Tarleton’s President James Hurley looks back on 2020

Dr. Hurley meets with the JTAC to talk about the University’s success during the pandemic.

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On Nov. 17th, Tarleton State University’s President, Dr. James Hurley sat down with The JTAC to chat about how he feels the University has done during the pandemic. From expressing his pride in Tarleton’s students, faculty and staff to his excitement for the spring 2021 semester, there is no doubt that Hurley is satisfied with how well the campus community has done this semester.

When it comes to the success of the semester, Hurley credits the students for their overwhelming selflessness to ensure the safety of the campus community. The students are his most treasured asset and he is determined to provide the best college experience for them.

“Our students have really been the true heroes in all of this. They have selflessly conformed to CDC, system and university guidelines that have really restricted how their college experience would look. They’ve really tried to keep the health and safety of their university community in the forefront of their minds.” Hurley said.

Hurley also acknowledges the Tarleton faculty and staff for their work to keep everyone safe and give students the college experience they deserve. The stories he says that made their way to his office inspire him to keep working hard to provide the best for the students.

“Our faculty have put themselves on the frontline to teach face-to-face classes, hold small group study sessions and collective advising, additional lecturing and so many more incredible stories that trickle back to the office.” Hurley said.

Hurley believes the staff is the backbone of the university that ensures the students and faculty get the services they need to be successful. Hurley highlights Kent Styron, the Assistant Vice President for University Compliance and Strategic Initiative who has worked tirelessly since the beginning of the pandemic.

“Styron has done a phenomenal job staying on top of garnering the pertinent information from the CDC and the state while trying to mold that into an action plan for Tarleton,” Hurley said.

Because of the hard work of Tarleton’s student, faculty and staff, the university has seen many successes this semester. One of those successes includes a record enrollment.

“We’ve had an all-time high record enrollment. I’m so proud of that, because that proved that the parents and students believed we were doing the best we could to protect you, the students, our most treasured asset,” Hurley said.

Another success that Hurley acknowledges was the face-to-face commencement ceremonies that took place over the summer.

“We had face-to-face commencement, which is something not many universities were able to do. We had five socially distanced commencements for those seniors who deserved to walk across that stage. Half of those students, like myself, were first generation students that deserved to be recognized for achieving their goal of getting a college degree.”

Hurley thinks the greatest success though, has been how well we, as a university community, have done during the pandemic. He truly believes that we have proven that we can overcome this one step at a time.

“I think the greatest success we’ve had this semester is that we as a university community proved we can grow our way out of a pandemic. We adopted the mentality that we aren’t going to allow COVID-19 to determine the outcome, but that we will determine the outcome.”

While we have had many successes, Hurley also expressed that there were things he wished he could have changed earlier, such as learning how to collect and analyze the COVID-19 data more effectively.

“I wish we would have had a mechanism in place that could have technically and more efficiently reported the COVID-19 data, but at the beginning we were in a place where we were writing the playbook as we played the game,” Hurley said. “In a matter of a week, in the spring we flipped every class from face-to-face to online – A lot of our faculty had never taught an online class. It’s tough to teach ranch management online.”

Looking forward to the year 2021, Hurley expresses his excited for new development that will be happening at Tarleton such as, the aquatics center, the TSU Texas Center for Rural Research and Economic Development and a new tree restoration project. Hurley also explains how he wants Tarleton to be a more inclusive campus for all Texans.

“I want Tarleton to be a more inclusive campus. Tarleton should be a place that welcomes all Texans.” Hurley said.

No matter which topic Hurley discusses, the subject always came back to the students. Although he is incredibly excited for the new development that will be occurring on campus in 2021, he is most excited to bring back the things that brough vibrancy to campus before the pandemic.

“Athletics, plays, art exhibits, recitals and all the things that bring vibrancy to campus and give students the ability to show their talents. I get as excited when our students produce an outstanding play as I do for a football game. Those students that are performing in the fine arts department are as important as any other Texan. I want to get back to where we can celebrate students again.”

To ensure that we can have a successful 2021, Hurley says, a new normal will be necessary, one that combines the best points of the old and new systems.

“We need to figure out how we can continue to utilize this blended instruction, because a lot of our students like this new model. So how can we take some of the aspects that we’ve adopted over the pandemic and blend it with the old to create a new normal. Let’s hang on to the points of excellence that make Tarleton great, such as the small faculty to student ratio.”

As we go home for the holidays, Hurley reminds us to consider the greater community around us and to keep them safe.

“My mantra this semester has been to be selfless, be smart, be a Texan, and if we can do those three things, we can really keep everyone safe when we go home for the holidays. We need to think about the grater community of which we serve.”

In the words of President Hurley, “We proved that we can thrive in adversity. That’s the Tarleton way.” Congratulations Texans for finishing the fall 2020 semester. Let’s continue to succeed in 2021.

If you have any questions or seek more information about the upcoming semester, you can follow President Hurley on Instagram and Twitter @tarletonprez or check out the Roadmap to Spring 2021 on Tarleton’s website for frequent updates https://www.tarleton.edu/roadmap/