Albany State University
Full Court Press

As an avid basketball fan, spring is one of my favorite times of year. The NCAA championships are decided and professional basketball is just around the corner. One of the things that I’ve admired most is a defensive tactic called the “full-court press.” In the maneuver, a team intensely focuses on controlling the game by stifling the opposing team’s offense from one end of the court to the other. More often than not, this activity changes the course of the game in favor of the team who effectively executes the “press.”

Today, a full-court press would help Albany State University overcome some of our most pressing challenges and propel us to the next level of effectiveness. Yesterday, I held the first of several planned town hall meetings. I wanted to share with our team an examination of where we are in the game. Our analysis clearly shows that there are some areas that require a renewed focus if we are to continue epitomizing the endearing phrase “the Unsinkable Albany State.” Just as a leading team vying for a championship title aggressively protects its lead with a full-court defense, as supporters of this great institution, we must act defensively and aggressively to tackle several issues.  Our enrollment is an area that needs immediate attention to sustain our viability. I am asking each of you to accept this urgent challenge to execute a “full-court press” to help recruit friends, family and even strangers to become a part of the Golden Rams family.

We must recruit, retain and graduate students who will contribute to the success of our region and the global economy. I challenge each of you to press harder than ever before and join me and our admissions team as we seek to recruit the next generation of leaders, problem solvers and critical thinkers. Our success depends on it.

J.W. Holley Points to the Future


By: Dr. Art Dunning, Interim President of Albany State University 

Sometimes remembering the past can point us to future success. Today we celebrate 111 years of Albany State University history and its Founder Dr. J.W. Holley. As a true visionary and pioneer, Dr. Holley led ASU through the Depression, WWII, and the Great Migration. He was born during the harsh Jim Crow era when hard work was normal, yet the educator, philosopher and founder was undeterred. Where others saw devastation, he saw the opportunity to invest in people in a way that had a lasting impression on the future.

Today, many look at the literacy, dropout and crime rates then wonder if our course can be changed. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the current national high school graduation rate is 80 percent. [i] In addition, one in four African American and nearly one in five Hispanic students still attend high schools where graduating is not the norm. [ii] Dr. Holley would say look again, the flip side of the coin is an opportunity to apply scholarship in addressing the social and economic ills of this day. Let’s take a lesson from our founder and look for opportunities to strengthen our community in a way that only Golden Rams can. In 1903, Dr. Holley founded an institution dedicated to improving the lives of underprivileged African Americans in southern Georgia. As we celebrate his legacy, let’s ensure that his vision lives on by becoming the best university we can. Each and every one of us has a responsibility to ensure its success.     

[i] U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics (2013) Public School Graduates and Dropouts from the Common Core of Data: School Year 2009-10;

[ii] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.  (1998-2011). Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Surveys.

There’s A Story behind the Numbers

By: Dr. Art Dunning, Interim President of Albany State University 


This week, a number of consultants and auditors have been on our campus to collect data that will paint an accurate picture of where we are as a university. We should use this opportunity as a self-assessment to understand the true story behind the numbers. The type of analysis that we’re currently engaging in will yield valuable data enabling us to accentuate what we’re doing well and allow for adjustments in areas that are underperforming. This exercise is an excellent opportunity to recast ourselves as a university that models efficiency and effectiveness.

I encourage each of you to assess your personal performance at ASU. The use of data can impact decision making and ultimately impact the way duties and responsibilities are completed, not only in the workplace, but in life. Data also reveals processes in need of improvement and areas in customer service, for instance, to shore up. Assessment is necessary and crucial if we are to remain competitive and relevant in the global economy. Let’s work to make Albany State University Bigger, Better and Stronger!      

Good to Great!

By: Dr. Art Dunning, Interim President of Albany State University 

This morning, as I was preparing to go to the Honor’s Day program, it occurred to me that the students being honored had moved ahead of the curve and decided that they would go from “good” students to “great” students! Several years ago, Jim Collins wrote the bestselling book From Good to Great and talked about the progressive steps necessary to take an organization from being “good” to “great.” Collins said, “Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.” I agree with this statement wholeheartedly and know that as a team we must make a conscious choice to become great.

