January 9, 2018 10:08:06 AM
India Yarborough - [email protected]
After 6-1/2 years with Mississippi University for Women, Jim Borsig will step down from his role as university president at the end of June.
Borsig, 61, announced his decision Monday morning at the spring 2018 faculty and staff convocation and said he has decided not to retire but to "refocus."
"It is easy to overstay in a position like this, and we've had a pretty productive and challenging almost seven years," Borsig told The Dispatch after the convocation. "There's just a sense to me of completion of things I set out to do, which indicates a need for someone else to have the opportunity to see what comes next."
In the president's January 2018 letter to the university, Borsig said he notified Mississippi's Commissioner of Higher Education and the Institutions of Higher Learning board of trustees last week of the change in leadership. Caron Blanton, director of communications for IHL, said the board meets later in January and a timeline for choosing Borsig's replacement will be established then.
According to a 2017 study published by the American Council on Education, the average tenure for a college president is seven years.
Borsig began as MUW president in 2012 after leaving the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning as associate commissioner for external relations. One of Borsig's most notable achievements at MUW has been to reestablish an athletics program.
Lee Crouse, MUW Faculty Senate president and associate professor of theatre, said Borsig's announcement came as a surprise.
"This is a hard job he does, so my initial reaction was shock, and that was followed by being grateful for the work he has done while he's been here," Crouse said.
Crouse, who has worked for MUW for eight years, said Borsig has always been open and accessible to faculty and students. Crouse said Borsig has attended every student theatre production and senior exit project in the theatre department since he assumed the role of president.
Crouse added Borsig has maintained a vision for moving MUW forward and pulling it into the 21st century.
"I'm grateful for the time I got to work with him and got to know him," Crouse said. "I've been president of the Faculty Senate for three years and getting to sit down with him each month and learn from him about how things work on the university side has been an eye-opening experience for me."
A transition north
Borsig said he began to mull the decision of leaving his current position around Thanksgiving, and made a final decision over MUW's holiday break. In his January 2018 letter, Borsig assured the university he was "healthy, in good spirits, and looking forward to what comes next."
Borsig's wife, Kate, who is the director of school advancement at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, said a trip to Maine over the break solidified her husband's decision.
"We weren't sure if [he would leave] this year or next year, but as we spent time in Maine and as we talked with family and had that time away to really spend thinking and processing, we both realized the right time was now," Kate said.
According to Jim, the presidency has been more than a job; it's been a lifestyle.
"It's seven days a week, 52 weeks out of the year practically, and I have loved every minute of it," he said. "But it seems like it's time for something else."
Jim and Kate plan to move to Boothbay Harbor, Maine later this year and settle into a vacation home they have owned since September. Kate will leave her job at MSMS in April.
"We don't have family in Maine, but we've found a community there we really love," Kate said. "The more time we spend there, the more drawn we are."
As the couple moves away from careers in public education, they plan to work with the Columbus-based nonprofit Global Connections, an organization that addresses social injustice across the country and internationally.
Kate has worked with Global Connections for almost 12 years. During that time, she has taken 13 trips to Kenya with the group, served as the organization's director and is now a member of its management team. She said Jim, who accompanied her for one of those Kenya trips, will join Global Connections' board of directors after his final semester with MUW.
"Over my career, I have been active in the United Way, I've been active in the Boy Scouts and have served on both of those boards since I've been here in Columbus," Jim said. "It's second nature to me. Education changes people's lives, and nonprofits change people's lives in other ways."
He anticipates the work with Global Connections will bring him back to Columbus occasionally.
With a new schedule in a new state, though, the Borsigs hope to get outside more and enjoy the little things.
"We like to kayak. We hope to learn to snowshoe. We love to hike," Kate said. "So I certainly hope we'll have more weekends and evenings to do those sorts of things."
"I've always had a love for the outdoors," Jim added. "We've enjoyed Plymouth Bluff and places around here, but having a less structured schedule to finish a good book, and I have some writing I'd like to do -- there are a number of things I'll have more time for."