By Juan Alonso
In our sixth and final meeting in September for LEAP LEADs, we had the privilege of learning from SHSU Vice-Provost Chris Maynard and legendary Washington Post reporter (and author) Bob Woodward. The night was as entertaining as it was educational.
Dr. Chris Maynard serves as Vice Provost, a position that is a mystery to most students. He attended our LEAP LEADs meeting to help de-mystify that position and to provide larger lessons about the University structure.
Dr. Maynard drew on a wealth of experience: he has been a Dean, Chair, (University of North Alabama) and a Professor (University of North Alabama and Dakota State University). The conversation with Dr. Maynard was as broad as his education and experience.
He provided advice to students considering law or graduate school (“Have a game plan–make sure you pursuing goals and that those degrees fit in with those goals”) and on being successful in our chosen fields (“find successful people in our area, and learn as much as possible from them”–good advice for people doing just that in LEAP LEADs!).
He also discussed the disruption caused by COVID, from everything to changing the way we market and offer classes, to dealing with media concerns, to providing students the “University” experience. He was adamant that, despite the vexations caused by COVID, the University degree and experience is valuable and worthwhile–something with which we all agree.
We also had a chance to ask Dr. Maynard about his area of expertise: political history. And while he did discuss history (see below), he also discussed the future and the challenge we face in cybersecurity. During the Cold War, there were two super powers and their allies coalesced against each other, but there was a type of stability. Now, “a person with the right skill set and a laptop can hack into a government’s system and wreak havoc.”
Of course, we also asked many questions about the end of the Cold War and the careers of Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and James Baker. He described the different styles of Reagan and Bush, while also discussing the unique talents of James Baker, about whom we also had the pleasure of watching a Texas Tribune Festival presentation (featuring Mark Updegrove, Susan Glasser, and Peter Baker).
The discussion of these men and their accomplishments set the stage, bathed in high-contrast light, for our final event of the evening: hearing Bob Woodward discuss his new book, “Rage,” on the Trump Administration.
We enjoyed our dinner from Carbonero as we watched Woodward discuss the Trump Administration and the conclusions he drew from 17 separate interviews with President Trump–both before and after the COVID-19 outbreak.
Woodward’s report, which sometimes contained various expletives (all while quoting Trump administration officials), portrayed Trump as a contradictory figure. At times the President acknowledged the danger posed by COVID; other times, he seemed indifferent or dismissive of the threats it presented. And even as these important discussions were taking place, Trump, according to Woodward, would be fixated on things like photos he took with world leaders. It was an unsettling discussion, one made more unsettling by the news that broke shortly thereafter about the President contracting COVID.
We’ve learned quite a lot this fall, but one thing has been made most clear: all these discussions–whether on local government, University administration, national politics, or COVID–are all related.