York College earlier this year announced it chose Pamela Gunter-Smith from Drew University in New Jersey as president of the institution.
Gunter-Smith recently emphasized the importance of tapping into the school's intellectual capital, helping its students and faculty resolve issues facing the community and exposing students to what downtown York has to offer.
Q: Please tell me some of your background in your career and what made you want to pursue a top leadership role?
A: Education administration is kind of in my DNA, but I had never planned to go into that line of work. I had always planned to be a research scientist. As I progressed in my own career, even in research, I started taking on more and more administrative roles.
I moved to academia very intentionally in 1992. … I get great pleasure and enjoyment from seeing other people flourish, being able to do the things that they want to do and providing the resources to make that happen.
What is your philosophy for what obligation a college might have to help better the community where it exists?
One of the things that students told me during my interviews with them before I was selected is that, I asked them, "What is it that you want the president to know? What is it that the president needs to do for students?" And it wasn't about the food. And it wasn't about dormitories and it wasn't about social life. It was that they wanted to partner with this community.
My philosophy is that we are as strong as the community in which we find ourselves.
What are some of the barriers that exist to involvement? What can the college do to accommodate that? The college is not right on Continental Square, so is that an issue and what can be done about it?
The students are really driving this … but let me just give you an example. We have First Fridays … and what the student government did was advertise it and get some of our shuttle buses, and for the First Friday in September, we bused over 160 students down to First Friday so they could see about downtown York, what's available and what's there.
Our students are also doing volunteering … So I'm thinking about trying to help faculty to develop what we call community-based learning courses in which we have students who are out in the city doing things for which it becomes integrated into their courses.
But our biggest, I think, challenge, quite frankly, is distance and a clear pathway to the city. ...
If we get (students from Pennsylvania and other states) here, and they can be integrated into the landscape of the broader community, then there's a high likelihood that they might decide to stay, and therefore we get a critical mass of young people who will be working and living in the York area.
Meet the president
Name: Pamela Gunter-Smith
Position: Fourth president of York College, which has its campus along the border of York and Spring Garden Township on the city’s south side.
Previous job: Provost and academic vice president of Drew University in New Jersey.
Education: Doctorate in physiology from Emory University and a bachelor’s degree in biology from Spelman College, where she later chaired the biology department. Both institutions are in Georgia.