Is This America’s Coolest College President?

With a few exceptions (such as the eternal leader Gordon Gee, now at West Virginia University), college presidents generally have a reputation for being a stoic, bland bunch of people. Given their job duties of managing a large business enterprise, raising funds, and dealing with often-cantankerous faculty members and students, college leaders rarely have a chance to have fun—and even more rarely show their sense of humor with the general public.

Troy Paino, the president of Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri (my undergraduate alma mater) stands out from the crowd. Often known around campus as “T-Pain” since his name can be shortened to that of the famous rapper, he is not afraid to be a little goofy in front of the camera. He made a YouTube video over last winter break talking about how much he missed the students, as Kirksville gets a little quiet over breaks. The video was fairly popular, getting over 10,000 views due in part to Paino’s reaction to what ended up being a pack of squirrels.

Paino and crew decided to create another video this year, and this one has definitely gone viral with more than 30,000 views in the last week. Titled “T-Pain Misses You,” the video features Paino riding a toy tricycle around campus, measuring the height of the basketball hoops in Pershing Arena, and giving a heartfelt lip-sync rendition of a Miley Cyrus song in the campus radio studio (for more details on the video, see this nice article in the Kirksville Daily Express). This video has gotten coverage from the Huffington Post and may also be mentioned on Good Morning America.

I expect to see more colleges produce videos like this in an effort to create a buzz around their brands and to attract prospective students. But, for now, Truman (ranked third in the Washington Monthly master’s university rankings) can enjoy the attention gained by its cool—and utterly nerdy—president.

[Cross-posted at Kelchen on Education]

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Robert Kelchen

Robert Kelchen, an associate professor of higher education in the Department of Education Leadership, Management, and Policy at Seton Hall University, is data manager of the Washington Monthly College Guide.