In hopes of winning over the Presidential Search Committee members, retired U.S. Army Lt. General Jeffrey Talley demonstrated his qualifications for the USF presidential position through examples from his career.
An overarching theme in his responses reflected what he has accomplished as a leader in varying sectors, including business and education. Talley referenced times of collaboration and leadership, such as the groups he led as a general, to emphasize the importance of partnerships.
He outlined that he was always working with members of Congress as well as local government leaders, but Talley said the powerful influences he saw were the Army Reserve soldiers who lived and worked in their communities.
“What makes them powerful to America was … that they were a business leader, an academic, community civic leader and so it was expected and I think appropriate that I engaged directly with … about 10,000 soldiers,” he said.
As a businessman, Talley said the second most important function of a university is fundraising. It takes a lot of time and energy for a leader to develop and defend a budget, and he said the president of a university should be willing to go the extra mile.
“The president of USF needs to be a leader that can bridge back engaging business in the government. I have that background,” he said.
Talley expressed that a university president needs to be an academic and business person, but also love the institution. The best universities are the ones that put students first, because they are the university’s credentials and best ambassadors. Educating students is the most important function of a university, according to Talley.
Some of his initiatives as the potential president he said would be to engage with students on a weekly basis. He said it’s important to get and keep students on campus to maintain their social needs and the college experience.
“I’ve got 20 years of experience in academia, and most of it is where the rubber hits the road, in the classroom, in the research labs, face-to-face with students every day,” he said.
Student engagement and campus culture surrounding athletics are important for the growth of the university, according to Talley.
He said athletics could provide USF with new resources and funding as long as the university invests in all sports. Winning schools bring in donations as well as student and faculty applicants, Talley said, citing examples from former universities he has worked at such as the University of Southern California.
Committee member Tammy Allen said she was impressed by the experiences Talley had to share. His academic and business background along with his leadership skills could prove promising to get USF higher in the rankings, she said.
“He said the reputation of USF is reachable. And I think this is a person who could bring USF up on stage,” Allen said during the post-interview committee discussion. “He has experience, he’s been a player across the world, and I think he can be an incredible fundraiser.”
Another important aspect of university leadership is diversity, according to Talley. This includes enhancing diversity through increased representation of thoughts, experiences and underrepresented groups.
While chief of the Army Reserve, Talley said he analyzed the leadership team around him which was not representative of all groups of people, prompting him to hire the first Hispanic chief of staff and woman command chief.
“I think it’s important that we make a conscious decision to give everybody a fair shot, but also make sure … people that are in our organization can look up and see people like themselves,” he said.
“I’ve always believed that you surround yourself with people that don’t look like you or talk like you. They don’t have the same background and they’re not going to tell you what you think you want to hear.”
Committee member Derrick Brooks was impressed at the diverse portfolio Talley had in leadership positions. He said it was clear Talley is passionate about everything he’s been involved in, no matter the job.
“I think that Dr. Talley, from the beginning, gave very detailed examples of his experience and as he started he talked about emerging academics, community and business and I think throughout the interview, he threaded those together to demonstrate the breadth of his experience,” he said in the committee discussion.
“He tapped into all of those parts of his background to demonstrate the diversity of experience that can potentially bring to us.”
While speaking on why Interim President Rhea Law is a good candidate during the committee discussion, board member Jose Valiente expressed his concern that there would be a learning curve if Talley is hired compared to Law who has been in the position since August.
“It is very easy to be impressed with his history in the military … and all the work he has done in the past at many universities, but none of that work is done here at USF,” he said. “What I see is that the transition period [will be] a long learning curve.”
However, unlike Law, Talley prides himself on being an academic. He has served on university committees, Faculty Senates and has taught at varying faculty positions, according to Talley.
A flaw of the university Talley brought up was that USF presents itself as a regional university rather than national.
He said if USF is trying to compete to become a top-25 public university and be admitted to the Association of American Universities, it will have to expand its reach beyond Florida. Updating USF’s strategic plan was also part of Talley’s suggestion.
“We’ve got to be a winner,” Talley said. “Then you got to get that branding outside Florida across the nation. If we’re really going to get some of the metrics that you need to get to get to some of the goals that you have money or strategic plans. You’ve got to have an initial procedure.”
Talley’s win-attitude doesn’t end with the university, however. He said he felt confident in how the interview went and when he competes, he plans to win.
Returning to his Army references, Talley said if he were appointed as president, his wife, Linda, would be engaged with him in the community. They’re a package deal.
“In the armed forces, you get two for the price of one,” he said. “You get the soldier and then his or her spouse or partner. And it’s expected, maybe more so than most cultures, that they’re right there at your side and engaged in the community.”