When newly-appointed Vice President for Finance Jim Ragsdale was but a student at Anderson College in the early 1980s, he had no idea where his life would take him.
“Graduate school looked like it was going to be next, but I ended up never leaving Anderson,” he said. “I stayed.”
Ragsdale began work as VP for finance on March 12, the Monday of spring break.
“It was a great time to come into the community with a little less pressure,” he said.
After working in his last job for more than a decade, Ragsdale said that transitioning was difficult.
“I was leaving [my previous job] at a time when they were building their annual budget,” he said. “Everyone I worked with wished me well and really helped me to leave with a clear mind, but I wanted to make sure I finished well there.
“There are things as true as ‘not burning your bridges,’ but this went beyond that because these were my friends,” he said. “These were folks I’d worked with for 11 and a half years. I wanted to make sure to do my best for them in the time I had left with them.”
The practice of doing one’s best with what they are given seems to be a theme in Ragsdale’s life.
“Everything I will endeavor to impact will have to do with stewardship,” he said. “It goes beyond dollars and cents because value is measured in so many more ways than dollars and cents.
“You can’t put a dollar figure on the value of experience students receive in the classroom, the value we receive by being part of this community or the relationships we establish that way, many of which will last the rest of our life,” Ragsdale said. “The dollars play into that, but stewardship is the focus I want to bring. I want to make sure that we provide the best experience for our students that really impacts their lives and allows them to shape their own lives.”
Ragsdale hopes that everything he does in his work will be in line with the university’s strategic plan, which focuses heavily on stewardship and student experience as markers for institutional thriving.
“Our challenges as a university have to do with greater clarity and focus on our mission,” Ragsdale said when asked about how his vision fits with the strategic plan.
“As educators, the institution has experimented with some ideas and different approaches, but things change and conditions change and the economy changes,” he said. “We’ve got to look at the resources we have at our disposal now—how can we best use them, which ones are core to our mission and which aren’t?”
The sale of WQME is one such example of the strategic plan at work.
“The broadcasting world has changed dramatically since we started the radio station,” he said. “We have to adapt to the changing environment, and we have to look at what students really need to take away from here now.
“We have to evolve and adapt to the world as it is now and make sure that we are providing our students with the best opportunity to be ready to leave and find something to do with their lives,” he said.
As Ragsdale has begun to explore his new responsibilities as a cabinet member rather than an alumnus, he has been excited to discover that his job description goes beyond just handling the university’s finances.
“From the title itself, you think only in terms of dollars and cents,” he said. “The thing that was exciting to me as I explored the position was that it was really a much broader job description. It also encompasses the human resources function of the university, and the physical resources, our buildings, how well maintained they are and what we intend to do with them in the future; the security aspect, how our police department functions; food services and the bookstore.
“It was much broader than just the title, and that’s something, especially in the last 20 years of my work, that I’ve really wanted,” he said. “I want to feel like I’ve had an impact on something and made a difference. I don’t want to just put in my time. That’s not me.”
When Ragsdale isn’t hard at work, he enjoys several hobbies, including woodworking, technology and reading about current events.
“My father was a carpenter, and he always had a project going on,” he said. “We built a house, and that was an incredible experience. Technology is also a hobby [of mine]. I started taking apart computers and putting them back together, and I enjoy that. I’m always reading about what’s going on around the world. I want to know how all that fits together.”