New Doane University President tackling tough issues as students return to campus

To hear our full interview with Dr. Roger Hughes, listen to Ol' Red 99-5 over the noon hour on Friday

CRETE, NE — First year students are moving onto campus at Doane University for the first time this week.

While they adjust to new surroundings, Dr. Roger Hughes is adjusting to a new role in a familiar place. Hughes is a Doane alumnus in his third month as university president after a career as a college football head coach.

He says he’s working on a more comprehensive knowledge of the school.

“Obviously I had, in some cases, a peripheral knowledge of what went on with each group," Hughes said. "Now I have to have more in depth knowledge and make sure that I understand not only how each individual section of the university works, but how they intertwine together to form the student experience that we want.”

Hughes was tasked with a major question in advance of his first semester in charge: how to handle a return campus amid a pandemic? The university elected to require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“We just felt the only way to achieve both goals - to keep everybody as safe as possible and to allow a return to campus very similar to what they expected when they signed up - that requiring the vaccines was the way to go,” Hughes said.

Students upload an image of their vaccine card to prove it’s done, similar to what they already do to prove vaccination for measles, mumps and polio.

Hughes says a small number of students have chosen not to come to Doane because of the requirement and some have elected to come because of it.

“Regardless of the scientific data, there are some people who just don’t feel comfortable getting it," Hughes said. "I certainly respect that, I certainly honor that, but as a person who has to keep a community of 1500-1600 people safe on three different campuses, I didn’t see a better way to do it.”

Hughes says it’s too early to have a five or 10-year vision for Doane but he does have short term goals including increasing enrollment, preparing for the school’s 150th anniversary and modernizing technology on campus.

He says all his efforts are to provide a student experience that’s second to none.

“That’s our goal," Hughes said. "We want to be the best in everything we do and that’s the attitude and the level of performance that we’re going to demand of each other here on campus to make sure we provide that.”

Hughes says only 36 percent of students were vaccinated when the school announced its requirement. Now more than 65 percent are vaccinated.