Like our students, ASU faculty, staff and alumni are making a conscious decision to take Albany State University from a good higher education institution to a great place to study, work and play. As we do this, we must continuously improve our teaching, research, customer service and operations. Let’s renew the commitment to students and each other to assist in our mutual professional growth and enlightenment. Our students have educational choices that did not exist in past generations, and today, they expect the best value for their money and a return on the investment. Publications such as the Princeton Review and U.S. News and World Report make comparison shopping for colleges easy. A number of factors are considered. But the bedrock of great institutions are hardworking employees committed to the history, philosophy, legacy and mission.   Whether you work behind the scenes, in middle management or below, all of us working together can move ASU from good to great.  Let’s make Albany State University a “great” choice! 

Decision making for the future

By: Dr. Art Dunning, Interim President of Albany State University 


As I serve Albany State University, I spend my time making decisions that not only impact the university today, but also have implications for the future. My approach to leadership and decision making is characterized by the use of data, information, and the values necessary for an outstanding institution of higher education. You will find that I am an avid consumer of data and use it in nearly every decision. My goal is to position ASU to be one of the best institutions in the nation.  As decisions are made, please know that they are all done with this goal in mind.  

This week, I’ve considered our path to the top. Dr. J.W. Holley said it best in his book, You Can’t Build a Chimney from the Top. As I apply his thoughts to our current posture, I see our success being built one brick at a time. We must become more efficient and effective in our business processes and customer service leveraging our assets for the best possible outcomes for all ASU constituents. How we regard our customers (students) and enhance our efficiency, will not only impact us today, but will have a tremendous impact on the future success of Albany State. Achieving success is more challenging today given the changing economics of higher education, but I am convinced that we have the building blocks to be the best, despite our external and internal challenges.

The greatest challenge that I see is the need for financial support. The University System of Georgia has experienced major reductions in its budget over the last few years. Current funding is now at $6,082 per student, down from a high of $8,294 in 2002. [i]In 1987, the State of Georgia provided 62.6 percent of the cost to educate a student here at Albany State. By 2012, that percentage dropped to 31.7 percent, a decline of 30.9 percent. [ii]With such drastic decreases coupled with dramatic increases in college costs, we must find ways to build a culture of collaboration amongst ourselves, our alumni and the business community to provide support for our students which ultimately leads to their future success.   

Internally, we must do a self-assessment to identify our strengths and areas in need of improvement. I strategically used the word customer earlier because our students have choices today. Traditionally, Historically Black Colleges and Universities were the only schools students of color could attend, but now they can attend any university in this country. In fact, the Ivies such as Harvard are in bidding wars wooing them with incentives. We may not have the financial wherewithal to match Harvard, Princeton and Yale, but we can offer to students the care, attention, mentoring and nourishing environment that set HBCUs apart from the pack for generations. Let us model the examples set by our founder and his contemporaries in education. This should be our goal and our destiny.   

[i] University System of Georgia Budget Report for Fiscal Year 2015

[ii] Chronicle of Higher Education, 25 Years of Declining State Support for Public Colleges,  March 3, 2014

Listening and moving forward

By: Dr. Art Dunning, Interim President of Albany State University 

I have spent a great deal of time in listening sessions with ASU stakeholders from alumni chapters and student groups to faculty members, staff and Southwest Georgia civic leaders.  What I’ve heard has been both interesting and intriguing. Some conversations centered on the triumphs of the past and “old days” of glory at Albany State, while others focused on not so good days and disappointments. All organizations experience moments in time that are sometimes positive and at other times negative; but what matters most is the response. I’ve witnessed individuals and organizations being held hostage by moments and experiences that they never moved past. Holding on to a moment of success for too long can result in the loss of one’s winning edge.  Harboring hurt, disappointment and resentment also can result in a loss of focus. Our ultimate goal at ASU is to be a student centered university. 

As an organization, let’s decide collectively our trajectory. We can be held hostage by moments of the past or we can move forward to ensure progress and ultimate success. I wonder what our students would suggest that we do. My guess is that they would urge us to implement new ideas and strategies and enhance our pedagogy to help them meet 21st century challenges and issues.   

I challenge each of you to join me in strategically and deliberately learning and improving, so that ASU will be a higher education leader not only in this state, but in the world.  The desire to make massive strides toward the future has been a consistent theme in nearly all of my conversations. Faculty members want us to be more visible in tackling issues in the Albany community. In response, we’ve created the President’s Research Award to support faculty in the use of research to create service learning opportunities for students. In doing so, they will address the most pressing social and economic challenges the community faces.

