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College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management

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Meet the Dean: Q&A with College of HRSM Dean Michael Sagas

The College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management welcomed Michael Sagas as its new dean on June 15, 2023. Sagas came to the University of South Carolina from the University of Florida, where he served as a professor of sport management and director of the Institute for Coaching Excellence in the Department of Sport Management.

With his first semester as dean underway, he took time to answer some questions and share his vision for the college.

What do you think of Columbia so far?
"It's been even better than I expected. It's definitely more diverse in many ways. Not just people, but food, culture, things to do. I'm enjoying the river and the parks and being outside. Everyone warned me about the heat, but it’s not as hot as Gainesville, Florida or College Station, Texas."

What has your welcome on campus been like?
"It's all been very smooth. The college has a great team with professional staff and strong leadership in place, making it very easy to hit the ground running. I've enjoyed working with Provost Arnett. She has big goals, and I appreciate her willingness to push me and our college to new areas. President Amiridis has been great too, and is a very big proponent of what we're doing here. Everyone has been really supportive. Even the other deans on campus have spoken very highly of our colleagues, our faculty and our staff and the value we add to the campus."

What attracted you to apply for this role?
"What made me interested was the college itself, the mix of programs and disciplines. Being a dean is a lot different from my previous experience as a department chair. It's more about the future, about vision and where we want to be years from now. I'm looking at the high beams now."

What are your goals for your first year on campus?
"I'd say number one is culture. As Peter Drucker puts it, 'Culture eats strategy for breakfast.' So, I've been working a lot on getting to know people, understanding the way they like to be communicated with, and making sure all our units' needs are being met. We have a great foundation in place because of our previous leadership, and we’re going to build on that foundation pretty quickly.

Engaging our audiences is also important. We're expanding our communications efforts, including a new podcast, and adding new facilities that will allow us to host more events and welcome the community into our learning environment in some really fun ways.

Innovation is also going to be a key term in this first year. I'm going to challenge faculty to use more innovation in their teaching and research, and look at how we can better prepare students for the next generation knowledge that needs to be in place to be successful. This includes professional development around AI and machine learning, making sure we're at the forefront of industry trends and conversations, and that our faculty and students have access to the latest certifications that will empower them to be adaptable and competitive in an evolving industry landscape."

What about longer-term goals?
"We really want to be able to forecast better with our enrollment, student job placement and the growth of the college. This will include innovation in flexible course delivery, reimagining our Ph.D. programs, expanding our research and building new relationships and opportunities with our alumni network."

How would you describe your leadership style as it relates to students as well as faculty and staff?
"At every level, my door is always open. I'm big on flattening hierarchy, and the best way to do that is two-way communication. I'll be attending events where students are as well as visiting classes. I want to stay relevant and understand what's going on, and I hope to engage and meet a lot of students."

If someone who has not yet met you asks about you, what answer do you hope they would hear?
"I just care. I care enough to be curious, and it's absolutely authentic that I do. I think it's a privilege and an honor to serve, and I'll do it as long as I'm asked to. It's not about me, it's about the group and what we can do together, and that starts with caring."

What makes HRSM a special place?
"It's the people. If you're using the word exceptional, it's because the people are making it exceptional. There's a lot of talent here, and the people just really care about what they do. We also have really great academic programs, good facilities, sustainable business operations, and a lot of really talented students who want to be here."

Mike Sagas headshot

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Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.