GA: Even though it is the interim position, you are the first woman to hold the president title in Georgia Southern history. Do you think this says something about women rising to lead the way in education?
Bartels: First off, I think that’s one of the most exciting parts of taking on the position is being able to be the first woman to actually hold the presidency at Georgia Southern. I think women have made contributions in higher education for a long, long time, and have come forward with wonderful decisions, wonderful activities, wonderful contributions to higher education. Certainly, it speaks well I think to the increased diversity we’re experiencing in all of higher education and the opportunity for any individual to serve is really a privilege. So I think that part is particularly exciting. It is kinda fun to have the title as the first woman to hold the position here at Georgia Southern.
GA: President Keel has frequently been praised for the way in which he has used athletics to put Georgia Southern on a national stage. He frequently says it’s a front-porch mentality that if people can get on your front porch, they can look in the windows at other great things like academics. Do you agree with this way of thinking or would you have something else in mind?
Bartels: Well, I think athletics is certainly a very vital part of Georgia Southern’s history and the activities that students and everyone enjoys in the community and beyond enjoys seeing about Georgia Southern. We have many open windows for the institution for people to get a look at us. You start, I think, with really extraordinarily strong academic programs and really world-class faculty and great administrators that also are attractive for people to look at because it’s the important thing that we do here at the university. That said, I think athletics is extremely important too. I certainly am an athletic supporter, and this is a cute aside for you, but I’m actually a, what I call a minority owner of the Green Bay Packers. I was a Wisconsin girl by my background and I grew up about 30 miles away from Green Bay, Wisconsin, and I learned about the Green Bay Packers from the time I was a child and right now I own one stock in the Green Bay Packers. So that gives you an indication that I still think athletics is pretty darn important and pretty exciting to be a part of. So, athletics will certainly be something that continues to be a front porch opportunity for the institution, loved by so many, and really will be supported as well, but I want to make sure that we also keep athletics in perspective of the other great things that are happening at the university as well too.GA: During the nursing student tragedy, you were a speaker at the vigil and reminded the community that you were a nurse and had served as chair of the school of nursing. Did that situation prepare or shape you at all for how to handle a tragedy in the future as president?
Bartles: My background is a nurse, that’s how I started my entire career, and my career took me into practice in critical care areas for most of my practice, so dealing with and responding to very difficult situations is something I feel like I’ve done for a long time. Every situation is new, and every situation is extraordinarily painful, and gives you more insight into what kinds of things people need and how you support them when they’re faced with difficult moments in their lives. So it was a very tragic and horrible situation, touched all of us deeply, and from it I learned the things I do have done as a nurse are going to always be an important part of how I respond to any situation like that. Support people, help them to cope with the situation, and try to find a brighter future for them to perceive into.
GA: Will you keep an open door policy as president for students or faculty to speak with you about any problems they may have?
Bartels: And I’ll answer that quickly: Absolutely. The way I managed my provost position is the same way, I believe very much in transparency and also in listening to what people have to say. I learn more from having those conversations often times than any other way I can get information. So I definitely will be looking for input and ideas and thoughts that students might have, that faculty might have, that anyone associated with the institution might have, internal to us or external in the community. So absolutely.
You aren’t going to ask me about Twitter and selfies? (laughs)
GA: Would you like to speak to Twitter and selfies?
Bartels: I’m in the process of working to find out a better way… to increase my ability to Twitter better than I do and to continue that tradition which I think is kind of fun. And there’ll be an occasional selfie, I’m sure. (Laughs)