The University of Tulsa officially welcomed its new president on Thursday.
Former Oklahoma congressman and U.S. defense official Brad Carson is now at the helm. He was most recently a professor of public policy at the University of Virginia.
Carson said during a Wednesday interview the past three months have been like one long orientation, learning about the university and how it fits into the broader Tulsa landscape, including conversations with community leaders.
"I believe that TU must help drive the City of Tulsa's success and that the city won't be successful without a thriving TU," Carson said.
Carson said TU can help create the environment he’s heard leaders are looking for: an entrepreneur-friendly city with in-demand workers, many of whom hold bachelor’s degrees.
"We're a research institution with some remarkable scholars who are turning out incredible inventions and intellectual property and scholarship, and we need to use that to build kind of an economic ecosystem, an economic impact, that offers employment to all those newly degreed people," Carson said.
Carson said he learned a lot about the university from how it’s handled the COVID-19 pandemic. With plans for a return to normal operations in the fall on track, Carson said it feels like students and faculty see it as a time to reboot.
"You know, there's going to be incredible vitality and hope and a new president, of course, coming in. All this, I think adds [up] to what I hope is a chance for us to say, 'Look, this is a great school and we're going to build upon it, and we have nothing to be ashamed of, and we are, indeed, one of the great institutions in the country,'" Carson said.
TU has been through some turbulent times recently. A plan dubbed True Commitment that would cut degree programs and reorganize the university into what was described as a "professional super college" was rolled out in 2019. A faculty vote of no confidence in then-President Gerard Clancy and Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Janet Levit followed.
Clancy resigned in January 2020, citing health reasons. He has since taken a job as an administrator and professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa.
As the pandemic hit colleges and university finances in 2020, TU furloughed nearly all of its employees for at least two weeks.
TU shelved True Commitment and earlier this year rolled out a new five-year strategic plan. After a national search, the board of trustees announced Carson as the university's new president in April.
Note: KWGS is licensed to TU.