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Outgoing president says Catawba poised to move forward

SALISBURY — Brien Lewis may be entering his last year as Catawba College’s president, but operations remain at full swing across the campus. The school is providing undergraduate research and internship opportunities, adding graduate programs, pursuing new faculty and more, Lewis said.

“We’ll be continuing things that are actively in the pipeline over the next several months,” he said, adding that internships and research opportunities remain a priority. “These are what we call ‘high-impact activities’ that develop skill sets in students.”

While these opportunities are one big piece of the puzzle in Catawba’s forward momentum, other more outward changes will come to the school in Lewis’ last months as the school’s top administrator. They include a beach volleyball program and the completed renovation of Ketner Hall, to name a few.

Lewis announced Monday that he had told the board of trustees that he will step down at the end of the academic year.

The college is also working to add graduate programs such as a master’s in data analysis, a master’s in sports management, and a master’s in business administration in health care management, all while pursuing additional faculty members to develop a master’s in mental health counseling, he said.

Many efforts are made possible through an enhanced focus on fundraising and marketing — efforts like the Mind Body Soul campaign and a new push notification-enabled app called “MyCatawba.”

“These are just the things at the forefront,” said Lewis. “It’s a lot of continuing to move multiple trains at once.”

Asked why he’s motivated to continue the multiple pursuits with the end of his tenure in sight, Lewis gave a knowing smile.

“Having been in higher education for a long time, you develop an understanding that it was here a long time before you arrived and it will be here a long time after you leave,” he said.

Of course, this wasn’t to discount the affinity he has developed for the institution during his seven years as president. He recalled with ease a number of impactful moments during his tenure: not small, he said, but “individual.”

Those moments include seeing a struggling student strive to achieve during first-year seminar or another walk the stage at graduation, he said. With fresh tears coming to his eyes, he spoke of moments when he sat and watched student theatrical performances in awe.

“Those are the kinds of moments that will get you to the finish line,” he said. “Catawba is, I think, really poised to do some exciting new things, all while continuing to deliver the education, experiences and values that have characterized this institution throughout its history.”

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