Our Day with Dondi
Before the semester ended, Anna Menendez ’19 and Sarah Parris ’20, communication studies interns in the Office of Marketing & Communication, spent a day with President Dondi Costin. Costin takes his busy schedule in stride and said, “There’s nothing I don’t like. The challenge is what makes it fun to tell you the truth, so nothing really is that overly challenging.”
Here’s a glimpse into their day.
A President’s Schedule
When I stepped into the President’s Office, I had no idea what this shadowing opportunity would entail. Dr. Costin met me with an energetic handshake and a demeanor that permeated excitement to begin the day. We walked into his office, a grand room decorated with his several diplomas, impressive awards and accolades, commemorations of his time in the Air Force, and sat down at his conference table to discuss the enormity of his weekly schedules. The office printed a few copies of these schedules from the past few weeks, and the amount of items that were listed was absolutely overwhelming. Every day presented a different set of agenda items, often overlapping each other, leaving me to wonder how on earth Dr. Costin has time to relax. In the very short half hour we had, Dr. Costin covered what his most recent week looked like, detailing the hours of his days as somewhere between 5:30 in the morning to about 11 in the evening. The days were absolutely saturated with such a wide variety, spanning between endless meetings, various luncheons, multiple presentations and ceremonies, fairs, calls and conferences. As Dr. Costin discussed these matters, he spoke with such admirable equanimity and a relaxing tone as to ease any frustrations. Dr. Costin never appeared flustered or stressed.
The day was packed with events as Dr. Costin and I seemed to bounce from one place to the next without a discernible break. While I felt flustered at moments, Dr. Costin remained both calm and cheery with an optimism that radiated every room. We went from the early luncheon that lasted roughly two hours, directly back to the office for a phone conference that was immediately followed by a discussion between other administrative officers, both lasting about 2 hours. Following that meeting, we went to another ceremony to celebrate the tenure and promotions of professors.
Dr. Costin redefines what it means to be busy. His schedule ranges from board meetings, to speaking at events, to interviews all the way down to luncheons.
“There’s never a dull moment. As president, I get to touch a little bit of everything,” said Costin. Every week is different for Dr. Costin, but the wide range of responsibilities allows him to connect with a plethora of individuals and have a far-reaching impact on the CSU campus and surrounding community.
The President’s Favorites
On the short walk from Jones Hall to the Whitfield Center, Dr. Costin took the time to greet every single student he passed. The individualized rapport that he showcased with all the students was amazing to watch. He took the time to shake everyone’s hand and inquire about their well-being, and it was done with genuine care. As soon as we got to the Women’s History Luncheon, Dr. Costin spoke kindly with everyone.
Dr. Costin regards his favorite part of the presidency as any time he gets to make relationships with the students. “Hanging out with students is always the best part.”
“My favorite part of being president at Charleston Southern University is anytime I get to be with students,” said Dr. Costin.
Dr. Costin is highly decorated with many accolades ranging from military to academia, however that is not the primary reason students at CSU resonate so deeply with him. His intentionality with every person he comes in contact with shocks people. But every time he approaches a staff member or student, they light up. Dr. Costin doesn’t just make appearances on campus; he genuinely spends time getting to know the people. He and his wife, Vickey, eat lunch in the cafeteria with students whenever they are on campus.
Unique to CSU is the ability to be a student who gets to interact and know the president on a personal level. Dr. Costin is not only very skilled at remembering names of the students he meets but also he makes every effort to truly get to know the students.
From the Pentagon to CSU
Between the scheduled events, Dr. Costin and I had a few moments to speak about his transition from Air Force life to the life of CSU’s President. It was almost impeccable. Everything that the Air Force equipped Dr. Costin for is everything he undergoes as a university president. Noting that the Air Force prepares people for leadership challenges, Dr. Costin spoke very highly of his time in the Air Force where he learned about personal leadership, interpersonal leadership and organizational leadership.
“I went from one really busy job to another,” he says. “And that’s what makes it fun – there is never a dull moment.”
Dr. Costin transitioned from the military life to president of CSU in a rapid movement, lasting only around 10 days. But when discussing what he loved about his time in the military and now his time as the CSU president, there were many similarities.
“I served for 36 years because I was part of a group committed to a cause greater than all of us, and we did it together. And the same thing is attractive about being the president here. I work with passionate people who have a clear mission that is life changing. The biggest difference is the focus on the gospel.”
A Man of the Students
The entire time I was shadowing, Dr. Costin was incredibly welcoming and accommodating. He spoke to me as a peer and friend. I was treated as an equal and was granted the privilege to sit in on confidential meetings with administration. It truly was an honor to experience firsthand the busyness of ONE day in the life of our university president who still finds a way to be both approachable and relatable to everyone who encounters him.
Dr. Costin, who has every right to walk around superiorly, is a man of the students. He walks beside his students, faculty and administration with an open ear, a welcoming demeanor and unmistakable care.
Dr. Costin has already brought about many changes on campus, but he stands out so distinctly to the student body because of how much he cares. His passion is evident, and his love for Jesus and the CSU community is unforgettable.