Dr. Tom Bogart was an economist “before being an economist was glamorous.”
Addressing the Blount County Chamber of Commerce VIP group at 7:30 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 20, the new president of Maryville College drew laughter as he poked fun at his profession.
“Nothing says a good time like seeing an economist at 7:30 in the morning,” he said, adding that he knew a lot of economist jokes but would refrain from telling them. “I want to tell you why I became an economist. It wasn’t for the glamour. I became an economist before being an economist was glamorous.”
The 11th president of Maryville College then explained that in college, he was interested in how the world works. “Economics was a tool to ask questions about the world,” he said.
Defining his “dream job,” Bogart then said that after he had accepted the job as Maryville College’s president, he realized that this position fulfilled all his “dream job” criteria, including being in the South, in a town near a city.
The new president, who began his tenure on July 1, said a liberal arts education often gets a bad rap. “People have the mistaken perception a liberal arts education is impractical, but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s about asking questions and looking at things in depth,” he said.
Bogart said a trend among colleges recently has been connecting the academics a student learns in the classroom with practical applications in the workplace. Maryville College, he said, has been doing that for 10 years through their Senior Study requirement. “Experiential education has been part of our curriculum for more than a decade,” he said. “We are delighted that other colleges are catching up.”
The college president said another strength Maryville College has is the focus it has on strengthening a student’s faith. “I’ve found my faith and academic endeavors to be complimentary. We’re educating people and one dimension is how people think through their faith and look at how their academic and professional pursuits blend and complement one another,” he said.
Bogart said Maryville College adds value to the community because the school educates people. It draws high quality athletes, talented students and teachers and is a partner in the community, he said.
The college president praised the school’s athletic accomplishments, saying that the Division III school has 15 varsity sports. With 150 individual seasons over the past 10 years, the school’s teams have made it to 60 different NCAA Division III tournaments and celebrated about 60 All-American athletes in those sports, Bogart said.
Of the importance of Maryville College to the community of Maryville and Blount County, Bogart said intelligent, talented students and staff are valuable to the community. “We help attract talent,” he said. “Colleges are brain-game institutions. We’re bringing in smart, dedicated people from all over the country and the world,” he said.
A question about enrollment brought the response that some of the challenges the college faced in 2008 and 2009 are being reflected in enrollment today. Bogart said enrollment grew steadily over 15 years, peaking at 1,175 a couple years ago. The sluggish economy and loss of two vice presidents of admissions in a short period of time has had an effect, Bogart said, but he expects enrollment to improve with hiring of a full-time vice president of admissions.
In their long-range planning, Bogart said the goal is 1,200 students, but many factors play into when and how achieving that number plays out. “There are some programs that you want both a minimum number of students to make it viable, but there is also a maximum number above which makes it impractical,” Bogart said. “All those factors play into a sustainable enrollment goal.”
According to the college’s Office of Communications, they are expecting about 1,100 students to enroll this year.