A Q&A with President Gnadinger
On July 1, President Cindy Gnadinger celebrated her fifth anniversary as Carroll’s president – the university’s 15th.
We recently caught up with her to discuss her first five years and to get a sneak peek into what we might expect in Carroll’s future.
You just wrapped up your first five years at Carroll. How would you describe it in five words?
Only five words? That's a bit tough. I would characterize the past five years as exciting, engaging, eventful, endearing and enjoyable.
Can you expand on those a bit?
Exciting. I was, and still am, excited to serve as Carroll’s first woman president. I love when other young women on campus share their enthusiasm with me about my presidency and discuss their future goals and dreams of shattering glass ceilings of their own. I can’t tell you how rewarding that is!
Engaging. There is always something to do and something to be a part of at Carroll. John (Gnadinger, her husband) and I try to engage as much as possible. We love helping with move-in day, calling bingo for our students and attending athletic events, faculty/student research sessions, theatre performances, art shows and concerts.
Eventful. Our calendar has never been so full. In addition to campus events, we travel the country to meet with alumni and friends of Carroll. It has been an absolute pleasure to meet our Pioneer friends and hear what makes Carroll special to them. I also serve on various local and national boards, which is an excellent way to boost Carroll's name and reputation. Of course, John and I also love to host events at the President’s house. It’s always a joy to share the beautiful President’s home with others.
Endearing. I have been fortunate to make deep endearing connections with so many people. Our alumni, employees and students describe Carroll as “a special place," and I couldn't agree more. I feel fortunate to be part of this wonderful institution’s story.
Enjoyable. I think it’s obvious from my previous answers why I would choose the word enjoyable to describe the past five years!
What has been one of your biggest highlights these past five years?
Many things stand out to me. Certainly, the day we dedicated the Main Dining Room (MDR) in honor of Gert (the late Gert Ullsperger) was a highlight. We did this while she was still working in the dining room and could enjoy it. Her children were here, many alumni came back to celebrate with us, and our current students, faculty and staff were here, along with various media. It was everything beautiful and wonderful about Carroll; all rolled into one day! But there have been other highlights, such as celebrating our 175th anniversary with Doris Kearns Goodwin's visit and getting the Civil War era musket back when we defeated Carthage College last year in the final football game of the season. The last time the musket was in our possession was 1996 – so that was quite special!
You established a strategic plan in your first year; how is that going?
We are making significant progress with our strategic plan, Pioneer Driven
. It centers on four main goals: Enhancing Teaching & Learning, Enriching the Carroll Experience, Building & Leveraging Partnerships, and Growing Strategically. It serves as our North Star as we embrace opportunities, confront challenges and evolve our beloved institution to thrive in the future. Indeed, all of the decisions we make guiding this great university are grounded in one or more of those four goals.
What are one or two of your most significant accomplishments so far in your leadership?
That is a very difficult question to answer, as our team has done so much these past five years. I am extremely proud of our partnership with Waukesha Free Clinic to offer medical services to the underinsured and non-insured citizens of Waukesha. It aligns with our mission, and our health science students get clinical experiences onsite. I couldn’t have been prouder to see what a difference our students and faculty were making in our community, with their work at the clinic, in the early days of the pandemic.
We welcomed the most diverse classes in Carroll's long history in the past three years. This results from intentional efforts, creative partnerships and the hard work of our campus community to ensure our visitors know we respect and welcome all. We strive to create a campus community that is diverse in thought and where ideas can be debated and challenged in a healthy, respectful way. We are just getting started in this area, but I am pleased we have set goals and are working every day toward them as a community. We also have added numerous new academic programs. They help maintain our financial strength and viability and strengthen our broader community. We have added teacher education programs for career changers, similar programs for career changers seeking a nursing degree, and a new program in Behavioral Health Psychology
to address the mental health needs in society. Not only are we securing Carroll’s future but caring for our regional needs too.
What’s the best part about your job?
The people – without a doubt! I get to meet and engage with our bright and energetic students, which makes me hopeful about the future. I also get to meet alumni and friends who care deeply for our university and give back generously to ensure our good work continues. I also have the privilege of working with creative, resourceful individuals each and every day. The faculty and staff are incredibly committed to our students. When something is needed to support the university, the response is overwhelming. The pandemic proved just how adaptable our employees are. Now, as we find our footing in this new environment, they continue to be innovative, curious, competitive and resourceful – all traits of pioneers!
What do you like least about your job?
Like most leaders, I must make difficult decisions that won’t always please everyone. Whether that has to do with vaccinations, masking or other issues, many of our decisions, despite the attention and care we gave to the deliberative process, will result in people who are unhappy with us. When the public is so divided on issues, we may offend some of the very people we are trying dutifully to serve. That is always difficult.
What are you most hopeful about in the future for Carroll University?
I am hopeful about so many things for Carroll. We are a healthy university on a positive trajectory.
We just finished up a year of celebrating our 175th anniversary. What began as Carroll College is now Carroll University, with four colleges and schools: The College of Arts and Science
s, The College of Health Sciences
, The School of Business
and The School of Education and Human Services
We are fortunate to maintain strong undergraduate enrollments, and our graduate enrollment continues to grow, something many peer institutions can’t say. To meet our growing student body, we have expanded our physical footprint by purchasing buildings and land contiguous to campus. These new spaces will allow us to continue adding new programs to meet community needs. And thanks to our generous donors, we have made great strides in growing the endowment.
I am also excited about the future of our School of Business – an academic area where we have experienced significant growth. Some of our past business alumni are helping shape our school’s future direction, and we are poised to become industry leaders in business. It’s definitely an exciting time to study business at Carroll!
There is still much more to do, but it’s an honor to help usher our beloved Carroll toward her bicentennial. I can’t wait to see what we will have accomplished together when she reaches 200!