Dr. Gretchen Caughman

Answers Along the Way: Broadening Your Perspective

Dr. Gretchen Caughman, who began her career as a DCG microbiologist, then Dean of the School of Graduate Studies, will retire in August as Augusta University’s Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost. Here are some insights gleaned throughout her career:

Bloom Where You’re Planted
“DCG was a very good fit for me. I worked with Dr. George Schuster [then chairman of the Department of Oral Biology], and I enjoyed the focus of research, along with the student interaction I had as the microbiology teaching director. Then, as dean of the School of Graduate Studies, I had a broader perspective of all the colleges, working closely with every one of our Ph.D. students. Of course, my broadest perspective came as provost. It worked out well that every time I was looking for a new challenge, an opportunity became available here on campus. I didn’t have to move on to move up.”

Show Gratitude
“Everything I accomplished happened because of the contributions of lots and lots of people. It’s important to show gratitude to everyone around you.”

Optimize Your Strengths
“People tend to have go-to strengths, and I think mine were a good match for the university. I brought an expectation of excellence; I expected it of myself and those around me. I also like to think I connect to people on a human level, which is really important. No matter what is going on, you’re working with humans, each of whom have their own lives. Still, there are times when people aren’t necessarily on the same page. When I had to make tough decisions, my natural approach was to gather information. I have an analytical bent and always want more data, but you can only gather information for so long. When a tough call needed to be made, I wanted everyone to know that I valued their input and used it in my decision-making, whether everyone agreed or not. I didn’t mind pulling the trigger once I’d done my due diligence. You have to be willing to go ahead and do things and if they don’t go well, you own it.”

Be a Lifelong Student
“As you move into leadership positions, you need to keep an open mind about what you can learn. Change is constant, and that’s universal now. There are continuing challenges, and there will be new ones on the horizon. Take advantage of every opportunity for growth; I believe strongly in leadership development. I learned so much at Augusta University, and I’m so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to make a difference. I hope I continue learning throughout my life; I don’t plan to go from 125 miles per hour to zero. I hope I don’t flunk retirement!”

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