Pamela Gunter-Smith, York College's next president, said the "table has been set" for her new job.

That may be why she couldn't help but laugh a bit as she admitted the thought had crossed her mind that York College has been doing so well, she wouldn't want to be the person who comes in and messes something up.

But Gunter-Smith, who will replace the retiring George Waldner on July 1, has much more serious ambitions that merely trying to keep the private institution on track.

She wants York College to be known on a national level, echoing the sentiments of the selecting committee that chose her in recent weeks to be the new president.

"The buildings are here. The students are here," Gunter-Smith said. "How do we broaden its reputation?"

York College is already known in national publications for its affordable tuition, and Gunter-Smith said she intends to keep that focus. She said she's impressed York College has been able to retain relatively low tuition - tuition is $17,010 next year - and that she thinks it can be a model to similar schools around the country.

"I'm very concerned with access and affordability," she said.

Building a relationship with students is another focus, she said. If you stay around campus, chances are you're going to see her, as she plans on going to games, events, and maybe even teaching a class. She's already met with the student government leadership, saying she promised them she'll start using Twitter to make herself more available.

"We exist for students," Gunter-Smith said.

The first, again: Gunter-Smith is wrapping up her job at provost and academic vice president at Drew University in New Jersey, after previously having leadership roles at Spelman College. Her doctorate is from Emory University. Gunter-Smith has a background in biology and medicine, and said she wants to explore new relationships with York Hospital.

Gunter-Smith, who is African-American, has already made history, as the first minority and the first female president at York College. But she's quick to point out that, as someone who grew up in the segregated South, she has been the "first and only" before. That includes, for example, being in the second class of black students admitted to her high school.

"I'm used to being first," Gunter-Smith said.

So it could be more of an adjustment for others at York College after a long line of white, male presidents than it is for her as the newcomer.

After all, she said, "this is part of who I am."

- Reach Andrew Shaw at