John Schmidt: A voice for students

Troy University photo

Luke Brantley

Variety Editor

After working at Troy University for 20 years, and four years of retirement, Dr. John Schmidt has returned to serve as the senior vice chancellor for student services.

Schmidt said his new role is primarily student-focused.

“I am the voice, the representative, for the students in major decision making, whether it be academics, financial or marketing,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt said he has several projects he is currently working on, one of which involves the Trojan Center.

“We’re working right now plans to renovate (the Trojan Center) in the summer of 2020,” He said, adding that not much has been done in the way of improvements aside from the food court area. “We want to make it more student friendly.”

“We’re looking at maybe moving the health center over there, so you kind of have a one-stop-shop,” he said.

Another project Schmidt said he is working on is the opening of the new Trojan Fitness Center.

“We hope to have that open on the first of November; have it staffed and have programs in place,” he said. “I’ve been in almost every exercise facility that you can imagine and that place would be second to none; it’s that impressive.”

Schmidt said he would also like to work on student retention, especially for freshmen.

“I’m passionate about first-year student success,” Schmidt said. “I want to find better ways of working with faculty and staff on ‘How do we improve our first-year retention?’

“Once we get a student here as a freshman that first year, that first semester, it’s challenging. You’re trying to adapt to the new environment, making new friends, trying to balance the academic side with the social side; there’s a lot going on.

“I want to try to see what we can do to improve first-year student retention. Right now we’re at 73%; the national average is 76%, so we’re not too far away but I think we’re a little low.”

Schmidt said some of his other projects include working on marketing and advancement for the university, reviewing the scholarship and award process and ensuring that Troy has a safe and secure campus.

“That’s a full plate,” he said. “Each morning when I come into work, I’ve got something to do.”

Schmidt, who is originally from Birmingham, first started working for Troy University in 1994 at the request of Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins Jr. Schmidt and Hawkins met while attending Alabama College, now the University of Montevallo.

After college, Schmidt joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1969, where he served until 1994. Schmidt served in various capacities in Vietnam and other locations throughout his career before retiring at the rank of colonel.

During the Gulf War, Schmidt said he served on the staff of U.S. General Norman Schwarzkopf, who was over all coalition forces during the conflict.

After that, the Marine Corps sent Schmidt to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he studied journalism and mass communication.

Schmidt received his doctorate from NOVA Southeastern University-Ft. Lauderdale in 2005. He said his dissertation focused on first-year student success.

After retiring from the Marines, Schmidt came to work here at Troy, where he served in various roles over the course of 20 years.

Some of these roles included the head of advancement and marketing and special assistant to the chancellor. Schmidt also taught a foreign policy course, which he said his time in the Marines prepared him well for.

“I’ve seen war and I’ve seen peace, but anything I learned about leadership I learned in the Marine Corps,” he said. “I look at you guys as marines. Not in the (military) sense, but when you have marines, you look after their welfare; you look after their wellbeing and you want them to be successful.

“That’s my goal as I see students here, I want them to be successful, I want them to be safe and I want them to have a good time.”

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