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Hogan's team reaches out to community

by Sherry Fisher - February 19, 2008

Lisa Troyer’s calendar is packed, but that’s exactly how she likes it.

“I love my job,” says Troyer, one of two people who came to UConn from the University of Iowa with President Michael J. Hogan. She is his senior associate and chief-of-staff.

Steve Rhodes is Hogan’s executive assistant.

Troyer, a professor of sociology, was interim associate provost at the University of Iowa when Hogan, who was provost there, asked her to join him at UConn.

Troyer was at Iowa for 12 years. Her research program there involved innovative problem-solving and change in groups and organizations.

She studies how communication and computer-mediated technologies, such as e-mail, mobile phones, and virtual interaction affect the innovativeness of groups and organizations.

She has taught courses on group dynamics, technology and society, sociological theory, social psychology, and complex organizations.

At Iowa, Troyer also chaired a variety of university committees.

“Mike was in charge of writing the strategic plan at Iowa,” says Troyer, “and I was asked as one of the faculty to be part of that group. That’s how I got to know him. Near the time that we were finishing it, he was already looking ahead to implementation and realized that he needed more help to work on projects as they came up.”

He offered Troyer an administrative fellowship to work with him. “I joined him in 2005 and we finished the plan,” she says, “and started working on a lot of different things.”

One project involved handling the absorption of students who came to Iowa after Hurricane Katrina. She also worked on disaster preparedness: A tornado had come through the campus.

“The tornado hit right before finals,” Troyer says.

“We had to work with all the colleges to figure out how we could accommodate all the students who were affected.

“Mike called me ‘Dr. Disaster’ for a while,” she adds.

In 2007, Hogan invited Troyer to become interim associate provost of academic administration. Her duties included program review and development, and space and capital planning.

“When we learned Mike was coming to UConn, we were devastated,” she says.

“He has incredible leadership qualities and charisma. He has the ability to get people together around an issue and find the common ground and move ahead. He also has a vision for how to take the university forward.”

So when Hogan asked her to join him at UConn, she jumped at the chance.

“I knew that I wanted to continue working with and learning from this kind of leader,” Troyer says.

Her husband, who is still in Iowa, plans to join her soon.

Since her arrival, Troyer has been “learning about the organization, the opportunities, and the challenges,” she says.

That involves meeting with faculty, staff and administrators. “People will sometimes contact Mike, and his schedule is so full it’s hard to get on his calendar. He’ll often ask me to contact the person and see if they’ll meet with me instead.”

Troyer grew up in Seattle, earning a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Washington, and her master’s and Ph.D. degrees in sociology from Stanford University.

She enjoys the variety in her job.

Steve Rhodes and Lisa Troyer, at the President’s office in Gulley Hall.
Steve Rhodes and Lisa Troyer, at the President’s office in Gulley Hall.
Photo by Peter Morenus

“Every second is different,” she says. “There are so many smart people doing incredible work.

“I never know who is going to be calling,” she adds.

“One of my jobs here is to receive calls that are about sensitive issues the University has to confront, and I work with the president to implement his solutions.

“Our team also works with the state, the governor, and the Board of Trustees,” she says. “We have to be effective, responsive, and quick. And the staff here, with all their experience, help us do that.”

Steve Rhodes was, until now, a lifelong resident of Iowa.

“I grew up in Des Moines and worked in Iowa my whole life – 30 years at the University of Iowa,” he says.

Rhodes earned a bachelor’s degree in studio art from Carleton College in Minnesota and two master’s degrees in studio art at the University of Iowa, where he specialized in print making.

After graduation, he took a position as the director of a small art museum in Fort Dodge, and worked there for about seven years.

“I liked working in the museum,” he says, “but I was also eager to try out a career on my own as an artist to see what I could do. That didn’t work out as well as I had hoped, and I had four children, so I started working for the University of Iowa as a support person in the College of Law.”

From there, Rhodes moved to the Provost’s office, where he was involved in supporting a variety of activities, including accreditation and oversight. When Hogan became provost at Iowa in 2004, Rhodes worked with him.

“As provost, Mike met regularly with students and I worked with them also,” Rhodes says.

“He engaged with student government leaders and was very actively involved in the community.”

“When Mike was hired as the president here, he said, ‘How would you like to come to Connecticut?’ and my wife Judy and I looked at each other and said, ‘why not?’”

At UConn, Rhodes helps Hogan “connect with people,” he says, “especially students, staff, people in the town, and outside constituencies. I’m looking for opportunities if people want to get together with him. I watch the newspapers and the Advance. If Mike, who reads all the papers, says he’d like to get together with certain people, I make the contacts.”

Rhodes says he works closely with Student Affairs, helping organize different events, “whether it’s the community outreach programs such as the winter break trip to Biloxi, Miss., or entertainment events.

The president wants to be involved with students, and wants to do it in an informal way – like riding the bus to football games.”

One of his current projects is helping plan Hogan’s inauguration on April 13.

“Mike wants the whole University community involved,” Rhodes says. “He wants it to be a celebratory event, not so much for him, but for the University to celebrate itself.”

Rhodes says he enjoys working with Hogan: “He is so positive and is such a decent human being. He cares about people, and he’s very good at what he does. I’m always learning from him.”

Rhodes says he likes working with young people, too. “College students bring so much energy and a fresh outlook on everything.”

Rhodes adds, “To make the University a place where people can grow and learn in a positive way, I think there should be something fun about what we do. It’s an important part of a positive experience.”

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