Palmer Begins As Culver-Stockton President
July is a time of transition for Dr. Douglas B. Palmer, who is in his first month as the 27th president of Culver-Stockton College.
As he takes over during a time of political unrest and a pandemic that has gripped the world, Palmer says now is a time of transition for all colleges and universities.
“This may be a transition that’s welcomed and necessary,” he said. “This may be a good time to reinvent ourselves. It’s an opportunity for me to learn about Culver-Stockton and the Tri-State area, and it’s an opportunity for all of us to do some soul searching about what we’re trying to provide — not just for our students but also for a broader society.”
Palmer’s first day on the job was July 1, 2020. He replaces Dr. Kelly M. Thompson, who retired after six years as president. Before coming to Culver-Stockton, Palmer served as provost, vice president of academic affairs and dean at Walsh University in North Canton, Ohio, since 2015.
Plans call for students to return to the Culver-Stockton campus in August. Palmer says a comprehensive plan for the fall that addresses changes for faculty, staff and students related to the COVID-19 virus is going to “come out in the next week or so.”
“We have to balance the need to bring the community back together with safety,” he said. “Nobody can learn if he or she feels physically threatened or uncomfortable. People need to feel safe. They have to be fed, they have to be sheltered and they have to have a sense of physical security before you can start thinking of higher order things.
“When we entered into the pandemic shutdown, every state declared education to be an essential service. We’re not going to forget that. We owe it to our students and our society to try to bring people back to form our community as soon as we can safely do so.”
Palmer says colleges and universities across the nation learned during the spring semester that an education can be offered in many formats. Most C-SC students last met in a classroom setting on March 6 before taking a two-week spring break. Classes resumed March 23 via online learning.
“We know we can effectively teach classes without a student ever stepping out of their home,” Palmer said. “However, every single student I’ve spoken with has said what they miss is the social interaction with their peers, their faculty and other staff. That sense of community is really missing, and we’ve reminded ourselves that the point of an education is not just to simply aggregate a whole series of credit hours that end up as a bachelor’s degree, there’s much more to an education that goes with it.”
Palmer says there are lessons to be learned living on campus, getting involved in student life and participating in college athletics. These are transferrable skills that students will need in any work setting.
“Every employer will tell you they’re not looking for people with a bunch of credit hours,” he said. “What they’re looking for are problem solvers and creative thinkers who can be part of a team. That’s what we’re doing here in a residential experience. If we limit ourselves to the online education, we’re not providing students the opportunity to pick up all those things we need them to do to be successful employees and to function in a civic society. In an increasingly multicultural multiethnic pluralistic society, I think that’s more important than ever.”
As the start of classes nears, Palmer says everyone on campus must “do their part” to ensure a return on investment that students and families are making when they choose to attend Culver-Stockton.
“We’re helping develop the workforce of the 21st century,” he said. “We have ‘work-ready Wildcats’ walking out the door. Our job is not to get graduates ready for jobs of right now. We’re preparing them for jobs that don’t yet exist. No one thought of majoring in website design 20 years ago.
“The first website designers were people with backgrounds in liberal arts with adaptable skills in communication, graphic design and the arts. That’s part of the value of a liberal arts education. We’re not just training technicians. We’re also training people to be thinkers who are adaptable for a workforce that is changing. That’s what we have to articulate to our students and to our alumni.”
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