Vincent Carilli is back in town. Originally resigning from his position as the dean of students in 2001, Carilli has returned to Knoxville on a brief visit before assuming his new role as vice chancellor for Student Life next semester. A few weeks ago, Carilli stopped by The Daily Beacon office to talk future plans, transformations and coming home.
The Daily Beacon: When do you officially assume your new position?
Vincent Carilli: Right at the beginning of the new year. So, kind of in January. I'm going to be here full time doing my thing, so I've gotta wrap up a few things up there, and then I'm going to come to town. Just alone. My wife and kids will still be up there. They're going to finish school up there. My wife is a college professor, so she is going to finish out the academic year up there, and then everyone's going to come down in the summer, and hopefully by then, we'll have a place to live. So we'll see what happens.
DB: That's a pretty rapid change, but I can tell you're excited.
VC: I'm looking forward to it. I'm excited to come back to Knoxville. To kind of get you all up to speed, you were probably 7 years old at the time, but I came to Knoxville having never been in East Tennessee at all. I had an opportunity to assume a previous position that I had, then I got promoted to be the dean of students. We loved Knoxville. We thought if it was just closer to home it would be perfect, and for my wife, home is Scranton, Pennsylvania. That's where she grew up. My in-laws still live in Scranton. I grew up in New York City. My parents lived in New York still. They've since retired to North Carolina, so they're down at the beach now. But it was just a little too far from home, particularly when my oldest daughter was born. My wife was like, 'I really wanted to be near the grandparents while we're raising the kids,' so we moved to Scranton, and we've been there ever since. Then, when this opportunity came along, it just seemed like a great opportunity to come back to East Tennessee, which is what we really enjoyed. Great students, great staff, great faculty, so we thought for us it was a really good idea.
DB: What about UT, specifically as a school, brought you back?
VC: Perhaps most importantly at any institution, it's the people. You know, the people who are here. It's the people that believe in this place. It's the people who set a course for their career to be here. You all know this better than I, but there are some people that have been here 20, 30, 40 years. If you're somewhere 40 years, I'm guessing it's a pretty special place, right? So I think it's about the people. Most importantly at colleges and universities, the greatest asset that they have is the people, students, faculty and staff.
DB: What was the motivation behind your decision to resign from UT in 2001?
VC: It was about my daughter. My daughter was born here in Knoxville in 2000, and then we were trying to get closer to home, to the grandparents, so it was strictly a personal thing. It was tough to leave. It was tough to leave Knoxville to go to Scranton, because I really enjoyed what I was doing, particularly as the dean of students at the time ... The other thing, which I think is fair to say, is I had an opportunity to become a vice president.
DB: What are the changes you've noticed since returning to campus?
VC: I think that the thing that initially caught my attention when I came to campus for my campus interview was just the physical structure. The physical plan is so different than it was 12 years ago. A lot of new buildings, a lot of renovated buildings, different placements of buildings, things like that. When you walk onto a campus that you've been on before, you go, "That building was never here before..." I guess what I'm most happy about, though, is that some things didn't change. That probably relates to people who are focusing on students in their work. Faculty members, student affairs staff members, things like that who are hopefully getting students at the forefront of their thinking in terms of making decisions and engaging students in conversations that create what I like to call a transformational experience. When you start here as a college freshman at 17 or 18 years old and graduate at 21 or 22, what happens in these four years? That's the transformation that's so important. We, as an institution, are pretty actively involved. What I like to say is if you leave the institution as the same person that you came in as, we probably didn't do our job very well. So that's these four years. And to my great relief, that's still a big part of the culture at the University of Tennessee, is that people are committed to that transformation.
DB: What distinguishes you from past vice chancellors? What are some of your big plans?
VC: I don't have any plans yet, quite candidly. I don't know enough about the institution. As I said during my interview, I think it would be a pretty big mistake for me to walk into the institution and think that I know it because I was here. So I'm not going to take that approach. I think it's a good opportunity to meet all these people I don't know. I think it's an opportunity for me to not assume that I know because 13 years ago I was here. That was a long time ago. So for me, it's about getting to know the institution again, and that's my plan for the first six months, or whatever it's going to be.