The Future of Tech: An Interview with President G. P. "Bud" Peterson

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Rachael Pocklington
Communications Officer, Parents Program

Last summer, I had the opportunity to interview Dr. G.P. “Bud” Peterson, president of Georgia Tech, to ask him both about his experiences since his arrival and his plans for the future of Georgia Tech. The following are excerpts from that conversation.

Since you arrived at Tech last April, I imagine your time here has been very exciting and immensely informative. Thus far, what are your impressions of Georgia Tech?

Yes, it has been tremendous! I am extremely impressed with Tech as an institute, the students, faculty and staff, and of course the overall community. Every university has a culture, and I am learning that Tech’s culture is very unique. Last July, we embarked upon a series of “road trips” visiting with alumni groups, rotary clubs, local papers, school district representatives, chambers of commerce and legislators. In one instance, we conducted thirteen events, in seven cities, over two days! Our mission was to learn from these stakeholders across the state how Tech is currently fulfilling their needs and which areas we need to improve in the future.

Have there been any surprises?

We are learning that Tech is doing a very good job on many levels - from research, patent filings, start-up companies, impact on the state budget - that’s all an aside to providing a world-class education to students. We just need to to do a better job of making people aware of our contributions. During our visits this summer, we started breaking down the facts as they pertain to the different districts to help illustrate the impact Tech has on their economy and population. Once you start talking to people about the numbers of enrolled students, alumni, represented high schools, and local economic development they begin to understand why Tech matters.

I am also learning and completely overwhelmed by the level of support and appreciation that Georgia Tech commands in the state of Georgia and across the nation. The support is much more robust than I anticipated.

As the Institute’s leader, what are your key areas of focus?

Right now, my key area of focus is the strategic planning process. It is critical especially in a time of budget constraints and economic challenges that we collectively focus on the future and define what Tech will look like in 25 years. During my first two weeks here at Tech, student leaders presented me a very well prepared white paper on the “state of the student” and what they considered priorities as we look to the future. It became quite clear that Tech students want broader opportunities; we need to prepare them for more diverse and yet integrated pursuits. Our strategic plan will help drive this.

How will this plan help distinguish Tech students from the national and global talent pool in the years ahead?

The elements of the plan should nurture creativity, innovation, leadership, and entrepreneurship to give Tech students the experiences they need to be competitive among students from around the world. We need to be consistently rethinking how to integrate technology to provide a better educational experience. For instance, today many of our peer institutes post all of the class materials from every class online. This doesn’t detract from the value of the faculty and the teaching - rather, it enhances it.

Another area is Student Affairs, and how those services and programs provide the balance and broader experiences students desire. We all know that much of what students learn happens outside the classroom. College is probably the only time they will have such readily available access to facilities and programs which will help them be involved in activities like debate, community service, band, theatre and the arts. These are the experiences that teach students valuable management and leadership skills. We really need to help the students think carefully about what they want to accomplish while in college, aside from getting a degree.

What do you think about today’s Tech students?

My best day is when I work with students. I am tremendously impressed with the caliber of Tech students - they are very solution oriented and professional. The student team who presented the white paper I referenced earlier was dressed for success, well prepared and all around professional. Thinking back, that wasn’t me when I was in college!

What is your philosophy on parental involvement with college age students?

Stay involved. The relationship will change over the course of the college years, but it is vital for parents to stay in touch with what is going on with their student. There has been much research that college students are still very receptive to what their parents say. There may be that bravado that help isn’t needed, but often that is a facade for their insecurities.

Other than that, I have two pieces of advice. The first is to find a way to communicate with your student. Look at how students talk to each other and adopt those methods. The reason why students don’t call home is they don’t call anyone anymore. They use Twitter, Facebook and text messaging instead. Parents will need to embrace these new forms of communication. The second is to try not to define “the best years,” because they are all the best years. Some of our children have moved home at some point following college as adults. Val and I have enjoyed living with our adult children very much. They are really great people. Our experience with our adult children has been just as gratifying as when they were younger.

Can you talk about your experience with parents’ programs?

Parents programs are a great tool to communicate with parents and share the information they need to form that common ground with their students and have those important conversations. We worked very hard at my previous university to develop the parents program and found that often parents were better informed than the students. We learned that parents really do appreciate the open and timely communication from campus. I believe we are learning that the same holds true at Tech.

As a parent, what do you believe parents expect of the Institute? How will we deliver upon these expectations?

Parents should expect that Tech will provide a safe, intellectually stimulating, and inspiring experience to help their students reach their full potential. As a parent, I also feel that they expect open communication. We have actually developed an Office of the President Web site dedicated to keeping the campus community up to date on many current issues and future initiatives.

What areas of improvement do you believe parents want to see in the near future?

As both a parent of college-educated children and the president of the Institute, I see a huge potential in developing the “other” education. Again, the experiences that happen outside of the classroom. Student Affairs plays a large role in developing the holistic experience. I think we do a fine job of providing the essential services, but we can always improve upon the programmatic opportunities for students to explore new ideas, share different perspectives and cultures. College is a great melting pot of ideas. Now is the time to provide those broadening experiences our students need.


  • Workflow Status:Published
  • Created By:Rachael Pocklington
  • Created:10/07/2009
  • Modified By:Fletcher Moore
  • Modified:10/07/2016