ETSU President Brian Noland didn’t always envision himself as the president of a university.
His early career goal was much simpler; he wanted to be a faculty member and share his love for American government with students.
“I’ve been fortunate that I’ve had doors open for me,” Noland said. “So I’ve far and beyond exceeded my wildest dreams of professional goals.”
Noland was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Sterling, Virginia. His father worked for the federal government, while his mother worked for the local school system as a preschool teacher and school bus driver.
“My mom did a little bit of everything,” Noland said, “but she’s an educator at heart.”
From age 2 to 24, Noland’s parents lived in the same house, which was located in a small suburban community. As a child, Noland said he remembers riding his bike to elementary and middle school.
“It was kind of a different era in which you played with all the kids in the neighborhood, and there wasn’t a lot of concern about security because your family knew all the people in the neighborhood,” Noland said. “It was a wonderful childhood.”
As his community grew, new schools had to be built to accommodate more children, so Noland attended three different elementary schools even though his parents never moved.
He was sent to Seneca Ridge Middle School in fourth grade and was part of the first class to attend that school.
“We got to vote on the school colors, and we got to vote on the name of the mascot, which was something that few people have the chance to do,” Noland said. “They have the same mascot, and to the best of my knowledge, they have the same school colors [today].”
After graduating from Broad Run High School, Noland attended West Virginia University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in political science/public policy studies.
He then attended the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, where he graduated with a Ph.D. in political science in 2001.
After serving as the associate executive director for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and the chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education System, Noland became president of ETSU in 2012.
As president, one of Noland’s biggest responsibilities is to keep the university rooted in its mission, which hits close to home for Noland.
“Our mission is dedicated to improving the quality of life for the people of our region, and the people of our region is my family, so it all kind of comes together,” he said.
In addition to his presidential responsibilities, Noland also has family responsibilities. He has been married to his wife Donna for 18 years and has an 11-year-old son named Jackson, who is in the fifth grade at the University School.
Balancing work and family responsibilities is one of Noland’s biggest day-to-day challenges.
“Unfortunately, I’m not the best in that area,” Noland said. “Quite often, my family has to make a lot of sacrifices because of the time I spend focused on things on campus or in the community.”
Despite the challenges, Noland said he feels honored to serve as president of ETSU.
“Many of our students come from backgrounds that aren’t altogether that different than mine, and that’s one of the things that I love about ETSU,” Noland said. “Someone a long time ago gave me a chance. Someone a long time ago gave me help when I needed help, and because of the opportunities that others have provided to me, I’m in a position to try to do likewise.”
Even though he surpassed his dreams by becoming ETSU president, Noland doesn’t consider that to be his greatest accomplishment.
“[My greatest achievement is] that I’m married to my wife and I’m Jackson’s dad,” he said.