MARIETTA - Joseph Bruno's first official day on the job as Marietta College's 18th president was July 1, two days after a powerful windstorm ripped through the area, leaving many places without power.
"My first official meeting on July 1, we closed the campus for two days, so I think that was a record," he laughed.
Although he arrived in a difficult time, Bruno said it only strengthened his impression of the city he and his wife, Diane, now call home.
"(We) were very impressed with the way this community worked together," he said.
Things have been much less chaotic since then, and Bruno - now a little more than two months into the job and a few weeks into his first semester - credits a lot of that to the transition program the college put in place.
"I've been through a lot of presidential transitions in my career, and I have never seen one done as well," he said Wednesday. "I came in here with a very good picture of the college and the people around it."
That transition included multiple visits to the campus after his selection by the board of trustees in December, along with trips to speak with alumni alongside his predecessor, Jean Scott. He also got to watch the college's baseball and women's rowing teams compete for national championships in Wisconsin and New Jersey, respectively.
"All of that happened back in the spring," Bruno said. "(Scott's) insights while she was still in the midst of things on campus were invaluable to me."
Scott's 12-year tenure included a period of substantial physical changes to the campus, including construction of the Rickey Science Center, Dyson Baudo Recreation Center, Legacy Library, the Anderson Hancock Planetarium and the recently completed Harrison residence hall.
"It's safe to say the building process will probably slow down," Bruno said.
But the college will continue to emphasize having the best facilities possible for students, he said. The focus will now shift to repairing and upgrading existing facilities, such as a large classroom in Thomas Hall being refurbished over the upcoming winter break.
From an academic standpoint, Bruno said some new programs are in their infancy, currently being developed by faculty members.
"It's a sign of health on the academic side that we're not just satisfied doing what we've always done," he said.
Marietta will also begin focusing on the idea of helping seniors transition into the post-college world, offering assistance with things like interviewing skills, preparing for one's first job and the importance of being part of a community. Bruno said 90 percent of colleges in the country, Marietta included, have programs to help with the transition into college but less than 10 percent address the transition out.
"We're going to be a college with a high academic profile but also a college that works with our students to get them ready for life after college," he said.
That program won't be a course in and of itself, but will be offered through student services starting this year.
Gama Perruci, interim provost and dean of the faculty, said Bruno has been meeting with different constituencies at the college and taking the time to listen to their points of view. Faculty and staff seem to be responding well to his leadership style, Perruci said.
"The style is very collaborative and also not rushing to judgments or decisions but being very deliberative and listening to all sides," he said.
Bruno continues to meet with faculty, as well as alumni, who he said have a place in the college community beyond simply being financial contributors. They can be spokespeople for the college to the greater world and assist in various ways.
"We might ask them to provide internship opportunities the way somebody probably did for them when they were here," Bruno said.
Marietta is developing an integrated marketing plan to make the college's strengths clear to a wider market. Bruno said he wants to see the college recruit from around the country and the world, to not only bolster enrollment since the area's college-age population isn't growing but also to add to the experience of students by bringing together people from diverse backgrounds.
"You can argue that we're a well-kept secret, but that's not the position we want to be in," he said.
Bruno also places an emphasis on interacting with students, establishing an open office hour on Fridays for them to stop by with any concerns they might have. He and his wife played host to an open house last week and are kicking off a new program today called "Cooking 301" in which students come to the president's house - at 301 Fifth St.
"The idea is that small groups of students will come to the house and we'll cook dinner together and have dinner together," Bruno said.
The first such meal is this evening. Bruno credited Diane with coming up with the concept.
"She's as excited about being a part of this community as I am, and she's an endless source of good ideas," he said.
Freshman Emily Mason of Logan attended last week's open house and had an opportunity to meet Bruno.
"He seems really interested in what we're all doing, what we're all here for and how to make it better," she said.
Kevin Johnston, a freshman from northern Virginia, came to campus early this semester as part of the EXCEL Workshop for leadership students. Bruno not only welcomed students but took time to shake hands and talk to them individually, which impressed Johnston.
"He seems like a really nice guy. So I'm excited to see what he does in the four years that I'm going to be here," he said.
Bruno said he and Diane have also enjoyed becoming part of the community beyond campus, attending activities like the downtown Merchants and Artist Walks.
"Just walking down the street, people will stop us to welcome us to Marietta," he said.
Bruno is impressed with the community service projects students already perform and said he wants to emphasize being a part of and interacting with the community.
"We welcome the support we get from our neighbors, and we want to return it and be good neighbors to them as well," he said.