According to his college mentor, Bryon L. Grigsby, PhD, Moravian University’s 16th president, once said, “Someday I’m going to run this place,” though now, he laughs and says, “I’m sure I meant the English Department, not the whole institution.”
When the ‘90 alum first stepped on the Moravian campus as a freshman, he was consumed by soccer and basketball. After experiencing a career-ending injury in his sophomore year, Dr. Grigsby quickly found himself questioning his identity as a non-athlete. Thanks to the support of Robert T. Burcaw, PhD, who he now meets monthly for lunch, Dr. Grigsby changed his major to English and set out for a career in academia.
After earning his PhD in English from Loyola University Chicago, Dr. Grigsby got a faculty position at Centenary College, where he worked for a few years before the president asked him to consider administration. He figured he’d try it out and eventually return to being a professor, but Dr. Grigsby quickly fell in love with the chaos of administration. He spent five years at Shenandoah University working in academic affairs before joining his alma mater in 2013.
"I love this place so much. Moravian is unique in providing a community that I’ve never seen at any other institution I’ve been at. It cared for me when I was a student, even though I didn’t realize I was being cared for," says Dr. Grigsby.
Building a More Robust Campus and Seeing Higher Admissions
While many institutions are struggling to recruit students, Moravian has seen a dramatic increase in student enrollment, which is due, in part, to the many efforts being made by Dr. Grigsby and his administration.
Over his ten-year presidency, Dr. Grigsby has enhanced the campus’s technology infrastructure, built a new-student orientation program, opened the new Center for Intercultural Advancement and Inclusion and the Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Sciences Center, surpassed $100-million in fundraising, and launched Moravian University’s 2021-2024 Strategic Plan, among other major initiatives.
The institution was also reclassified from a “college” to a “university” in 2021, which required a new structure, and now means the institution offers master’s and doctoral degrees, in addition to its undergraduate programs. Within the new School of Behavioral and Community Health, which opened in 2022, students can now pursue master’s degrees in clinical counseling, school counseling, and social work, as well as online certificates in specialized skills, which will help grow the network of mental health providers.
This new classification meant new strategic hirings and the recruitment of many incredible leaders, from James Scifers, PhD, the Associate Provost and Dean of the College of Health Sciences, to Lesley R. Brown, PhD, the Associate Provost and Founding Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences to the Associate Provost of the College of Health, who are bringing new life to the institution.
Moravian will also expand the institution’s student center, the HUB, to bring together health and counseling services and provide additional wellness offerings. When students walk in, they will be able to request a flu shot or counseling and they can leave through a private exit which Dr. Grigsby hopes will eliminate some of the stigma associated with help-seeking and reduce some of the barriers to care.
Fostering a Community-Driven Culture
Even though he’s made many innovative changes at Moravian, Dr. Grigsby continues to ask himself, how can we continue to embrace more people within this community and support their lives outside of campus? In addition to continuing the institution’s long-held tradition of greeting every person in passing, Dr. Grigsby has put a lot of effort into fostering and maintaining a culture that’s supportive and caring.
Every week, Dr. Grigsby hosts a dinner at the president’s house, which rotates between athletics and organizations bi-annually and gives students an opportunity to talk about their experiences, the culture, and what support they need to continue taking care of one another. By staying connected to the students on campus, Dr. Grigsby is able to mitigate problems that might arise and better recognize students’ pressing needs.
He also hosts community-wide events, including Winterfest and Heritage Day, a day that commemorates the Moravians and prioritizes giving back. This annual event is something that many students look forward to and includes a full day of activities, including off-campus service events. Dr. Grigsby knows that building a strong sense of community is critical to student success – and that often starts with him and his administration.
Supporting Student Well-Being
“I don’t think there’s a president that doesn’t wake up every morning and check their phone to make sure that their students are alive. It’s a very stressful time,” says Dr. Grigsby. “Parents are sending their most precious gifts to [us] and entrusting [us] with that – and we’re supposed to adult them. We’re supposed to teach them self-knowledge and help them self create and give back to society and get out into the world with great jobs.”
Not only does Moravian have a robust Counseling Center, as well as a Student Help and Referral (SHARE) Team, made up of eleven campus leaders, who meet at least once per week to discuss incoming student concerns, but they have also recently launched a Just Ask campaign, in which students can ask for support on anything from a bill to a mental health concern. Students can submit a question via the chatbot, which is immediately assessed by a campus leader who can refer them to the right department or service. Moravian has also worked with Mantra Health for the past three years, bringing more clinical support to students.
"I can’t praise Mantra enough. It’s been highly successful for us," says Dr. Grigsby. "It’s added a whole new realm of mental health services for our students. [Telehealth] is an added bonus. It produces a new group of people we weren’t serving before."
Celebrating the Past and Embracing the Future
The sixth oldest institution in the country, the first to educate women, and home of the national honor society for first-generation college students, Moravian has a long, rich history. One of its buildings, the Brethren’s House, played an important role in the Revolutionary War – and in 2024, the campus’s Historic Moravian Bethlehem will be considered for a World Heritage Site.
While Dr. Grigsby and his administration are excited to celebrate the institution’s history, they continue to look for ways to innovate. Having acquired Lancaster Theological Seminary in recent years, Dr. Grigsby believes more mergers and acquisitions are on the horizon. He’s also looking forward to seeing the ways in which AI will transform higher education.
“It’s a dynamic time,” says Dr. Grigsby. “You still have to become a leader, and you still have to critically think, but I think AI is going to help you do that. If you like change, this is a moment you’d be thriving in.”
Following the Moravian mantra “hound ‘em,” which means never give up, have total persistence, show determination, and don’t take “no” for an answer, Dr. Grigsby plans to keep making positive changes for his alma mater – and will, no doubt, continue to build the type of community that helps students thrive both on campus and off.
“Some say, ‘call one hound and the whole pack comes running,’ and I see that all the time,” says Dr. Grigsby. “This is what our students live by,” and this is what keeps Dr. Grigsby motivated.
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Photo copyright: Moravian University