The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

Jay Gatrell: The first year

President+of+Eastern+Illinois+University+Jay+Gatrell+in+his+office+in+Old+Main+during+an+interview+with+the+Daily+Eastern+News+about+his+first+year+as+president.+Gatrell+said%2C+Anytime+you+take+a+new+job%2C+there%E2%80%99s+going+to+be+a+learning+curve.+But+you+know%2C+I+feel+sort+of+blessed+to+have+been+here+and+to+know+this+place+and+the+newer+students.%E2%80%9D%C2%A0%C2%A0
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President of Eastern Illinois University Jay Gatrell in his office in Old Main during an interview with the Daily Eastern News about his first year as president. Gatrell said, “Anytime you take a new job, there’s going to be a learning curve. But you know, I feel sort of blessed to have been here and to know this place and the newer students.”  

It was only a little more than a year ago when Jay Gatrell was voted as Eastern’s 13th president.   

Gatrell, who acted as provost and vice president of academic affairs for Eastern from 2017 to 2023, said being familiar with the campus helped with the transition.   

“One of the benefits of having been here in that prior role is I sort of knew the landscape,” Gatrell said.   

According to Gatrell, the year saw plenty of positives when it came to student involvement and university success.    

“I’ve had exciting opportunities,” Gatrell said. “I played in the pep band at the OVC tournament, and I’ve had the opportunity to do community office hours and meet with students in the union. By and large, I think it’s been a really good year, as we’ve had Plan 2028 out, and we’ve got a lot of traction.”   

Plan 2028 is an initiative that revolves around four core themes: achieve, engage, create and resource.   

The plan also includes inclusivity, in which the university has seen increases in representation within the faculty and staff, Gatrell said.   

“Our mission statement has had inclusion in it since 2009,” said Gatrell. “And so, I’m really committed to making sure we live those values, we invest in those values and that we move the needle on those priorities.”  

According to Gatrell, one thing the university is also pushing the needle on is the addition of many new facilities on campus.   

“The most important thing is our facilities plan,” Gatrell stated. “Making sure that we have facilities that meet our students’ expectations but also meet their aspirations.”  

These facilities include the $95 million science building planned to be built near the south side of the Tarble Arts Center that will have new labs, classrooms and student equipment.   

But these plans and efforts to improve on-campus resources are not a one-man band, Gatrell said.   

“I have a number of colleagues, sort of like, who are my mentors,” Gatrell said. “I’ve really benefited from the support of the leadership team, the vice presidents. We obviously worked together for a while, and they’ve been enormous support and help to this process to make sure we’re all reaching our goals because if we’re all successful, the institution thrives.”  

But despite the support of others, there have been challenges such as the one that is affecting college students all over the country.   

“If there’s a challenge, the challenge this year is FAFSA,” Gatrell said. “I mean everybody knows about the FAFSA challenge, but our team is testing the software right now. We’re starting to get some data, and they’re working really hard. I’m pretty excited to see us get past that sort of technological bump and look forward to processing event data.”  

Gatrell said the opportunity to connect with students has made the experience of being president one that is worth it.   

“Anytime you take a new job, there’s going to be a learning curve,” Gatrell said. “But you know, I feel sort of blessed to have been here and to know this place and the newer students.”  

  

Drew Coffey can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]. 

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Drew Coffey
Drew Coffey, Reporter, Columnist
Drew is a senior television and video production major. He previously served as a reporter for The News.

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