Susan Elkins, vice president for extended programs and regional development, will be retiring at the end of the semester, from Tech after accepting a position with the University of South Carolina.
Elkins previously ran for the office of the president at Tech but lost to Phil Oldham.
Starting this fall, Elkins will be the founding chancellor of an online university called South Carolina Palmetto College at USC.
She has been with the University 20 years and her accomplishments at Tech are numerous. She was involved in the reshaping of regional economic development and was instrumental in the founding of the College of Interdisciplinary Studies.
Elkins also worked to extend programs and further access to higher education across the region by implementing online courses for both traditional and nontraditional students.
However, she said she does not feel as if she has worked a day in her life. Elkins described her current position at Tech as “fulfill[ing] people’s dreams.”
“The goal that I had when I came to Tech was to help the campus reach out to the region and provide access to education to people who couldn’t necessarily come and sit in a classroom at 18,” she said. “I have been so blessed. Nobody has been more fortunate than I have been to do what I love and help impact lives here in Tennessee.” Elkins said she believes recognizing the fabulous team she has worked with at Tech is the most important aspect of her retirement. Michelle Huddleston is the coordinator for service learning for student organizations and said she believes the department’s loss of Elkins is monumental.
“I think Tech will feel the loss. I don’t know how they couldn’t,” she said.
Huddleston has worked under Elkins for five years and has seen a variety of programs grow with her leadership. She has also experienced professional and personal growth of her own under Elkins’ direction.
“I cannot think of anybody better to model myself after,” Huddleston said. “She is probably one of the most caring people I have ever met in my life. Her passion for Tech has always been amazing, but she has a passion for the community too.”
Huddleston said Elkins has made significant accomplishments in developing opportunities for education and that she admires her relentless work ethic.
Huddleston said that she has been on the phone with Elkins before at 11 p. m. working, while Elkins and her husband were waiting at the ER to get a fish hook out of his hand.
“South Carolina doesn’t know what they are getting,” Huddleston said.
Elkins said she is looking forward to working at USC. She will establish South Carolina Palmetto College and its online program in its entirety. Her goals for promoting community involvement remain the same as her goals for Tech.
Elkins laughed when she spoke of why she chose USC. “My accent was not going to work very well in the north and I don’t like snow and cold weather,” she said. “It’s a flagship institution and the system is attractive to me because I get to work all across the state.”
Elkins said she will always have a place in her heart for Tennessee Tech despite her excitement about her new position.
“Every student is special in their own way,” she said. “They all have their own story and each of those stories is special to me. Every student is a part of me, whether they are 18 or 81, 19 or 91. It’s great to have had a chance to be a part of their life by making Tech accessible to them. I’ll always be connected. My blood runs purple.”
A retirement reception for Elkins will be at 2 p.m. Friday in the Tech Pride Room and is invitation only.