By Darien Walsh
At many universities across the nation, the students, faculty and staff all have some sort of relationship, but it never seems to be a close one. Even more so, the distance between students and their university president is greater. Dr. Bob Alsop, President of Waldorf University, however, works hard to run a university and close the gap between student and president.
Dr. Alsop’s job as the president is a busy one. “There is no typical day,” Dr. Alsop says, “I generally have standing committees and meetings every week in my schedule. I’m always working on different projects and have different people stop in to talk over issues and whatever. No day is ever alike. They tend to be very busy.”
Despite his busy schedule, Dr. Alsop greatly enjoys being the president of Waldorf University. It was never his plan though as a child. Dr. Alsop wanted to teach and follow his passions for literature, words, language and cultural analysis. He loved being in the college environment. “I went to graduate school and got my PhD in English,” Dr. Alsop said. “Waldorf was very similar to the undergrad school I went to – small, Lutheran liberal arts where I found my passion for learning. I was excited to return to that environment. The first 11 years I spent in the classroom. In the English department directing Honors College. I enjoyed that.” After teaching English, Dr. Alsop started taking some administrative roles. “As the college was going through some transitions in leadership, I was asked to fill some roles, first in the Dean’s office, then the President’s.”
Because Dr. Alsop followed his passions and love for teaching, he landed the position he’s held for the last five years. “One of the things we espouse here at Waldorf is following your calling, and if you’ve ever had a class with Steve Smith, he’ll let you now that that calling isn’t always a voice from God. It could be colleagues, friends and others that are encouraging you in different directions. I followed that encouragement and found myself here. It’s hard for me to remember that [I don’t seem approachable] because most of my time has been in the classroom. People don’t remember me as a faculty member.”
Dr. Alsop’s favorite part of being the president is the interaction he has daily with different people. “My favorite part is working with the faculty, staff, students and alumni and feeding off the passion they have for teaching and learning and growing and being a part of that energy that comes with the educational process and how that can transform lives.”
Of course, a president’s job is not without it’s difficult moments.
“When you’re dealing with a large number of people in different situations, you’re going to have conflict, and my role is to come in and help with issues of conflict, but those can sometimes take very difficult decisions and that’s not always real fun.”
Like any other job, Dr. Alsop has his favorite and difficult moments, and he works with the ebb and flow of the changing, working world. The role of president has both changed and not changed since Waldorf became a University back in March.
“Really, the changes in the position or college occurred, then we changed the name to ‘University.’ I think what Waldorf offers as a university is a bit distinctive. Yes, we have over 3000 students now when we count our residential and online students, and so with that comes another level of responsibility. At the same time, when you’re on campus here, you’re in a very small close-knit community, so there’s still that very much a part of this position as well as functioning within that small community.” Being approachable and being seen as the president is important to Dr. Alsop. “I’m walking around, playing in the pep band, and these are the highlights of my time – when I do get to interact with students and have some fun.”
As the new school year starts, Dr. Alsop has high hopes for Waldorf University.
“I look forward to the future expansion of the university – adding more programs that would be attractive to our students both undergrad and graduate, and resident and online. I’m looking forward to the shape of our university, whether that’s physical plant and the work with the fine arts center, which I am very excited about, or just growing the awareness and reputation of Waldorf University.”
Being the president of a university is rewarding and full of responsibilities, but it does not define Dr. Alsop.
“I am a husband and a father. I have two boys- a senior and one in eight grade. I have a wonderful wife, who is a child psychologist, and she teaches a psych course on campus as well as the counseling she does. She teaches one course a semester.” Dr. Alsop also has a special needs dog that he cares for. “Baxter. He has Addison’s disease.” Dr. Alsop said. “I enjoy sports and follow the Minnesota Vikings pretty closely.” Dr. Alsop is a lover of music. “I enjoy music – jazz in particular. I play drums. I played in a lot of jazz combos and punk bands in the 80’s.” Dr. Alsop was the drummer for ‘Squirrels from Hell,’ one of his 80’s bands. “I enjoy playing golf and cards. I’m afraid I’m a tragically normal person.”