David C. Hodge assumed the role of 21st president of Miami University in mid-2006, succeeding the retiring James Garland. After serving at other universities for 31 years in a variety of educational and administrative roles, Dr. Hodge arrived at Miami from the University of Washington in Seattle, where he served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Raised in Minnesota as the oldest of six children, Dr. Hodge comes from classic blue-collar roots: His father was a truck driver, his mother a homemaker. The academic originally planned a career in farming, until he spent two summers at a meatpacking plant scraping hair roots out of pork bellies.

The professor earned his bachelor’s degree in geography at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., followed by both a master’s degree and a doctorate in geography at Pennsylvania State University.

Married for nearly 30 years to his wife, Valerie, the couple have two children: Gene, a graduate of the University of Washington who remains in Seattle, and Meriem, who is currently completing her college education at Miami. The family also shares their home on the Oxford campus with a calico cat named Nala.

You’ve come to Miami University with your own game plan, a strategy that obviously attracted the attention of the school’s board of directors. What’s that plan, exactly? “We want to help our students practice engaged learning 24/7, embedding them in a learning environment and engaging them in a process. We are in a period of fundamental change. We believe it’s a unique opportunity to extend the Miami experience (out of the classroom). Learning shouldnot be a spectator sport. ... We essentially want to take the things that Miami is best at doing. Miami seeks academically ambitious undergraduates who will lead intellectually vigorous and productive lives; who will succeed, serve and lead.

This is an exciting time in higher education. We have unprecedented opportunities to engage our students in their learning in new ways. We know more about how students develop, what enduring skills are most critical, what motivates students, and how to provide students with virtually unlimited access to original raw material that they can explore with ‘attitude.’ It is this frame of mind that can fundamentally change how students think about their education.”

You’ve called Miami a “university of the third kind.” What does that mean? “Miami is known for its selected graduate programs and for productive scholars who greatly value teaching and intense engagement with students. This unique combination of attributes establishes Miami as a ‘university of the third kind,’ one that offers the excitement and opportunities of a major university while providing the personalized learning environment found at much smaller colleges.”

How does technology figure into your model for a new university? “Technological advances have made research-based learning possible now in ways that were unimaginable in previous generations. Such learning should be at the center of the undergraduate experience. ... Derived from the best traditions of an engaged liberal education, scholarship (now) extends and transcends classroom learning.”

Why did you decide to leave Seattle and your last post? “I didn’t go looking for Miami University. It found me. As I learned more about it, I was astonished at how well what I like to do and what I’m probably good at seem to map into what Miami needs at this moment in time. ... It’s an uncommonly good fit.”

The Oxford campus was once described by poet Robert Frost as “the most beautiful college there is.” Did this attractive environment factor into your decision to move? “Miami has a very distinctive feel, yes.”

And the opportunity to return to the Midwest — did that play into your choice? “I really like the values of the people I’ve met here. There’s a sense of Midwest culture, a lot of common sense and straight talk that I admire.”

You’ve often spoken of the importance of instilling a “work ethic” among students. Could you elaborate? “For nearly 200 years, Miami has produced graduates of uncommon quality. The university has accomplished this success because (faculty and staff) understood the importance of developing the whole person, of strengthening both intellect and character. We have embraced and encouraged the total student experience, including both curricular and co-curricular activities as well as intangibles such as work ethic, initiative, social skills and leadership.”

So, what do you like to do in your off-hours? “My personal pastime centers around fishing, especially for bass and trout. My wife would say I’m obsessed!”