Career Path to President of St. Mary’s College
Dr. Tuajuanda C. Jordan is the seventh president of St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Jordan received a B.S. in Chemistry from Fisk University and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Purdue University. She was an undergraduate scholar and graduate fellow of the National Institutes of Health Minority Access to Research Careers program. Jordan conducted her postdoctoral training at the University of Cincinnati’s School of Medicine. In 2016, she was named Distinguished Woman Scholar by Purdue University. An excerpt of the interview with Jordan follows:
What career path led to your profession, president of St. Mary’s College of Maryland?
I started out as an assistant professor in the Chemistry Department at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans. I taught biochemistry and organic chemistry. After tenure and promotion to associate professor, I became an associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences and within two years I was promoted to associate vice president for academic affairs. I left Xavier after Hurricane Katrina to become a senior program officer at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) in Chevy Chase, Md. After a couple of years, I was promoted to director of the Science Education Alliance (SEA). After the successful development and national implementation of SEA, I departed the HHMI for Portland, Ore. in 2011 to take the position of Dean of the College at Lewis & Clark. In 2014, I was named the seventh president of St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
What educational background and/or professional training are essential for this profession?
These days, college presidents come from a variety of backgrounds and have expertise in many fields. Still, the majority of us come up through the academy and have a terminal degree in our field. I cannot say there is essential professional training, but I will say there is a list of skills and or characteristics one should possess. You need to be an effective communicator, a fast learner, an excellent listener, strategic and creative. You must know your strengths and surround yourself with people who have complementary skills and expertise and who have skills and expertise in which you may be deficient; be comfortable with people from diverse backgrounds. You should be comfortable in who you are and comfortable with being around people; be able to accept criticism; have stamina and good health. You must be able to lead with compassion and authority. You must know when to lead and when to manage and the difference between the two.
What influenced you to pursue a career in your profession?
It was never my intent to be a college president. Others around me saw something in me and have encouraged me throughout my professional career to pursue positions of greater responsibility and visibility. I was very comfortable with being a scientist, as I love asking questions and then searching for answers. Being a scientist was not something I knew I always wanted to be. As a first generation college student, it was means to an end. As I entered college, the “end” was to graduate with a degree that would help me get a good job so that I could take care of myself and my responsibilities.
What professional, civic or community organization do you belong?
Currently, I am a member of the American Society for Microbiology, American Society for Biochemists and Molecular Biologists, American Chemical Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Community Resource Board and the Junior League of Baltimore. I am also a member of the Project Kaleidoscope Advisory Board, Project Pericles President’s Council and Capital Athletics Conference President’s Council.
What advice do you give to students who desire to pursue a career as a president of a university?
Ask yourself why you believe you want to be a president. It is a challenging job to do and requires a multitude of skills that, for most, takes decades to develop. It also requires that you have acquired recognition at the national level in at least one area of expertise. As you grow and develop in your profession, identify a cadre of advisors and mentors who can groom you and help you develop the skills and networks that will be essential for your ascension to the presidency of a college or university.
What is your typical work schedule?
If it is a day that I will be in town, I generally am up by 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. so that I can exercise, eat breakfast and have coffee with my husband. I am usually in the office by 8:00 or 8:15 a.m. My assistant briefs me on any urgent matters or special meetings for the day. I meet with my cabinet at 8:30 a.m. for about an hour. I then have a series of back-to-back meetings with committee individuals until about noon. On days that I do not have a meeting over lunch, I will go over to the campus center and have lunch with students or I will eat in my office and answer a few emails. After lunch, I am usually in back-to-back meetings until 4:30 or 5:00 p.m. I then debrief with an assistant. I generally answer emails for an hour and then either go to an evening event or home to have dinner with my husband by 7:00 p.m. I generally make phone calls, answer emails or write for an hour every evening after dinner.
Dr. Ronald Holmes is the author of 12 books: Jacob’s Dream! “A Lesson on Numbers and Birds,” “Jacob’s Dream! A Lesson on Alphabets and Continents,” “How to Eradicate Bullying,” “Education Questions to be Answered,” “Current Issues and Answers in Education,” “How to Eradicate Hazing,” “Professional Career Paths,” “Your Answers to Education Questions,” “How to revitalize the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.” “Completing the Dissertation: Tips, techniques and real-life experiences from Ph.D. graduates.” “Jacob’s Dream, A Story of Careers for Children” and Jacob’s Dream, A Story of Animals in Africa. He is publisher of “The Holmes Education Post,” an education focused Internet newspaper. Holmes is a former teacher, school administrator and district superintendent. He can be reached at [email protected]