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USFSP Interim Chancellor Ready To Move Campus Forward

Oct 24, 2017

When Martin Tadlock got the phone call from University of South Florida System President Judy Genshaft asking him to become the interim regional chancellor for USF St. Petersburg, he was sleeping in for the first time all semester. 

"It was a 7 a.m. phone call," Tadlock told WUSF's University Beat. "I had put my home back together after (Hurricane Irma) and was up late, so I was coming out of a sleep when the phone rang." 

And when Genshaft asked if he was ready to take the interim position, Tadlock said that words failed him. 

"It was a moment of silence for me to think about that - about 10 seconds of silence," Tadlock said, laughing. "Then I knew I needed to say yes, because what else could you say?"

Tadlock replaced Sophia Wisniewska, who agreed to resign Sept. 18 after a dispute with Genshaft  over how the regional chancellor handled the evacuation of USFSP students ahead of Hurricane Irma. Wisniewska also evacuated Florida for Georgia without informing USF administration. 

In the weeks since, Tadlock has met multiple times with students and faculty, including some senior educators who were unhappy with the way Wisniewska's departure was handled. 

"What I've been saying (to them) are the same things I've been saying publicly, that a university is a collection of individuals that move an organization forward. We should be at least aware that President Genshaft had confidence in us as a campus when she asked me to serve," said Tadlock.

"It's not about me personally, it's about us, it's about the collective we at the university," he added. "We have strong people here, we have good leadership, we have people in key positions that move the institution forward, we have plans, we have priorities - all of those things are in place because of all of the good people that work here."

Tadlock had been named the campus' Regional Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs in May 2016. Since coming aboard, one of his major goals was helping create and implement a master academic plan to help USFSP move forward over the next few years. 

"The result of that plan are priorities that we feel we need to move on institutionally, such as becoming more experientially-based," said Tadlock. "We want our students out in the community more, we want them in internships, volunteer opportunities we want them to have, we want them to engage more fully into the community." 

"We also know we need more academic programs, so we have I think it's 16 new majors planned for implementation over the next five years, so it's moving forward and we don't intend to turn back on any of those," he added.

Tadlock joined USFSP from Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College in northern Minnesota, where he had served as Provost and Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs. He had previously been Assistant Vice Chancellor at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and Provost at Northeastern State University in Oklahoma.

It was at the latter school where he was also Interim President for half a year while the school sought a new leader.

"Having a lot of experience at six different universities in my career, plus teaching middle school, has probably just given me a calmer disposition because I've seen a lot of different things happen," said Tadlock. "I've seen changes in leadership, I've seen events happen on campus that can be traumatic to a campus and to students and faculty and staff."

"I think when you experience those things, it gives you perspective that you just simply didn't have prior to them," he added. "I'm pretty calm about changes that do happen, but I have to say, I never experienced a hurricane - Irma was the first!"

And while Genshaft indicated that a search for a permanent regional chancellor won't begin until next August, giving Tadlock a chance to make an impression, he hasn't thought that far ahead yet - he's concentrating on moving USF St. Petersburg forward now.

"It's too soon to know," Tadlock said, shaking his head with a smile.