Washington State College of Ohio Interim President Parker talks transition


Sarah Parker (Photo Provided)

MARIETTA — Washington State College of Ohio announced its interim president earlier this month, WSCO Vice President of Academic Affairs Sarah Parker.

Parker grew up in Pittsylvania County, Va., which is near the North Carolina border, and received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in English from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), she said.

According to her LinkedIn page, she received a doctorate in educational administration and leadership from The Ohio University.

According to Parker, she started at WSCO in 2018 as the vice president of academic affairs and was one of the first hires current president Vickey Wood made. Her career in higher education started as an adjunct English professor at a community college in Virginia.

“I started teaching in community college after I got my master’s in English and it’s funny because I was also really interested in farming,” Parker said about her time in Virginia.

She said she worked at a dairy farm half of the day helping with calf care and making cheese and spent the other half of the day being an English professor.

“I was only part-time teaching, but that was really where my love was, in the classroom and community college,” Parker said. “I was a (teaching assistant) when I was a master’s student. It was okay but when I started teaching community college students that’s where I felt at home.”

According to Parker, she moved to Ohio and was a professor at Hocking College and at some point after always being interested in being involved in new projects and extra things at the college there were leadership positions available and she decided to give them a shot.

“I really enjoyed administration,” Parker said about her work at Hocking College. “I found I had a knack for not just project management but helping to kind of lead a group to a solution or through an issue.”

As interim president, Parker said she wants to focus on getting WSCO through the transition period of choosing a permanent president.

She said she officially starts as the WSCO interim president in July and she thinks the school’s goal is to have a transition period of one year and to choose a permanent president by July 1, 2025.

“My understanding is…the board has created kind of their core hiring committee and they’ll communicate the steps and the processes for posting and interviewing, bringing candidates on campus,” Parker said.

During the transition period, Parker wants to focus on the work of getting the school through it and managing the projects the school has at this point. These projects include launching the new occupations therapy assistant, physical therapist assistant and process tech programs; helping the bachelor’s of nursing program seek accreditation; participating in the Rural Guided Pathways, a national program that focuses on talking about and creating solutions for rural problems and barriers for rural students; renovating the pedestrian bridge that runs from the school’s library to its main building; and upgrading the chemistry labs.

“I got to say I’m pretty lucky that I’m stepping in in the interim period where things are really going well…luckily, I am stepping into a period of stability and everything’s looking really good,” Parker said about her job as interim president. “So the biggest challenge really is just leading people through that transition period of making sure we continue our momentum, continue to meet our goals and set the table for the next administration to come int0.”

Not only will Parker be the interim president, she will also be performing all her regular duties as the vice president of academic affairs. She said she will keep her salary for that position and be paid a stipend for the extra duties as interim president. She said she did not remember the amount of the stipend.

“I think at community college we all learn to wear multiple hats,” Parker said about doing both jobs at once.

She said once the permanent president is chosen she will go back to doing the duties of the vice president of academic affairs position. When asked if she would be seeking to become the permanent president of WSCO, Parker said she is open to the opportunity if it aligns with what the board of trustees wants and her own personal growth and strengths.

Parker said the core question that guides her has always been – how does she serve best and in a way that aligns with her strengths and the needs of the institution for which she is working. She said she is interested in growth and how to become a better leader so if her path leads to a presidency someday and it makes sense for her family and the institution she is at, then she will be excited for the opportunity.

Parker doesn’t just work at WSCO, she thinks it’s amazing too.

“We are so good at doing things in teams here,” she said. “There’s just a real focus on teamwork and supporting each other. It’s lent itself to a really positive culture. The people here make this college amazing, really.”

She said the people at the college are amazing too. She said the college is small and everyone knows each other and the faculty and staff are so committed to students.

When Parker is not working, she likes to travel with her husband and four children who range in age from 7 to 12, she said.

She said that she and her husband like to try new foods and they love live music, including the music at Stuart’s Opera House in Nelsonville.

“We actually got married there,” Parker said.

Parker is not just committed to her family, she is also committed to the students of WSCO.

Parker said she wants students to know “just like President Wood, I am here to support you,” .

She said she supports students’ academic journeys and “if there’s anything ever they need, my door is always open.”

WSCO’s current president Vicky Wood will be leaving in June to become the president of Trident Technical College in Charleston, S.C. Parker will start as interim president on July 1.

Michelle Dillon can be reached at mdillon@newsandsentinel.com

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