This is one in a periodic series of profiles on local college and university presidents.
Think college calculus is tough? Try cleaning out chicken pits on a sweltering summer day in Arkansas. That's one bit of perspective that Union Institute & University President Roger Sublett brings to his job overseeing the Cincinnati-based online university.
1- Your hometown and your favorite thing about growing up there?
I grew up on a farm outside the small town of Greenwood in northwest Arkansas. I appreciated the beauty of the Arkansas mountains and really enjoyed the experience of growing up on a farm. We worked hard, and I learned a lot about life, opportunities and discovered early on that being resilient in life was critical in the face of challenges.
There was a sense of self-identity and respect among people in our rural community that I really appreciated and still treasure today. I emerged from that formative environment with a sense of being grounded and motivated to make a difference in the lives of others.
2- What’s the hardest job you ever had?
Cleaning out stables and chicken pits on the farm in the hot months of the Arkansas summer. That taught me a lot about life’s work and how to deal with tough situations throughout my career.
3- What’s your favorite junk food?
Corn chips with queso dip.
4- What food can you not stand?
Liver and onions.
5- What’s your secret talent?
I am not sure that I have a secret talent, but I do like to paint. I have not had much time in recent years to indulge my passion, but hope to do that in retirement.
6- Name an item on your bucket list.
Travel to Australia and New Zealand in the near future.
7- What's your favorite joke, suitable for a family publication?
A man sitting in the gallery of the U.S. Senate heard a distinguished senator deliver an amazing speech. He hurried to the hallway outside of the Senate chamber to greet him as he left the floor. Greeting the senator, he said, “Oh senator, oh senator, that speech was simply superfluous.” The senator looked at him and responded, “Thank you, sir! I hope to have it published posthumously.” He responded, “Oh, I hope you do, and soon!”
8- What about Union Institute & University makes you most proud?
Every employee at Union works to help our students transform their lives and their communities through education.
Making a difference in the lives of others is something that Union has done well since its founding in 1964. It is inspiring every day to be a part of an organization where everyone devotes energy to ensure the success of our students.
At Union, we clearly understand that only people make a difference in an organization and only people are ultimately important in our lives. As I meet our graduates around the country, many have commented that they would not have been able to complete their education had Union not existed and assisted them through the work, supportive people and relevant academic programs. I am very proud that Union has been able to engage, enlighten and empower our students and employees alike, encouraging them to give back through service. They live our mission every day.
9- What's the biggest piece of unfinished business you’d like to accomplish during your tenure?
The first president of Union stated, “We hope to change the face of American higher education.” In many ways, Union has done that over the last 52 years.
My goal is to make sure that, through our advancement efforts, Union will be able to assure future generations of adult students that they will continue to have access to the creative and enriching experience of a Union education. We will continue to work to “change the face of American higher education.”
Bonus: Something else readers would be interested to know about you?
I am the very proud grandfather of three wonderful young grandsons. As the father of three grown daughters, I now find it wonderful to experience life through the eyes and joys of grandchildren. I am also a graduate of the University of Arkansas and an avid Razorback fan. Even my grandsons know how to “Call the Hogs” -- much to our daughter’s dismay. (She is a graduate of the University of Michigan.)