Tim Cost often spends time staring outside the wall of windows from his office that faces Jacksonville University's campus.
Each student who walks by represents a way for the university to improve, Cost said.
From those windows, he noticed students would get mud and grass clippings on their shoes while walking on a popular unpaved path. So, he asked that a sidewalk be installed during a school break.
Other changes he's made since being named president in February include extending dining hours and renovating buildings. Cost said many of the changes may seem small but are important because they improve the student experience.
"To feel the optimism of the incoming students and their parents, it's a compelling reason to want to try and help serve, and I serve the students," he said on the second day of the fall semester.
One of his main goals for this school year is to cater more to students' ever-changing habits by adding more dining options and more wireless spots on campus.
"It's not up to me or the administration or staff to put a template down on top of these students," Cost said. "It's our job, in my opinion, to listen to these students and (decide) how do we enhance and enrich this learning experience that they have."
Cost came to Jacksonville in February from Philadelphia, where he was a consultant for PepsiCo. He worked for decades in the business sector, but has strong roots in Jacksonville. The Syracuse, N.Y., native was recruited to play baseball for the school and graduated from the university in 1981. There are still faculty members at JU who taught when he was a student.
"It is a pleasure to be around this kind of intellectual horsepower on a daily basis," Cost said.
Someone he draws much inspiration from is the woman who gave him his diploma – former JU President Fran Kinne. Many of her dolphin-inspired art pieces remain in Cost's office.
He also kept the office's original wood paneling, preferring the money be spent on other campus improvements that benefit students more directly, he said.
Cost said it is important to make the learning experience for students as strong as it can be and to make the university an integral part of Jacksonville. Being an alumnus only strengthens his desire to improve the school, he said.
"There's a very deep commitment to make sure this place is a great, great institution," Cost said.