New USC Aiken chancellor dedicated to lifelong learning, regional comprehensive universities

Daniel Heimmermann did not go to school to become a university administrator, but he says the experience of leading smaller colleges has opened his eyes to the impact these institutions have on their communities.

“Most faculty have no interest in becoming administrators,” says Heimmermann, who was named the fifth chancellor of the University of South Carolina Aiken this summer. “The great thing about being a faculty member is the freedom that you have to really pursue your passion and work with students.”

Heimmermann was doing just that, researching early modern French history and teaching at the University of North Alabama, when he was tapped to become chair of the history department.

“I guess it was my turn,” he says.

But that opportunity, which was supposed to be temporary, lasted five years.

“During that time, I realized I enjoyed the work of supporting other faculty members for them to successfully do their jobs,” he says. “And I derived satisfaction out of developing new academic programs that students needed.

“So there was a really pragmatic element and I do have a healthy dose of pragmatism that probably goes back to my Midwestern roots and my dad being an engineer.”

The next stop for the Wisconsin native was dean of the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Brownsville, now known as the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

“That was for me very edifying because I had to learn about other disciplines, very different ones,” he says of the wide-ranging liberal arts programs.

I've made my career at places like this — places that profoundly impact the community and the students it serves.

Daniel Heimmermann

From there, Heimmermann went all-in on the administrative side and served as provost and vice president for academic affairs, first for Mississippi University for Women then at University of Texas Permian Basin.

“Then I had to learn about things like nursing, business, education, engineering and all those other very different kinds of programs,” Heimmermann says of his time as provost. “I learned that I just enjoy learning.”

And one of the key things he has learned over the course of his career is the value of regional, state-supported campuses in improving access to higher education, which in turn improves life in their communities.

“I've made my career at places like this — places that profoundly impact the community and the students it serves,” Heimmermann says. “I also appreciate the focus on students, the focus on teaching. We do research here as well, but our No. 1 pillar is student success and making sure that if we accept a student into USC Aiken that the university will do all it can to ensure the student graduates and moves on to a rewarding career.

“We are going to ensure that our organizational structure, our system of incentives and rewards for faculty and staff are aligned with our mission of student success and having a truly student-centric university.”

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