An unwavering commitment to community, excellence and student success is one of the key traits that fueled the mutual attraction between Brenau’s presidential search committee and Anne Skleder, the 141-year-old university’s newly minted 10th president.
Anne Skleder, with a vitae spangled with student-focused initiatives, is especially impressed by how student success is built into the DNA — and the name — of Brenau University. Brenau is a linguistic combination from the German word “brennen,” meaning “to burn” and the Latin word “aurum,” which means “gold.” The name forms the institution’s poetic motto and its charge to students to be “as gold refined by fire.”
“This phrase, ‘as gold refined by fire,’ strikes a deep chord within me,” Skleder says. “This phrase, from which Brenau flows, tells me that from the very beginning the founders of this institution had a firm grasp of the stewardship for its students entrusted to it and the academic discipline required to educate them.”
Skleder describes herself as “a psychologist by training, teacher by vocation and administrator by good fortune.” One of her primary roles as a higher education administrator is to remove obstacles and to seize opportunities toward student success.
“Brenau is a university with a commitment to access for all kinds of students,” Skleder says. “Whether an incoming freshman in The Women’s College, a single mom working on her bachelor’s degree at one of our regional campuses or a young man in the armed services pursuing an online MBA, we are committed to their academic success.”
From her first meetings and interactions with faculty and students, Skleder is pleased to see this culture of student success already permeates Brenau. Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Jim Eck says he appreciates Skleder’s unwavering focus on student success and her commitment to the university’s goals.
“Academic and social integration are essential ingredients to student persistence and graduation,” Eck says. “Dr. Skleder understands Brenau’s long-standing commitment to student success. She will collaborate across Academic Affairs and Student Services to bring even greater fulfillment to the university’s mission to challenge students to live extraordinary lives of personal and professional fulfillment.”
Amanda Lammers, vice president of Student Services, agrees.
“Meeting students where they are and working alongside them to persist through graduation is the true heart of our work,” Lammers says. “Knowing Dr. Skleder shares our values energizes and invigorates our team, helping us to bring a renewed focus to the work we do.”
Laura Hart, assistant professor in the Mary Inez Grindle School of Nursing, says Brenau feels like family.
“We care about our students,” she says. “We want to see them succeed. Our doors are always open to them. We can give them the one-on-one attention they need to successfully get through the program.”
The university’s stability and strength also attracted Skleder to her new role. It begins with the board, she says, which has provided stable leadership thanks to members who have served for decades or are continuing a family lineage of leadership on the board.
Another pillar of stability, says Skleder, is Brenau’s nine presidents in its 141-year history. She calls the history of presidential leadership both “a gift and a stewardship I must perpetuate.”
She is also cognizant of her place as Brenau’s first female president. Her own lived experience as a woman, she says, brings an added dimension to her presidency.
“I will be connecting with women perhaps in a way that is a little bit different,” she says. “More importantly, I am eager to serve as a role model for young women, whether they are in The Women’s College, in graduate programs or at the regional campuses. Hopefully they’ll see someone who looks a little bit more like them. I’m delighted to serve in that way, and I believe I am called to serve in that way.”
Skleder previously served as senior vice president, provost and professor of psychology at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, located about 100 miles north of Philadelphia. She has experience in strategic planning, accreditation, assessment of student learning, academic program development at all levels, retention, developing educational partnerships to serve students, and community-based learning.
The common theme, of course, is an active and intentional focus on students.
While heavily investing her first year as president in listening to and learning from Brenau students, faculty, staff and stakeholders, Skleder is appreciative that, however Brenau moves forward, it will do so from a position of strength.
“This is a growing area of the country, and we have a great opportunity for sustained recruitment, something that is not true in many other regions,” she says. “That coupled with our international partnerships, close proximity to world-class health care and recruitment efforts not only strengthens enrollment, but it also ensures diversity among our student populations, which also helps to prepare our students for lives of learning and leadership.”
Skleder says the combination of experienced staff, seasoned administrators and an overwhelming majority of faculty terminally qualified and committed to student success is another one of the university’s great strengths.
These attributes — along with with prudent financial management, a pride in being both strongly rooted in history and being forward-looking, and adding programs, learning methods, locations and sports to meet the changing needs of students — are a great recipe for future managed growth of Brenau, which she proudly calls a comprehensive university.
“Brenau is an extraordinary combination of a historic women’s college and an innovative, comprehensive institution that is constantly meeting the changing needs of its students and of society,” Skleder says. “At Brenau today, we have programs ranging from certificates and associate degrees all the way to doctoral degrees. We do so on the historic campus as well as at regional campuses and online to meet the needs of students who cannot come to the campus. We are constantly looking at ways to modify and add programs in order to meet emerging needs. Therefore, when I talk about Brenau, I describe us as an innovative, comprehensive university.”
Skleder knows she has a lot to learn, and she believes she has a lot to offer.
“The days ahead are going to be exciting ones as we build on the great work of my nine superb predecessors and generations of Brenau faculty, staff, students, trustees and friends over 14 decades,” she says. “At Brenau University, we are committed to graduating extraordinary alumni who are equipped to make their marks on the world.”
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