After spending almost four years as the Executive Director of Auxiliary Enterprises at The Citadel, a military college in South Carolina, Alan Coker decided it was time for a change.
“When this position opened up, I saw the opportunity as a step up from a smaller school to a flagship and research university,” Coker said. “As a career move, it was a really great change.”
Coker started his job as the assistant vice president for Auxiliary Services Feb. 16. In this position, most of his responsibilities will be to oversee the UI Golf Course, Housing and Residence Life, Vandal Dining and the VandalStore.
Coker replaced former vice president for Auxiliary Services Tyrone Brooks, who left UI about nine months ago. In that period, two UI faculty members served as interim assistant vice president to keep auxiliary services afloat.
Coker said working in Auxiliary Services is much like running a corporation – there are several different departments that need attention on a day-to-day basis.
“In auxiliaries, you are actually running a business and trying to make a profit for the institution,” Coker said. “You really have to be a jack of all trades.”
Coker said his background is very squarely in business. He worked on his Master”s of Business while in the military and finished his master”s degree in Management Sciences at Troy State University in Alabama.
Although the campus scenery has changed for Coker, his job description has changed little.
Coker said he worked with many departments of The Citadel that are similar to what he will be working with at UI.
“But now I get a golf course,” Coker said.
Coker said the Pacific Northwest setting is special to him.
“I have good friends in this area, and one of my long-term goals is to retire out here,” Coker said. “This position is all-around a wonderful opportunity.”
It was not just the environment that drew Coker to the UI, however.
Coker said it was Brian Foisy, vice president for Finance, who ultimately made him want to become a part of the Vandal family.
Foisy interviewed Coker in fall 2015. It was then that Foisy realized Coker would be a wonderful fit for UI.
“If you look at Alan”s resume, he is amazingly accomplished professionally,” Foisy said.
Foisy said Coker will help him with operationalizing the goals and plans in place for the university. The two will work together to break down higher-level strategic tasks on a day-to-day basis, in order to make the small details that run the campus achievable.
It was Coker”s strong portfolio that intrigued Foisy enough to offer him the position, but it was not the first characteristic that stood out to him.
Foisy said Coker”s people skills and his appreciation for those around him is what appealed to him the most.
“We want UI to be the primary choice for students, and with faculty like Alan that is possible,” Foisy said. “His attitude perpetuates across the whole organization.”
The attitude that Foisy spoke of is what Coker plans to use to make his goals a reality at UI.
Coker said many higher education institutions have forgotten about their most important customers: the students. His first few weeks at UI will focus on getting to know about the student body”s wants and needs.
“My overall goal here is to provide an environment for students to live in and learn in so that they can graduate and become successful in whatever they pursue,” Coker said.