September 1, 2016
Robert Littlefield arrived at the Nicholson School of Communication like most new employees figuring out parking and how to set up email. But unlike most new hires, Littlefield wasn’t exactly new to the faculty and staff on Aug. 1. The former professor of communication at North Dakota State University has been a part of planning meetings and conference calls for some time.
“In some ways, it seems like he’s been here for a couple of months, as we were in contact with him over the summer during his move down to Florida,” said Tim Brown, NSC associate director of strategic partnerships “He’s already come up with some ideas to move NSC forward, and I think the faculty are very excited to see what the next several months hold. In just a short time, Robert’s proved himself as the type of leader we’ve been looking for.”
Boyd Lindsley agreed. “Robert’s energy, excitement and experience are already benefitting NSC in many ways and he has proved himself to be a very, very quick study – one that has been crucial in positioning NSC in the right light in many critical situations which will impact the school for years to come,” said NSC’s associate director.
Littlefield, with his genuinely thoughtful and kind personality, is also very deliberate and focused. Before he began packing his bags for his cross-country move, Littlefield contemplated his goals for NSC.
“I decided I needed to have my three goals in front of me all the time,” Littlefield said describing his plans to help NSC’s Ph.D. in strategic communication become a reality, help make the school’s transition to downtown a smooth one and possibly help the school grow into a college.
“The Nicholson School right now is larger than four of the colleges at UCF,” he explained. “In terms of our size, we are a very complex system of majors, programs, certificates. We have alumni groups and a more complex a board of visitors. We are not a small or even a medium sized department. We’re bigger than that.”
Littlefield said it is that scale that allows NSC to make a great difference in the lives of the UCF students as well as the larger community. “I think the formula that has really had an impression on me has been ‘Magnitude or scope or size times excellence in programs and faculty equals the impact we can have on our students, on our community,’ he said. “I honestly try to make decisions that fit into that so that I’m not just making random decisions.”
Littlefield is looking to make impact, so he looks at the big picture while paying close attention to the smaller details. He addressed the entire faculty during a daylong work session in August, but is visiting with faculty members one-on-one as their schedules permit. By going into their spaces, not summoning them to his office, he hopes to create a comfortable working relationship. He’s also planning to launch a number of working groups that allow faculty and staff to address NSC promotion and evaluation, awards and recognition, long range planning, undergraduate curriculum, marketing and communication, emergency response planning, diversity and the graduate program.
While he has made efforts to work with faculty and staff, Littlefield says the university is here for the students and that he is here to serve their needs. Calling himself a “walk around kind of person,” Littlefield says that students should not be surprised to see him around the building or at their events.
“It will be likely that they will see me popping into the TV studio or the debate room or walking through the advising office. I think wellness is important so they might see me in the wellness center,” Littlefield said.
Former NDSU colleague Laura Oster-Aaland describes Littlefield as being forward thinking and creative.
“He is a realist who understands the steps needed to get from A to Z,” said Oster-Aaland, associate vice provost for enrollment management at NDSU. “He is a grounded leader and an effective administrator, dotting every I and crossing every T. He recognizes the positive contributions of others and strives for excellence in all that he does.”
Outside of his work, Littlefield is actively involved in the community as a member of the board of directors of the Lions Club International. He is a husband, engaged father and a doting grandfather, Oster-Aaland said.
“He is bursting with pride about his children and grandchildren so if you ask about them be prepared for lots of stories and probably some pictures!”