Meet Mark Bieger
Chief of staff joins President's Office
By Chris Horn, firstname.lastname@example.org, 803-777-3687
Mark Bieger, a retired Army colonel and 1991 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, was named chief of staff for President Bob Caslen in early January. Bieger served previously as chief of staff at West Point and headed a training brigade at Fort Jackson in Columbia from 2012 to 2014.
You’ve been on the job for just a few days, but describe your impressions of the university thus far.
It’s amazing the scale and scope of what the university is doing, not only for students here and throughout the system, but also for the state of South Carolina. My first impression of the university is extremely positive. UofSC has a very proud history, stretching back to 1801, and it has an incredible array of both historic and modern buildings and facilities. But the real gift of this university is not in its history or in the physical environment around us, although both are truly incredible. The real value is the people — the faculty who have been gathered here from across the nation and from around the world who are charged with the education and inspiration of our students; the coaches who are leading our NCAA teams into competition at the very highest levels across our nation; and the staff who enable all of this to happen.
It’s a joy to join a team like this.
What are the strengths and talents you bring to the table as President Caslen’s chief of staff?
I hope that my years of experience serving as a member of high-performing teams will help me integrate quickly into the university team. I like to think I have a strong background in planning and coordinating the efforts of large organizations at the strategic level. I believe that I am a decent communicator, although that can always be improved. I also believe that I am a good team-builder. Nothing of value gets done by individuals; it’s all because of the team, and that’s almost always because of the team’s individual strengths and diversity. When a group is motivated by a common vision and goal, that’s when great things get accomplished.
How are you boning up on your responsibilities and what do you see as your primary duties?
It’s a steep learning curve. I’m spending a lot of time at night with books and binders, but you can’t substitute personal interaction. I’m getting to know the university’s executive leadership and beyond, a process that’s going to continue for months, I’m sure. I was chief of staff at the U.S. Military Academy the past two and a half years, so I’m familiar with common practice in higher education and among universities, but West Point is on a smaller scale compared to the University of South Carolina and the university system here.
My primary duties will include synchronizing, integrating, communicating and advocating — those are the big functions I’ll be performing for the university. Of course, it’s going to take a while to learn the people and the organization and to fully appreciate the capacity and potential of the university. My immediate and enduring role will be to understand and appreciate what our people are doing, the complexity of what they’re dealing with, the resources they need to be successful and the direction we are heading as the flagship university for the state of South Carolina. I also should be smart and aware enough of the great things that are happening every day around our system to effectively communicate (and celebrate the achievements) to as wide of an audience as possible, in and out of our state.
As the newest member of the university’s leadership, what’s your message to the campus community?
The most important group on this campus is our students. Every one of us, either directly or indirectly, has a very important and critical role in the education and inspiration of our students to achieve the greatest levels of success while at UofSC and after they depart. Followed by the students is our faculty — they are the engine of this university. For this university to be successful, our faculty must be the very best in the nation and have all the resources necessary to enable that success. The staff’s job is to enable them for that success, in every way possible. Day to day, my role is to support the president and support the faculty. If I’m going about my day without one of those being my focus, I’m probably off the mark.
Anything personal about yourself you’d like to share?
My wife and I are truly thrilled for the opportunity to come back to Columbia. We are both avid sports fans and will be at every sporting event possible. I’m a huge fan of music from the ’80s, but I must admit that there are some groups playing today that are on my playlists: Coldplay, Maroon 5, Jack Johnson and Khalid, to name a few. We just saw the musical Dear Evan Hansen, and it jumped to No. 2 on my all-time list of musicals that we have seen live, following Rent and The Lion King. All in all, I guess I’m not very exciting. The best thing about me is that I was lucky enough to marry my college sweetheart, and we’ve been able to raise three incredible, healthy boys. I’m thankful to be a part of the Gamecock family, and I’m looking forward to the years ahead in garnet and black. Go Gamecocks!
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