Another theme of progress comes from alumni who eye recruitment, retention and increasing graduation rates as a priority. Many have challenged us to improve our business processes and strengthen our customer service. In the coming weeks, you will hear more about our plans to strengthen efforts in the aforementioned areas. Our alumni will play a key role in making ASU one of the best universities in the country when it comes to recruiting and retaining students. These are only a few themes that resonate with me as calls to action. If we chose to move forward around these themes, ASU is destined for greatness. 

Value Added

By: Dr. Art Dunning, Interim President of Albany State University 

Value added. That is what I received this week when meeting with 25 young men from our campus in the residence halls. I took the time to sit down with them to talk about what was on their minds and what things we could do to better prepare them for the global workforce. Our discussion was engaging and gave me more evidence that ASU students are the best. I entered the session with the intent of listening, but I also learned. I discovered that our students have a great deal of creative energy that is waiting to be released. The recent “Nae Nae” dance craze  is one example of energy that could have been easily redirected to change lives and impact our society.

During the meeting, the students acknowledged that more direction and interaction with faculty and staff would help to expose them to more “life lessons” outside of academics. The exchange between faculty, staff and students is extremely valuable for the development of our campus community. I encourage each of you to look for time outside of your normal instructional or administrative duties to spend some time with our students. The unintended benefit of this extra time will be “value added” for both you and the students. 

 Look for more of Dr. Dunning’s blogs here.

ASU’s Human Resources director surrounded by the HR staff. “We’re the good guys,” he announced at the Faculty Staff Conference.

ASU’s Human Resources director surrounded by the HR staff. “We’re the good guys,” he announced at the Faculty Staff Conference.

ASU’s HR guy welcomes new employees

HR director welcomes new ASU employees

ASU’s Human Resources director was in rare form during his introduction of new employees on the first day of the Faculty Staff Conference, “ASU Refreshed: We’re About Quality Service and Effectiveness.”

I hadn’t sipped my morning cup of Earl Grey yet, didn’t feel refreshed and was in dire need of a pick-me-up. Perky moderator Bonisha Porter, ASU’s Housing and Residential Life director lightened the atmosphere with her warmth and upbeat personality.

Then HR’s leader Steve Grant stood at the podium, before the packed house and proceeded to bring the house down with his “message” delivered in the cadence of a preacher. He wore white (which became more significant near the end of his presentation). “It’s another great day at Albany State University,” his voice boomed.

It shook me into caffeine-free consciousness.  Then he told a nice story about an employee who asked “how can I have a great day every day?”

The grey haired former Marine responded, grinning.

“Some days are greater than others, but it is a great day,” he said placing emphasis on “great”.  

Someone told me that this is the norm for the colorful character with a quick, toothy grin willing to share a laugh with anyone within eyeshot.  

I’ve had the good fortune of bumping into him some mornings on the walk from the parking lot to his office in ACAD 382. “It’s a great day to be at Albany State!” he shouted in a sing song melody to another employee heading in.  “Some days are just better than others!”  He keeps the atmosphere light on the 3rd floor no matter what the day brings.

Grant introduced 79 new employees, many seated in the front rows of the auditorium who didn’t know what to expect. After only a few minutes into his “sermon”, I sat there totally amused and alert. I remember hearing him make an announcement about pay raises (no new news there; we’re not getting one), gas prices, insurance, something about a “wad of money” and the tuition assistance program. It really didn’t matter. He made me lol (“laugh out loud”). 

The introduction of his staff, all dressed in white was special. They all stood. “We are the good guys and we are here to serve you,” he said sounding authentic and believable.

The conclusion was a James Brown song, which he spoke, then at the end broke forth singing. By now,  keeled over in the seat, I laugh hard from the belly. Afterwards, I stood in salute.

The guy made such an impression, that I couldn’t end the day without thanking him in a tangible way for the entertainment, positivity and spirit. I stopped by one of my favorite shops in Albany and picked up what has become my comfort food in an unfamiliar city: homemade chocolate cookies. With the treats, I handed him a handwritten note. It was a tiny token to appreciate the HR guy for his huge, well-executed scheme to get us revved up about the new school year. It worked for me!

Vickie Oldham is a writer and  ASU’s Assistant Vice President for Institutional Advancement.

Albany State University Carmen Nicholson on Flickr.Albany State University junior Carmen Nicholson is on a roll. Since her arrival on campus two year ago, the 20 year old has earned straight A’s for three consecutive semesters

Albany State University Carmen Nicholson on Flickr.

Albany State University junior Carmen Nicholson is on a roll. Since her arrival on campus two year ago, the 20 year old has earned straight A’s for three consecutive semesters