Interview

Director of the Union Potts prioritizes trust

New to the role, Potts aims to fully understand Union operations

IN THIS FILE PHOTO, RECENTLY APPOINTED DIRECTOR OF THE UNION CHARLIE POTTS INTRODUCES himself to the Executive Board.

“Before, during, and after,” responded Director of the Union Charlie Potts when asked if he was fully aware of the context of his hiring before he accepted his job as director.

He later elaborated that he “owed it to both [him]self and to [his] family, as well as the school, that if this was ever going to heal, if this is ever going to move forward, the right person had to be here. And [he] did not want to be approaching that relationship with any blind spots.” He first looked at the position in January, and he spent time researching through a search consultant, asking around, and by reading newspaper accounts from The Chronicle, Times Union, and The Polytechnic.

Early on, he felt that “something [wasn’t] right,” and thought that he “actually [was] drawn to something where he might be able to just assist [and] help.” Potts later acknowledged that this kind of work is not for everyone, but that this student union “has incredible passions from all angles.” At the time, he thought “this might be something I’m attracted to.” Potts has expressed that he cannot change what happened before he got here, but his goal is to be productive and trustworthy.

In the past, Potts has taught French, coached football, and worked in higher education, including a five year tenure as associate dean of students and director of the student union at Indiana State University. He has led the construction of a new student union building at Southern Methodist University; later in his career, he completed a doctorate degree in educational administration at ISU and wrote his dissertation on the role of the college union.

Potts, as early as his first interview with RPI, expressed that a “student-staff partnership is the cornerstone of anything [he] personally [is] about now.” This requires that “we identify to ourselves a mutual need, a mutual trust, and a willingness to dialogue, which includes active listening and active response.” He plans to “take the time necessary to operate in such a way that trust is a very expected and natural and spontaneous byproduct,” and views that as a prerequisite to anything else he could do here. He also acknowledged that “standing in the gap” between students and administrators is an important part of his job.

While Potts thinks he has a good understanding of the issues at hand, he admits that he fully has to live in the environment to understand it. He has decided to live in Downtown Troy, has attended nearly every Senate and Executive Board meeting since he was hired, and has set a weekly recurring meeting with Grand Marshal Stef Warner ’19 and President of the Union Justin Etzine ’19.

“I don’t know that I am surprised by this, but I am extremely appreciative and respectful of and excited by the exact amount of engagement—mentally and emotionally—that the students have about virtually everything, ” expressed Potts when asked if there was anything that surprised him about RPI or the Union since joining the community. “I just am really exhilarated by the amount of energy that people bring forth towards the community of the school, first and foremost.”

“I care to make the most out of what this building gives us. I am actively studying what this building will give us, and when it comes to environmental development, you’ve gotta understand what you’ve been handed,” elaborated Potts, when asked what he hopes to accomplish within the first semester of his time here. He believes that this understanding will allow him to evaluate if the Union is doing its best in supporting students’ needs and activities. On the opposite side of the spectrum, he recognizes and is looking into the long-term challenge the Union faces due to its sheer lack of square footage, as class sizes continue to increase.