Throughout all 12 years of his primary and secondary education, Grant Hayes only ever missed one day of school.
The oldest of four boys growing up in rural South Carolina, Hayes says it was his mother who instilled in him the importance of a good education. That commitment has resonated with Hayes since he was a child, and he’s carried it with him through multiple degrees as a first-generation student, as well as various education leadership roles.
A professor of counselor education, he holds a master’s degree in secondary school guidance, as well as both doctoral and educational specialist degrees in counselor education, from the University of South Carolina. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Limestone University in South Carolina.
His return to UCF is a homecoming of sorts. Hayes spent more than 17 years as faculty and in various leadership roles here, including interim dean, executive associate dean, assistant dean, and department chair in the former College of Education and Human Performance.
Hayes left to become dean of the College of Education at East Carolina University in 2015, and in 2019, he went on to serve as the university’s interim provost and senior vice chancellor for Academic Affairs for three years.
Having kept up with what’s happening around UCF since he left, his interest was piqued when he was contacted about the College of Community Innovation and Education’s search for a new dean.
“The thing that really sparked my interest was the uniqueness of the college and how the programs were positioned, as well as the mission of building stronger communities and community engagement,” he says. “I also see the potential of our mission, and it’s something that I immediately connected with. I did a lot of work regarding community engagement in Greenville at ECU because that was a big part of the university’s mission, too. I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to continue to work with a diversified program portfolio.”
The college’s mission of educating and empowering leaders to serve through innovative instruction, strong partnerships and transformative scholarship especially resonates with Hayes, who sees it as the key to community impact.
“It’s an opportunity to harness the intellectual capital that we have here at the university to solve complex or complicated problems of society.”
“It’s an opportunity to harness the intellectual capital that we have here at the university to solve complex or complicated problems of society,” he says. “Just look at the impact that we can make when everyone comes together to concentrate on community-motivated research.”
New to Hayes since his last tenure at the university, UCF Downtown is another key component he views as a critical resource in the mission of empowering students to serve a diverse society.
“I see so much great potential here,” he says. “It’s a beautiful facility. It’s incredible when looking at student affairs and the way things are situated to where students can just ride down the elevator from their dorm rooms and get tutoring or advising right there without leaving the building. When you also think about the potential for partnerships and networking, it’s wonderful to be able to create these types of accessible opportunities for students.”
Part of Hayes’ initial focus for the College of Community Innovation and Education is creating a relationship-rich culture within the college in which everyone feels more unified. One way to do that, he says, is providing opportunities for programs to learn about each other, the type of research in which they’re engaged, and how they engage and impact students.
“I think people will realize that they have more in common than not,” he says. “When I look at three areas of focus, I think it’s probably centered on students, research excellence and partnerships, and building a relationship-rich community and culture.”
“When I look at three areas of focus, I think it’s probably centered on students, research excellence and partnerships, and building a relationship-rich community and culture.”
Being back in a city like Orlando also offers plenty of creative outlets and opportunities — something Hayes never strayed far from — outside the workplace. A classically trained singer, music also has been a big part of his life. In fact, when he isn’t attending to college matters, you might catch him back on stage performing with the Bach Festival Choir of Winter Park or even a local theater. After a 30-year hiatus, he took up acting again with a community theater in Greenville, South Carolina. Most recently, he played the roles of Purlie in the musical Purlie, Hoke in Driving Miss Daisy, and Reverend Dr. Harper in Arsenic and Old Lace.
For the time being, the opportunity to return home and be part of formulating the trajectory in which the College of Community Innovation and Education is headed is one of the things Hayes is most looking forward to.
“I think the great things that are going to come out of this college will be amazing not only for the college and the university, but for all the communities that we serve,” he says. “When you leave an institution for another opportunity, you really don’t think you’re going to come back. In many ways, I feel like I’m coming home. There’s such a strong sense of comfort, and it just feels right.”