer and visited the campus.
"We've had almost 100 visits so far," she notes. "The goal is just to introduce myself and build relationships."
She will begin building relations with HU students today, Aug. 26, as the student body begins classes for the 2013-14 academic year.
Emberton says that in her first year, the leadership has adopted a three-fold approach in regards to focus.
"The first thing we want to focus on is listening," she says. "And in listening, I always ask three key questions of my internal and external audiences."
Emberton says she asks if there are any strong traditions that needed to be kept intact as well as things that have been done well in the past and can be further developed.
"For our external audience, I always ask about ways we can start or strengthen relationships or partnerships," she adds. "I want to know if they have seen opportunities where we can work together."
The second area of focus is forging new direction in the academic marketplace, Emberton states.
"We always want to look for ways where we can continue to provide quality programs," she says. "One of those areas includes our new doctorate of occupational therapy."
That program is a partnership with Parkview Health, in Fort Wayne, and Emberton says it fills a need.
"We launched our nursing program a few years ago and have had graduates," she says. "But we've always done a great job of preparing our students for the medical field.
"We realized that no one was offering a program in this area and saw the need, as the field of occupational therapy is a growing one."
Emberton adds that Trine University plans to offer a doctorate in physical therapy through Parkview Health as well.
"We are in the process of searching for a candidate to head the department and hope to start recruiting students in the spring," she says. "The program is scheduled to be launched in the fall of 2014."
The final thread in the three-strand approach is making sure the university stays committed to quality education.
"We want the students to know that Huntington University is a safe, faith-focused environment, where they are free to develop their characters," says Emberton. "We want them to enjoy a true residential experience of living on a college campus and develop their testimonies for Jesus Christ."
She adds that there is a difference between HU students and others from different schools.
"Our students have a confidence that nobody else has, because of the environment they were able to build their characters in," Emberton states. "That's unique to HU and that's special."
In reflecting on her short time in office, she adds that the significance of her appointment is not something she takes lightly.
"I know a lot has been made of the fact that I'm the seventh woman hired as president of a Christian university," Emberton says. "But with only 140 Christian colleges, I am truly honored and humbled to have the opportunity to serve in this capacity."
She adds that the reception she has received so far has been overwhelming.
"I have been overwhelmed by the graciousness of the university, Huntington community and Fort Wayne community as well," Emberton says. "I feel truly blessed and honored to be here."
Complete caption: Since Huntington University President Sherilyn Emberton has taken office on June 13, she has been on a whirlwind adventure, getting to knowing members of the local community and region. Emberton says she hopes to build new relationships and partnerships as well as strengthen existing ones.