Anne Skleder’s first week on the job as Brenau University’s new president was hectic, but in the kind of way that busy can be a good thing.
“It was a wonderful first day,” Skleder said of Monday, July 1, when she officially took the helm of the 141-year-old Gainesville institution. “I really meant it when I said that the words that were coming to mind were ‘grateful’ and ‘energized.’”
She’s toured the campus, met with students, faculty, trustees and alumni, and participated in several photo shoots.
“I was just very delighted to be able to meet some folks,” Skleder said.
Skleder was named the 10th president of Brenau in April, taking over for Dr. Ed Schrader, who announced his retirement in August 2018, with plans to help with the transition through the end of this year.
Skleder most recently served as senior vice president, provost and professor of psychology at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania.
She is the first female president of the women’s college.
“It’s very meaningful for me and a great honor to be the 10th president of Brenau University, first and foremost,” Skleder said. “That I’m able to bring to the position my lived experience as a woman, I think that is an added dimension for the young women coming to the women’s college,” as well as graduate students. “It’s an opportunity for them to see a leader who looks more like them and for whom they can identify.”
Skleder said that she hopes to share her experiences as a woman in leadership and as a role model for young students, just as she was mentored by her parents, teachers and colleagues over the years.
“To be that for other people in the same way people have been that for me,” she added.
Skleder said she’s already heard from alumni who have told her, “We’ve kind of been waiting for this moment.”
Skleder told The Times in April that the university’s traditions were a compelling draw for her, as was the local Gainesville community.
Wilkes-Barre, Pa., where Skleder relocated from, has a similar population to Gainesville.
“So I’m kind of used to that size,” she said. “I would not hesitate to use the word ‘overwhelmed’ … by the hospitality, the graciousness and the warmth that has been shown to me since I started exploring this opportunity. I have not found difficulty in the adjustment. It’s clear to me that there is a sincerity … to Gainesville.”
That warmth is not just personal. It’s also atmospheric.
“It’s also warm and humid,” she joked. “Thank goodness for air conditioning.”
The upside, though, is that “I won’t have a couple feet of snow to contend with on campus” in the winter, she added.
Skleder said she hopes to expand her outreach when the traditional fall semester begins in late August, including broadening the “listening and learning” tour she’s already on.
She plans to host a series of receptions with all university departments, as well as travel to Brenau’s four branch campuses in Augusta, Norcross, Fairburn and Jacksonville, Fla.
She’s also planning “virtual receptions” with students and other university members, though, she jokes, “It’s hard to eat online.”
Skleder said she wants to hear from students and have them tell her “about this special place … what it’s like to be a women’s college student.”
She also wants to gain a deeper understanding of the university’s valuable traditions that must be protected, as well as proactive changes that can be taken to ensure that a course is charted that will keep Brenau relevant in a competitive higher education environment for years to come.
“The institution is in a great place,” Skleder said, which gives her an opportunity to build on the university’s legacy. “Dr. Schrader has done a great job. I hope that I bring a lot of other things to the table.”