Georgia Southern Welcomes Kyle Marrero as Its 14th President

On April 1, 2019, Georgia Southern welcomed Dr. Kyle Marrero as the 14th president of the University.

Marrero hit the ground running and spent his first few days visiting each campus, dining with students, meeting the University’s bald eagle mascot, briefing Faculty Senate, learning more about various initiatives, finalizing the university’s budget, reviewing campus efficiency suggestions, attending a baseball game, and even learning the Georgia Southern fight song as he and his family traveled to the Armstrong Campus.

Before joining Eagle Nation, Marrero was the president of the University of West Georgia (UWG) for six years. Under his guidance, UWG achieved records in enrollment, graduation rates, degrees conferred, fundraising and annual economic impact to the region.

Prior to his appointment at West Georgia, Marrero served as vice president for university advancement at the University of West Florida, overseeing the university’s integrated marketing communications efforts, fundraising, development and alumni relations’ activities. His background in the arts has taken him to 10 countries as an artistic ambassador for the United States Embassies and 40 states as a singer and stage director.

He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in vocal performance from Bowling Green State University and a Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Michigan. He has been married to nationally acclaimed opera singer Jane Redding for 23 years and they are blessed with a beautiful 9-year-old daughter, Lily.

Georgia Southern magazine asked Marrero a few questions about his background, his leadership and his vision for the University.

What attracted you to Georgia Southern?

I have long admired Georgia Southern University for all it has accomplished, its dedicated faculty and staff, and the success

of it students. It is an important institution to the State of Georgia, the southeastern region, and the nation — now serving approximately 26,500 students. This is a critical time for the institution as it defines its new path and regional presence — post consolidation.

What do you see as the major challenges and issues facing Georgia Southern (higher education in general) over the next decade?

Indeed, these are critical times for institutions of higher education and for Georgia Southern. In order to be relevant, institutions of higher education need to communicate their distinctives, align their programs with the needs of the region, the state and beyond. They need to improve retention and graduation rates, cultivate and engage in mutually beneficial partnerships, friend and fundraise, and provide experiential learning opportunities for their students with the primary goal of preparing them for successful careers.

What were your first impressions of Georgia Southern and immediate opportunities?

Are there particular goals you would like to reach in your first 100 days? Your first year?

We have an extraordinary opportunity at Georgia Southern. We are entering a new era filled with optimism, energy and momentum. In order for me to honor the past and forge a new unified Georgia Southern, Eagle Nation, I must take the time to listen to internal and external stakeholders from faculty, staff and students; to community members and groups; to legislative representatives and the expectations of the Board of Regents. I will take the time listening, communicating, and learning — and providing a vision, building trust, process and energy to implement that vision. Mostly, it will be an opportunity for me to engage, understand culture, hear needs and concerns, and establish relationships.

We must foster a culture of institutional effectiveness that will insure our sustainability and growth. To that end, we will measure our success with institutional key performance indicators (KPIs) that will, through data analysis, benchmark and provide goal setting with comparator peer and aspirant institutions. Senior leadership will develop scorecards — transparently holding each leader accountable for setting and reaching identified goals. I believe that actively engaged and well-trained leaders are an integral part of an engaged workforce — and engaged campuses….

Our goal will be to create the strongest leadership team possible as we work to fulfill the expectation of our stakeholders and region we serve. I have been described by my colleagues as having “urgency” — I will borrow a quote from another musician, Leonard Bernstein, “To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time!” My goal, indeed our goal, is to honor the past and forge the New Eagle Nation! The Eagle Nation that will be achieved with our collaborative efforts and passion of all of my colleagues, our community and our alumni.

What role do you think alumni should play in the growth of a university?

Georgia Southern alumni must be informed and connected to the institution and believe that it has transformed their lives. It is like any relationship…we, the institution, have a responsibility to keep our alumni informed and alumni must feel a deep enough connection to want to engage.

As a former faculty member, department chair, director of a school, and VP for Advancement, I learned early that most alumni feel their connection to the institution via their program of

study, faculty mentors, student organizations, or a physical campus location or event (athletics, homecoming, etc…). This is where we must strategically focus our efforts to engage with our alumni.

As with all things, change is our biggest challenge. Alumni remember the institution through their lens and experience.

When two institutions consolidate that brings two similar and disparate experiences to honor and remember. It is our responsibility to communicate and engage our alumni, of both institutions, to be part of and inform the direction of the new Eagle Nation. They must see the “value added” of the consolidation and their place in its future!

You have a background in music, why and how did you make the shift to working in higher education administration?

The question — how in the world does an opera singer become a university president or more importantly…what in the world was the search committee thinking? It’s true — my training and background is in music…opera.

I am a musician and former leader of arts organizations. And, while it might not seem like an obvious background for a university president — I believe it has prepared me very well for the challenges that come with the role. For one thing, the arts are always underfunded. I’m accustomed to raising funds and making every dollar work as hard as it can. That’s going to be important to Georgia Southern as we look for ways to offer even more opportunities for our students by increasing scholarship support and enhancing the student experience. Also, musicians learn to be creative within set parameters. I have always been an organizer of people, processes, and systems, whether it is leading arts organizations or serving in a higher education administrative capacity. You see in music, you are asked to be creative and interpret a piece within the guidelines dictated by the composer. You are given the key signature, the time signature, tempo markings, etc., but inevitably it is still your interpretation of the music in collaboration with others that culminates in a final outcome: the performance.

What is your favorite type of music?

As you know, I am a classically trained musician, specifically classical voice, choral and opera. So — no surprise, I am a lover of opera, musical theatre, choral music, and classical song literature. Now, I’ve always been a closet rock-and-roll fan — Van Halen, KISS, 38 Special, Journey, Boston, Jefferson Starship (Airplane). Unfortunately, I’m a baritone and really sound strange trying to sing karaoke to any of it. My daughter, Lily, forbids me to sing along!

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President Marrero’s First Days

Here’s a look at the many students, faculty, staff and community members President Marrero (and, at times, his family) met during his first weeks in office.