Five questions with: Cindy Claycomb

06/26/2013 5:58 PM

08/08/2014 10:17 AM

Cindy Claycomb likes the life of a college professor.

That’s what she’s been for almost two decades at Wichita State University. The marketing professor is on hiatus from teaching now, but it’s not for a traditional sabbatical or vacation.

Claycomb is the interim dean of the Barton School of Business. Former dean Doug Hensler resigned this spring to take another job.

“I absolutely had no aspiration to be an administrator,” Claycomb said. “I’d looked at a couple of administrative jobs and had always just turned them down.”

Then after John Bardo became WSU president last summer, he summoned Claycomb to his office for a talk. She knew he was preparing to embark on a yearlong strategic planning initiative for the school and figured he might want her to be on a committee. He actually wanted her to co-chair it.

Claycomb said if she hadn’t had that experience, she doubts she would have accepted the interim dean position.

She said being co-chair “let me kind of get used to more meetings and more structured time.”

An avid runner and biker, Claycomb can often be seen about Old Town, where she and her husband, Charlie, live in a loft condo. They bought it after looking at patio homes in other parts of the city.

“The neighborhoods were never us,” Claycomb said. “We just didn’t feel like we fit.”

Then they learned about Dave Burk’s project to convert the Grant Telegraph Centre into condos.

“It was this old warehouse with dead pigeons and one of those elevators you run by hand,” Claycomb said. “We said, ‘This is so cool!’”

What was it like helping to lead the strategic planning process, and what did you learn?

We decided that the process needed to be very bottom-up driven, so we spent a lot of time … just asking questions and listening. We continually asked, ‘Is this what the data told us?’ … It was very helpful. It kept us very grounded. And then from a personal standpoint, it showed me that if you trust a process … it can work.

How is it being interim dean of the business school?

So far, I’m having fun. It’s different than what I usually do, but I like to solve problems. We’re looking at ways to do things differently.

As a professor … you’re in the classroom, and you’re doing your research. And in the dean’s office, you get to see the big picture of the whole school. I have never got to step back. I’m just learning a whole lot of stuff, and that’s been fun.

Is this a job you might like for the long term, and if so, would you keep teaching as well?

I’m eligible to apply for the permanent dean position if I would like, but this is my fourth week on the job, so I really have no idea if I want to do that or not.

It’s a good thing for administrators to teach. At this point, I’m not teaching just because I’m fairly overwhelmed.

Why do you care so much about Old Town and downtown?

I heard a quote when … the downtown consultants came in. … One of them said, “You have to have a heart to your city.” You can’t be just a bunch of suburbs. … You have to have a heart to your city, and that’s your downtown.

When I travel, I look at downtowns, and that’s what I remember about places I’ve been to. I think that’s really important when people travel here, when we have visitors … that we have this downtown that attracts people.

Your real name is Vincentia. Who were you named for, and does anyone ever call you that?

My parents named me that after a nun at Cathedral. This nun, Sister Vincentia, kept my dad in school to make sure he graduated from high school.

They always called me Cindy … but the nuns always called me Vincentia. I do have a few friends that call me that … teasing me.”

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