Completing a decade of service and ministry at Southern Wesleyan University (SWU), President Todd S. Voss has announced his plans to retire on June 30, 2021.
During his tenure, SWU has experienced important change and development creating exciting new opportunities for students and in many ways, recalibrating the trajectory of the campus.
“For me, every thought has to start with our current and future students in mind. Whether a spiritual development advance, academic program launch, student life opportunity or facility project, if it will enhance student learning and the student experience, it is worth further consideration,” said Voss in reflecting on the advances that have been made in the past 10 years.
His enthusiasm has consistently been a driver in attempting to move ideas to action. In the early years, the process of becoming an NCAA Division II athletic program started an avalanche of change. From acquiring the old First Wesleyan Church on campus in Central, South Carolina, to convert it to a state-of-the-art Nicholson-Mitchell Christian Ministry Center and new home for religion faculty and students, to the move to build a new 70-acre athletic zone highlighting a high-quality track and field complex, tennis complex, golf driving range, cross country course and improvements for softball including a new field house and press box — all with the goal of being open for public use as well.
Additional features in this zone have some extra special meaning to Voss: the Sheriff Memorial Flag Plaza and the Military Monument, each representing the university’s recognition of those who have served and sacrificed for our country.
Faith-filled community in action
The 2017 construction of the striking 238-bed Joiner-Hilson Complex residence hall was a turning point for SWU, dramatically impacting the quality of life for residence hall students. His passion for student learning and finding like-minded donors/foundations to join him led to the development of the student-operated coffee house Blue Hill Coffee and Tea Co., the Dupin Celebration Amphitheater, the Crawford Strategy Media Production Lab, the Rickman Library renovation and the recent transformation of Stuart Bennett Hall to house the newly named Benson School of Business (and soon, the entire social science division).
Collaborations with community partners created the Jericho Project, a unique living/learning environment where special-needs friends are mentored by resident SWU students; the town of Central/SWU Hike and Bike Trails on a 100-acre wooded SWU tract of land; the new campus boulevard entrance; and an on-campus partnership with the OneLife Institute, a 30-credit hour gap year discipleship program.
“Dr. Voss is an inspiring and visionary leader,” said Rev. Mark O. Wilson, professor of religion. “I was drawn to SWU because of his positive energy and enthusiasm. As I travel and make connections with ministry leaders across the nation, I am astounded at how many people know and admire him.”
Forward thinking in inventive learning
Academically, SWU achieved level five higher education status in Voss’s tenure by offering its first doctoral program in education with the second doctorate program (a Doctor of Business Administration in Management and Instruction) launching this coming January. Several other innovative academic programs have also been launched as the face-to-face adult and graduate study program transitioned to a fully online degree format. To meet an expressed local, state and even national need, the launch of a new fully online Master’s of Science in Counseling Psychology will also occur in January, something Voss, community partners, the advancement office, the faculty in social science and a dedicated donor worked collaboratively to develop. A 10-year reaffirmation of accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges was accomplished, recently adding to a variety of individual program accreditations over the past several years.
In addition to curriculum expansion, several significant grants collectively totaling over $4M have been competitively awarded to SWU in the past decade. From specialized foundation grants and Department of Education awards, to specific funding for student scholarships and beyond, Voss shared that grants are a team effort, and he credits his hard-working colleagues for their commitment to these kinds of important endeavors.
“Dr. Voss’ vision and passion for helping students are two things that attracted me to SWU,” said Dr. Brian Swords, SWU’s vice president for enrollment management and marketing. “His enthusiasm for everything he does is almost contagious, and he consistently looks for ways to make the student experience at SWU the best possible. The university owes a tremendous debt of gratitude for the ministry he and his wife, Julie, have given to SWU.”
Living in authentic generosity
Voss is a woodworker, and in his spare time he has designed and built items to meet specific needs on campus, such as the news desk in the digital production lab and the Torah Scroll display case located in the library. Just about every building has an element or two that he has quietly constructed or renovated “just because I like to quietly get things done for a place I love.”
Voss is a sought-after communicator and has served as the Board Chair of the NCAA DII Conference Carolinas, as well as the president’s chair of the South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities Organization.
His plans after June 30, 2021, are to live in the area, continue to support SWU in as many ways as possible and finally have the time to invest in the lives of his four grandchildren. Chairman Mike Hilson said, “The Southern Wesleyan University Board of Trustees would like to thank God for his gift of Dr. Todd and Julie Voss as our leaders for the past 10 years. Their tireless and effective guidance has brought SWU to new heights and aspirations and has changed the lives of countless students, faculty, staff and members of the extended SWU and Upstate community. We celebrate their leadership and pray for a wonderful retirement filled with the blessings of family and deserved freedom of schedule and rest.”
In keeping with its responsibility directed in the bylaws, the Board of Trustees has met and established the beginnings of a presidential search committee. The board intends to communicate in an appropriately open and transparent manner to all who serve SWU with periodic updates on the leadership transition process.
Jared Trudel is the director of digital marketing at Southern Wesleyan University.