Chancellor-Elect Philip Rogers was chosen to be East Carolina University’s next chancellor on Dec. 17, 2020, and as his role is set to officially begin on March 15, Interim Chancellor Ron Mitchelson will step down to continue to teach introductory geography at the university before his retirement.
Mitchelson said the upcoming leadership transition is positive for the university, and he looks forward to Rogers' usefulness.
“I’m really excited about his creativity and innovativeness, he's going to bring that to the table,” Mitchelson said. “He’s a great human being and very warm and engaging, so I’m comfortable. I’m not sure I would be as comfortable with anybody else.”
Mitchelson said a chancellor transition in the middle of a semester is unusual, though he does not view it as a difficulty.
As for the current status of the transition, Mitchelson said Rogers is kept informed on all current events about the university and has been at scheduled briefings organized around topics to ready him for the position. After the transition, Mitchelson said he will be accessible to the Rogers for any guidance or help he may need.
“When he’s got to make a decision he’s going to want to discuss it, especially early on,” Mitchelson said. “I’m in place to assist him with information, intelligence, wisdom, whatever you want to call it, between March 15, when he takes authority and June 30, when I retire.”
Mitchelson said once he has retired, Rogers will have a plethora of experienced people on campus who he can call upon if needed. After the transition, Mitchelson will continue to teach an introduction to geography course until he officially retires in June.
In an email statement, Rogers said he is currently in the review process of materials and is engaged in structured learning experiences to ensure he has a clear and robust understanding of the current state of the university at the time of the transition.
“The transition process is like drinking from a fire hose every day and involves the intense consumption of information in a short amount of time,” Rogers said. “I feel quite fortunate to be ahead of the curve during the transition given my previous experience on campus at ECU.”
Rogers said ECU has thoughtfully organized the work of the transition in a way which will ensure a smooth entry into the position.
Along with the university community, Rogers said Mitchelson has welcomed him with open arms and has gone above and beyond, so he feels fully up-to-speed on the most issues.
“It’s been especially comforting to have such a strong ally in Ron Mitchelson during the transition,” Rogers said. “Dr. Mitchelson and I have had a trusted friendship for many years and I certainly intend to continue tapping his knowledge and expertise after the transition.”
As Rogers grew up in Greenville, North Carolina, and is a former policy analyst for ECU, he said it has been enjoyable to reconnect with familiar faces, as well as establish new relationships at the university.
Jamie Smith, deputy director of ECU News Services, said the chancellor transition process is straightforward as it is based upon the needs of the university.
“From the time of the announcement of Dr. Rogers as our new chancellor, Dec. 17, until his first official day, March 15, he is referred to as chancellor-elect. Beginning March 15, Dr. Rogers will be referred to as chancellor and Dr. Mitchelson will no longer hold the title interim chancellor,” Smith said.
Vern Davenport, ECU’s chair of the Board of Trustees and chair of the chancellor search committee, said the university formed a transition committee led by Scott Shook, Board of Trustees member, to form a transition plan.
Mitchelson will be available to the transition committee throughout the second half of the semester and will facilitate the chancellor-elect’s needs, Davenport said.
“Ron’s not leaving us. He's available to us in any form or fashion which has been wonderful about Chancellor Mitchelson,” Davenport said. “He’s given me, as both board chair and chair of the search committee, the time necessary to do the search the right way and to find the right candidate.”