President Stumb

by | Jun 2024

AS THE president of Cumberland University for the last nine years, Dr. Paul Stumb has become an important figure both on campus and within the broader Lebanon community. President Stumb recently shared with us his insights, accomplishments, and vision for the future of Cumberland University. 

Born and raised in Nashville, Stumb has close ties to Middle Tennessee. 

“I came back here about 20 years ago,” he said, highlighting his extensive experiences in various states and countries. His return was not just a professional move but a personal one. 

“I have parents in their 90s living in Nashville and a large extended family in the area,” he added, emphasizing the joy of reconnecting with his roots. 

Cumberland University is an integral part of Lebanon, a town with a population of about 40,000. 

“We are fully integrated into the fabric of not just Lebanon but Wilson County, and we see our reach even in the greater Middle Tennessee area,” Stumb explained. This connection is further evidenced by the university’s close relationship with local government officials, including Cumberland’s current mayor and former history professor. 

Stumb’s approach to leadership focuses heavily on people. “I try to spend the majority of my time focusing on people and their wants and needs,” he noted. 

This includes students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, and community members. His emphasis on personal connections is a cornerstone of his presidency. 

Under Stumb’s leadership, Cumberland University has seen remarkable growth. Since he took office in 2015, the university’s enrollment has doubled from 1,500 to 3,100 students. 

“Our growth has really fueled our ability to advance as an institution. We’ve been able to hire more people and further our reach into the community,” he said. This growth is not just in numbers but also in the university’s financial health. 

“We’ve dramatically increased our endowment, reduced our debt, and expanded our campus footprint,” he highlighted, crediting the efforts of many of his talented teams. 

Cumberland University boasts a diverse student population, with students from 59 of Tennessee’s 95 counties, 38 U.S. states, and 49 countries. Stumb is particularly proud of this diversity. 

“Our students get to interact with peers from all over the world,” he said, describing the university as a melting pot of different perspectives, backgrounds, and cultures.

Cumberland’s commitment to critical thinking, effective communication, and teamwork is what makes it so successful, according to Stumb.

“We believe that critical thinking is important, and we try to imbue elements of it throughout our curriculum,” Stumb explained. The university also emphasizes the importance of communication skills and the ability to work effectively in teams.

This holistic approach is evident from day one, with new students enrolled in Foundations of Scholarship and Learning classes. 

“We put them in a class with students from very different backgrounds and encourage them to work together collaboratively,” he said, ensuring that students are well-prepared for the interconnected world they’ll experience while at Cumberland and beyond their time as a Phoenix. 

Stumb compares Cumberland to an aircraft carrier, highlighting a unique ecosystem that includes housing, dining, and an opportunity to take care of the students’ physical and mental health. This analogy underscores the university’s role as a self-contained community that also engages deeply with the surrounding area. 

“We have a large number of commuter students from the Middle Tennessee market,” he noted, mentioning the university’s efforts to reach out to local high schools through dual enrollment and early college programs. 

Stumb remains optimistic about Cumberland University’s future despite the looming challenges facing higher education. 

“We know that there’s an imminent enrollment cliff many are facing, but we believe that we’re in a little bit of an insulated environment from that,” he said. The popularity of Middle Tennessee as a destination for families and professionals alike provides a steady influx of potential students, faculty, and staff. 

Cumberland’s success is also reflected in its recognition within the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association. 

“Last year, Cumberland was number one in terms of enrollment growth out of all 36 institutions,” Stumb proudly shared. 

“Everything in life is about the people,” Stumb said, underscoring his dedication to fostering a supportive and vibrant community at Cumberland University. 

As Stumb continues to lead Cumberland University, his commitment to growth, diversity, and community integration promises to sustain and enhance the institution’s impact for years to come. His leadership enriches the lives of those on campus and strengthens the ties between the university and the broader Middle Tennessee community. GN 

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