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Meet The President

Bruce Murphy talks about his transition to Nicholls

By Stuart Percle
On January 27, 2014

Bruce Murphy has now officially begun his reign as Nicholls State University President after months of preparation.
Since Sept. 10, Nicholls State University has been transitioning from the Hulbert Era into the path that Murphy has planned for the University. He has become the fifth Nicholls president after being unanimously voted by the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System.
"When you apply for a job, you have nerves and apprehension," Murphy said. "Hopefully you get the job, and for me, that day was Sept. 10. Since then, it has been wonderful. The people here have been so welcoming and warm. Students wave to me, and the faculty and staff have done a tremendous job at making my wife and I feel at home."
During the application process, Murphy outlasted six semifinalists who came to campus for a series of interviews by students, faculty and members of the community. Formerly, Murphy was the vice president of academic affairs at Air University.  His transition has been a gradual one, spanning over five months. However, Murphy has become quickly acclimated to Nicholls and has been very active this intercession working with University administration and various student organizations.
"Since I had another job, I had to balance both positions," Murphy said. "It was like having one foot in each of two boats. You do not want to remove one before the other is securely positioned.  I have had to downscale my schedule there and upscale my responsibilities here. Both of my bosses allowed me to take some time in between."
During his time away from Air University, he was able to spend homecoming week here in Thibodaux. This experience proved rewarding for Murphy and his wife, Jeanne, who accompanied him on the trip.  
"Jeanne and I spent homecoming week here, which was really neat to be able to get a flavor of the student and alumni spirit. I was also able to meet with some people from the business community. It was the best thing I could have ever done to help with the transition."
After homecoming, Murphy returned to campus where he spent a few days meeting with student groups, faculty and administrators.  He then came down twice to specifically work on team building and leadership within the administration and faculty.
To help conduct these exercises, Murphy brought his dear friend and colleague, Hank Dassinger, to Nicholls. Dassinger is the president at Ingram State Technical College in Alabama and has his doctorate in counseling psychology.
"Dr. Dassinger has been doing this for his whole career," Murphy said of Dassinger's experience in team building. "What we did was create a mine field with the purpose of building trust amongst the administration. Half were blindfolded, while the other half were guides. Those things are fun, but they always have a message. So we were asking ourselves 'What can we learn from that exercise?' Dassinger has facilitated this drill hundreds of times, and he said ours was the fastest he has ever seen it done."
Whether it has been administrative training, meeting with students or attending almost every Colonel athletic event, Murphy has immersed himself in campus life. He is very excited for the future of this University that rests in his hands.
"Every single day I find something else exciting about this job and more importantly, this university," Murphy said. "After my first day on the job, I got to give my 'State of the University' to which I said 'so far so good.' All the events and activities that keep our students and faculty busy are also very exciting. When looking ahead, I wish I could do everything and be a part of everything but I do have work to do in between," Murphy said jokingly.  
This past Monday, Murphy attended a press conference in Baton Rouge, where Governor Bobby Jindal announced that more money would go toward funding higher education in Louisiana.  
"The state government will cut loose $40 million for initiatives that relate to higher education connecting with the business industry," Murphy said. "This will hopefully give our students the ability to graduate with a degree that the community and industry need and value. I have already met with the administration to challenge them to brainstorm new possible programs that we can offer our students."
When analyzing where this money will end up, Nicholls will only receive a fraction of that $40 million. However, Murphy looks at this small feat optimistically, finding the underlying message behind the dollar signs.
"More importantly, you need to analyze the rest of Jindal's speech," Murphy said. "From what I have noticed, the state has made several cuts in the past few years from higher education. He is now committing to stop those cuts. The $40 million is a start; it is a headline and a statistic that people want to see. But the overall message of his speech is what you notice."
All things considered, Murphy has filled the void of university president thus far. In doing so, he has done the Nicholls community, its students and his taste buds a favor.
"We have traveled all over the country, as well as over the world," Murphy said of his move to Thibodaux. "This is by far the warmest and most welcoming community my wife and I have ever been a part of. For this University, we need to be active in the community that we serve. In the meantime, I am developing quite a taste for gumbo."

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