Just two days after her installation ceremony and almost a year after assuming the presidency, Teresa Amott sat down with TKS to talk about the Knox and Galesburg communities, Flunk Day and what she hopes the college will have accomplished by May 2013.
The Knox Student (TKS):What have you thought of the Knox community thus far?
Teresa Amott (TA): I think what drew me here … There was this kind of pivotal moment when I saw the petition that Chris Poore had started to thank all the folks in student development and facilities and dining and everybody who helped the campus in the blizzard. And I just thought to have a student body that would be caring enough to initiate and get that petition out quickly; it was just very special to me. … That kind of put into my mind the idea that there’s some really remarkable initative-taking by students here. … Over the last nine or ten months, it’s been every day some new affirmation of that, that our students are rather uniquely, in my mind, creative and energetic and caring. … The students here, in my experience, are really special.
TKS: Leading up to the installation, you’ve asked the Knox community to share with you their hopes and dreams. What have they been saying?
TA: The two points that are interesting is, one, there is clearly a preservationist theme that says there are special things about this community in its personal quality. … There’s that sense of, ‘Whatever you do, don’t mess that up!’ (Laughs). Don’t lose the feeling of community and personal caring and friendship and bonds. I would say it’s a very strong theme. Then I think the second very strong theme is that there’s concern about the future. … There is a concern about the future at multiple levels. … And the third was just a whole set of more visionary or futurist things. And I tried to summarize those in my talk. … In each of those categories, people had specific things. Whether it’s save Alumni Hall, or we need more community gardens, or scientific equipment needs to be updated. There were more local concerns.
TKS: Some people have mentioned that it’s kind of impressive how much you’ve stepped outside the Knox bubble and gone into Galesburg. What’s the best part about the city?
TA: The history of this place is an enormous asset for us. … There’s just a lot of really rich and interesting history in this community. I like that sense because it has shaped a feeling of pride in the community for a long time. It is, however, impressive to see the economic challenges that this city faces, with the loss of manufacturing jobs…. So it has shrunk in size, and when city shrinks in size there’s a whole set of issues that come along with that … I’m interested in having the city be more of a learning opportunity for people to have internships, not just service, but opportunities to do advanced research.
TKS: Have you adjusted to the trains yet?
TA: I will confess to you that sometimes … I wake up thinking about Knox and my job, and when the trains start, it’s hard to go back to sleep. So I have to confess: The trains have interrupted my sleep.
TKS: What did you think of your first Flunk Day? You survived, obviously.
TA: You know, I felt badly for people because of the weather. I didn’t really get to see much activity because we moved it all inside. I do confess that I was working. I know I’m not supposed to work on Flunk Day, but I took advantage of the day to work, so I was not a full participant. Maybe that’s just as well. Maybe that was better for the other participants too. But I think it’s a great tradition. My Alma mater (Smith College) had what they called Mountain Day, and it was in the fall … But there it was more scatter off the campus and go hiking, go experience the fall foliage, but I love those traditions. I think it’s a great idea to have a surprise day off.
TKS: What will we be talking about next year?
TA: Well, by this time next year I’d sure love to have construction crews working on Alumni Hall. … We will have hired, I hope, a sustainability coordinator … we will have our marketing study done and we’ll be working on new admissions materials, publications and things about Knox … I would love that we’re here next May and we have Fulbright’s to announce, that students have gotten into really good graduate programs … That we’ll have a lot of faculty accomplishments that we can celebrate at the same time … I think we’ll have a lot of examples of momentum for the future and of the academic excellence that is a hallmark. …
TKS: Any regrets?
TA: None. No, we made exactly the right decision in accepting this position. It’s a privilege to be here.