The College of Charleston ended a year-long search for its next leader last week when it elected University of Toledo provost Andrew Hsu as its 23rd president.
The College’s board of trustees deliberated between Hsu, 62, and two other finalists at a meeting in Randolph Hall, the school’s landmark administrative building. The board unanimously approved Hsu, a former aerospace engineer whose work in academia has mostly focused on STEM, to lead the liberal arts college.
His start date has not been determined, according to a press release from the College.
Hsu graduated with degrees in hydraulic engineering from Tsinghua University in Beijing in 1980, according to his candidate fact sheet. In 1996, he obtained a second master’s degree, along with a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering, from Georgia Tech. In the years following, he worked for NASA contractor Sverdrup and Rolls-Royce and started his academic career at the University of Miami in 1997.
Since July 2016, Hsu has served as the provost and executive vice president of academic affairs at the University of Toledo in Ohio.
CofC students and faculty voiced a desire for more diverse candidates at various listening sessions during the presidential search. Some complained that former president Glenn McConnell did not show enough interest in the ins-and-outs of campus life.
“It just seems as though the past president was not a servant leader,” said senior and student leader Courtney Hicks in an interview with the City Paper in October.
In a press release, Hsu discussed the impact of being denied an early education during the Cultural Revolution in China, a period ranging from 1966 to 1976 during which Communist Party chairman Mao Zedong violently reimposed his ideology on the country and brought education to a halt.
“I didn’t have that luxury or good fortune to have a well-rounded liberal arts education. I actually started in a local community college and later used OpenYale to fill that gap,” he said in a phone interview with CP, referring to an online platform that allows people to take free undergraduate classes taught by Yale University professors.
Before taking the helm at CofC, Hsu says he’s busy brushing up on courses in psychology, political philosophy, and European civilization through the website.
Renee Romberger, a trustee who led the search, says she was curious about whether Hsu would be a good fit.
“His engineering background, while it might seem a bit unusual for a liberal arts president, we think is a wonderful fit,” she said, touting the diligence and organization typically associated with STEM expertise.
Hsu says he’s most interested in enhancing the college’s “strength areas” before focusing on research or STEM.
Romberger says that the leadership profile for the job, which was based on various listening sessions, made it clear that students, faculty, and alumni wanted a leader who prioritized an open-door policy.
“I’ve always had an open door policy,” Hsu said. “I don’t intend to change that.”
Hsu and his wife, Rongrong Chen, have four daughters.
He will succeed McConnell, a former South Carolina state senator and lieutenant governor whose four-year tenure at the College was off to a rocky start after a selection process that some say disregarded campus concerns. At a university that is 80 percent white, McConnell was dogged by a past that included co-owning a Confederate memorabilia store in North Charleston. His installation in March 2014 was marked by protests from students and faculty alike.
In January, McConnell announced his retirement for health reasons. He was temporarily replaced by Stephen Osborne, his senior advisor, on July 2.
McConnell’s took home $310,345 during his final year.
Romberger expects Hsu’s contract, including his salary, to be finalized this week.