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St. Vincent College's new president is learning to delegate

| Monday, Sept. 20, 2010

The biggest challenge Brother Norman Hipps faces as St. Vincent College president is learning the art of delegation.

In his career in various administrative roles at St. Vincent, Hipps was the one paying attention to all the details.

But as he took over leadership of the entire college on July 1, Hipps said, he's had to look at the bigger picture and leave the details to other administrators.

"There's a lot of adjustment, just out of habit," Hipps said.

In his first two months at the helm, Hipps has been easing into his new role, taking the time to listen before making decisions.

"I'm not coming into office saying, 'Now Brother Norman's going to introduce this new project,' " he said.

But Hipps, who has been associated with St. Vincent for nearly 50 years as a student, monk, professor and administrator, does have ideas he wants to explore.

One of his first orders of business was the formation of a task force consisting of officials at the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media at St. Vincent and faculty members. They are investigating ways for the academic programs at St. Vincent and the Rogers Center to interact more extensively.

They also are looking at opportunities for St. Vincent students to become Rogers Center scholars to provide a greater opportunity to study children's media. The work could lead to a new program in children's studies, for example, Hipps said.

Environmental stewardship is important to Hipps.

The Rogers Center building is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold certified, and officials are hopeful that the Sis and Herman Dupre Science Complex being built also will receive LEED gold certification. Such certification means the structures meet nationally accepted criteria for implementing sustainable green building practices.

"I'd like to see that initiative in terms of stewardship to be extended more effectively throughout the campus," he said.

He's had preliminary meetings with the student government president and administrators to begin looking for ways to make the campus greener.

Hipps is a big advocate of partnership programs. As the dean of the Herbert W. Boyer School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Computing, Hipps was the leader for higher education in a National Science Foundation project between schools and colleges administered through the Allegheny Intermediate Unit. And for years, St. Vincent has worked with the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Westmoreland Conservation District on a project removing iron deposits from nearby Monastery Run.

"The kind of commitments that I think are important for the college are activities I've been engaged in as the dean," he said.

He plans to continue initiatives begun by his predecessor, Jim Towey, including exploring whether the teaching load of faculty can be altered to provide more time for research or curriculum development and focusing on student service trips to locations around the world.

Hipps is adjusting to being the external face of the college.

He's spent a lot of time meeting with members of St. Vincent's board of directors, speaking with potential students and their parents at admissions office events and meeting with faculty members and administrators.

"They're looking for an opportunity to speak to the new president and say, 'These are things we want you to be aware of,' " he said.

As St. Vincent works on a master plan for the campus, Hipps knows that fundraising will be ever important.

While working as dean, Hipps was intimately involved with fundraising for the new science complex. School officials are about $4 million shy of the construction fundraising goal of $39 million, but they've raised an additional $5 million for the school's endowment and programming.

His meetings with donors will have to focus on the entire college now.

"I will need to work in a broader way, paying attention to the other schools within the college as well as the non-academic programs," he said.

The master plan project will set priorities for building on campus. Hipps can envision a pedestrian area in the center of campus running from the science center to the Rogers center.

"We'll begin to move cars from the periphery of campus as much as possible," he said.

Hipps said each president he's served under at St. Vincent has had a different style. Some have been pastoral and student-oriented. Others have focused on campus growth through building projects or by providing a national presence.

Hipps, who comes from the academic side, hopes to encourage young men entering the monastery to work toward becoming St. Vincent faculty members.

His style, he said, is "one that invites people to work with me."

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