New President, Dr. Wanda Nitsch, takes the University in a new direction
We are excited to announce… As of April 2011, USA’s very own Dr. Wanda Nitsch was inaugurated as the fourth president of the University at the Commencement Ceremony on the San Marcos campus. The University is excited to have such a visionary leader during a time of great change. In her honor, we have published her induction speech. She shares with us her passion, her vision and the people who have made an impact in her life.
I have to share a dream that I had one night last week. Dr. Paris could not find the medallion and the time for the commencement procession was getting closer and closer as several of us frantically searched this building. He kept saying, “I know I had it on the plane!” The time came to start the ceremony and out of desperation we made a loop of elastic cord taken from the wellness center. What ingenuity! And I was proud to wear this symbol of my profession around my neck. But doesn’t this look better then a piece of thera-tubing?
As I accept this mantle of leadership, I must pause to thank those in my life who gave unselfishly of their time, trust and wisdom to assist in my professional journey. Although there are many, I refuse to let this sound like an acceptance speech on Oscar night, so I will keep it to just a notable few.
My predecessors, especially Dr. Paris, have done much in setting the stage for my success as a leader. Dr. Paris pushed the envelope for advancement of our profession, both in the clinical world and the education arena. Through his leadership, today this university is financially healthy, has a strong management team, a collaborative faculty, a firm vision and an excellent reputation. There is nothing else I could ask for when stepping into this role. There is a Vietnamese proverb that says: “When eating fruit, remember who planted the tree. When drinking clear water, remember who dug the well.” Dr. Paris, thank you for planting the tree and digging the well.
Personally, Dr. Paris has taught me to be creative in thinking, to be honest to myself and my values, have the courage to make a difference and above all, showing integrity in decision making. He paid for a portion of the tuition to earn my PhD. He did this during a period of financial strain on our institution. I know there were times that paying that bill may have been a tough choice. Yet, he knew the value of growing the person in order to grow the leader. Thank you for making that sacrifice and believing in me.
I also wish to thank those closest to my heart.
• To my parents, who taught me that right thoughts and right efforts will inevitably bring about right results.
• To my younger sisters, who let me practice my leadership skills by being the bossy big sister and still loving me many years later in spite of it.
• I thank my sons, Paul and Phillip, for reminding me to forever remain curious and that learning can be fun.
A special thank you to my husband, Chuck. His unwavering support of me and pursuit of my dreams has gone way beyond those vows taken almost 30 years ago. He has listened, comforted and humored me, offered advice, and let me be me. No one could do it better.
And one final word to the graduates. I believe that everyone has the potential of leadership in them. As I look back 32 years ago to that shy, unassuming new PT graduate sitting at commencement, there was only one thing I wanted…to be an excellent clinician and maybe someday an educator. Becoming a university president was nowhere in that mix! In fact, I purposely steered clear of leadership opportunities in my early career, predominately out of fear. What I did not realize then is that leadership comes in many forms and can be expressed in many ways. What is the essence of leadership? After wrestling with this question over the last several years and reading many books, I’ve come to a simple realization. It is more than just a mastery of skills or accomplishments, growing responsibilities or community recognition. It is more than a medallion around your neck. Instead, we lead by virtue of who we are. Anyone who is authentically self-expressing and creating value is leading. Some lead by creating value through ideas, others through systems, others through people, but the essence is the same. They are authentic and when they express that authenticity, they are leading. What makes leadership is what is within you.
We are all CEOs of our own lives. So, to be a good leader, you need mastery of self, but it is up to you to achieve that mastery.
What I suggest is that you first find your purpose. For me it was recognizing that I like to help people to succeed. Once I found that purpose, I had the desire to express that in many ways. Through caring for patients, working with students and faculty, developing new programs and devoting time to members of my faith community, I was expressing my purpose. What is your purpose? What is your mission? Finding this passion is what will inspire you into action.
I recently watched a movie about the life of Amelia Earhart. I enjoyed the movie so much that it inspired me to read a biography of her life. What hit me was the quote at the very end of the movie: “Everyone has oceans to fly, as long as you have the heart to do it.” Amelia’s passion was flying and that was her purpose. That was the source of her leadership in bringing women into aviation.
Once you find that purpose, or we could call it your personal power, you want to turn that into results power. Do you remember the term in physics “kinetic energy?” For those who have been away from physics awhile, kinetic energy is the energy an object possesses due to its motion. It is a transformation of one kind of power into another form of power. In physical therapy we learn that muscles, when exercising, convert chemical energy from food into muscle contractions and create movement. This same thing happens when you take personal power and turn it into results power. Things start to happen. You begin to make authentic contributions in all of your spheres of influence. You provide momentum to create a change in ideas, in systems, and in other people by being yourself and living your purpose. You sit here with the excitement of a new beginning. And I share that same excitement with you in my new beginning. I know there are many external forces affecting higher education and healthcare at this time that will bring new challenges and opportunities for us. There are changes within our clinical and educational institutions that I am certain will bring triumphs and setbacks to us. And as some of us have experienced in this past week, there will be events that inspire and events that cause despair. No matter what comes our way, we will use our purpose and our kinetic energy to propel us forward.
Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal tell us that: “The essence of leadership is not giving things or even providing visions. It is offering one’s self and one’s spirit.” It is my privilege to offer myself and my spirit to the success of the University of St. Augustine. Good luck to all of you as you develop your leadership skills in the quest to meet the healthcare needs of society.
Thank you and good cheer.
Dr. Wanda Nitsch has been a physical therapist for 32 years, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. In 1997, she completed her Manual Therapy Certification. She earned her Master of Science in Orthopaedic Physical Therapy from the University of St. Augustine in 2000. With a strong interest in administration, Wanda completed her PhD in Education with a specialization in Higher Education Leadership from Capella University.