Lipscomb University officially welcomed its new president Tuesday as Candice McQueen, former Tennessee education commissioner and Lipscomb faculty member, toured campus and met with school and student leaders.

McQueen, who previously worked as a member of the Lipscomb faculty from 2001 to 2008 and as senior vice president and dean of the College of Education from then to 2014, said she was glad to be back at such a “special place” to help further its mission again. She left the school in December 2014 before taking on the role of the state’s commissioner of education.

“The reason that it’s a special place is for me really personal. It has this fantastic ability to connect academic programming and ensuring that our students have what they need in their career with intelligence and character,” McQueen said. “We’re trying to connect the dots for students to make sure that they come out with a very strong degree, they’re growing in their own intellect, and they come out with a deeper faith and character that helps them perform their work in the field.

“I was excited to be able to come back and lead additional efforts in the vision to keep that work moving forward,” she said.

About 1 p.m., McQueen toured the James D. Hughes Center, which was renovated in 2019 to serve as the center of Lipscomb’s health science programs.

She was brought on the tour to the school’s anatomy lab, where she marveled over the space available for students to study cadavers. When she attended Lipscomb as a student, she said, they had space for only one.

She also visited the McFarlane Science Center, where she visited offices and student spaces before leaving for an afternoon meeting.

During the tour, McQueen talked about the work she has ahead of her, explaining that her first three months will be a period of listening and planning.

She wants to make sure the school keeps aiming high when it comes to performing as a top Christian university, she said, and to do that, they’ll need to chart the course.

“First, we certainly will continue the vision to be in the top schools for Christian education at a national level, and to do that then we have to really iterate on a new strategic plan that maps out what that’s going to look like, so our first 90 days will be mapping out a strategic plan,” she said. “Lot of listening and learning to develop that, but we’re going to be the top school nationally in Christian education. Two, we want to be the top institution for folks who want to be faculty and staff in a Christian environment. We want them to think of Lipscomb as their No. 1 choice. And third, we want to elevate the student experience and make sure students have this as their No. 1 choice.”

Some of that listening has already started, as McQueen has been working hard to put herself in front of students before she took the reins officially on Tuesday. She said over the last three weeks she’s been involved in orientation and student government meetings, making sure students know who she is and where to find her.

She also said students have exhibited the same qualities that make Lipscomb special, and that excites her about getting back into working with students.

“As I’ve connected with students, I’m even more passionate about this work because I know the students that are at Lipscomb are top,” McQueen said. “They’re top in their faith, in their character, in the way that they’re thinking about their future, and so our job is to take that to the next level and to make sure that they are leaders in their field and that they continue to grow as Christians. So I’m looking forward to leading that here, and the students have met and exceeded my expectations in that regard.”

McQueen mentioned that she wants to provide greater experiences and services for Lipscomb students and the surrounding community, a goal she shares with now-former Lipscomb President Randolph Lowry. Though she didn’t name any specific projects she’s aiming to take on or new ventures she wants to see the school tackle, McQueen made it clear that she wants Lipscomb to grow more as a partner to the community.

“Lipscomb is a university that has a lot to offer, and we seek to serve our Nashville community and to engage with our Nashville community to better our local area in ways that universities can truly push and support all at the same time,” McQueen said.

To community members outside of Lipscomb, she said, “We care about you, and we want to serve in ways that better our community, and we look forward to working with you as partners.”

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