Rhodes Scholars, Truman Scholars and National Championships are awards that recognize the pinnacle of academic and athletic achievement. Schools around the nation revel in having the award recipients within their ranks and championship trophies lining their walls. The difference between the schools who dream of those accomplishments and those who bear witness to achieving them is the level of support and private giving that is garnered from alumni and friends.
Albany State University has experienced much success in its 111 year history, but our future success and sustained competitiveness requires more investment than ever before. Recently, the ASU Marching Rams Show Band was invited to one of the most well attended and televised parades in the world, The 2016 Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif. Our musicians will represent not only ASU and the City of Albany, but the entire state of Georgia. Our athletic and academic programs have also represented us in Division II national playoffs. Young ASU high achievers such as Kelcey Wright, voted the 2014 HBCU Student of the Year by HBCU Digest, earned national honors for his work as a 2014 HBCU All-Star with the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Economic and financial changes necessitate that we provide more investment in the success of Albany State University. Our academic and athletic programs receive less state funding than they have in the past, and we are committed to seeing that they do not operate at a financial deficit. The only way to enhance our achievement on a decreased budget is to increase our level of private support. With your support, ASU will be well on its way to reaching the pinnacle of success.
By: Dr. Art Dunning, Interim President of Albany State University
Albany State University English students Derek Hankinson, Brandi Johnson, Jeremy Langs, Kierra Lawrence and Associate Professor of English Dr. Jeffery D. Mack attended the Furious Flower Conference, in Harrisonburg, Va. Sept. 24- 27 at James Madison University. The conference is held every 10 years and this year’s theme was “Seeding the Future of African American Poetry.” During the conference the students participated in panel discussions, listened to poetry readings and wrote daily blogs to share their experience.
From left: Jeremy Langs, Nikki Giovanni, Brandi Johnson, Kierra Lawrence and Derek Hankinson
Blog entry 1 by Derek J. Hankinson
Thursday, September 25, 2014
The first day of the Furious Flower Conference consisted of various events held by renowned writers and poets such as Sonia Sanchez, Haki Madhubuti and Nikki Giovanni. This conference only happens every ten years since 1994, and as a group we encountered poets such as Frank X Walker Poet Laureate of Kentucky, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, John Edgar Tidwell, DaMaris Hill and Lamar Wilson. The panel discussions spoke to the audience in ways that cannot be captured by the pen. The opening session included a viewing and discussion of the Furious Flower documentary, which was introduced by executive director, Dr. JoAnne Gabbin.
Following the opening session as was the Critic’s Roundtable Discussion, which featured renowned scholars Aldon Lynn Neilson, C. S. Giscombe and Meta DuEwa Jones. This roundtable discussed the Black Avant-Garde in reference to formal poetic innovation by black artists in America. There was also a special session that celebrated the legacy of the legendary Amiri Baraka. This panel focused on a newly published book, S.O.S Calling All Black People: Honoring the Memory of Amiri Baraka as part of the dialogue. The panel featured John H. Bracey, Jr. Quincey Troupe, Haki Madhubuti and the phenomenal Sonia Sanchez. Tony Madina, Jessica Care Moore and Evie Shockley also participated in the panel discussion. Each poet read a poem inspired by Amiri Baraka. Another highlight of the day was the concurrent sessions, which spoke of the black aesthetic. These consisted of four sections. First, Arlette Miller Smith with her reading of Panther Teacher: Sarah Webster Fabio and the Black Arts Movement. The next was Michael News’s reading of Sonia Sanchez: Inviting Ancestor to Chandelier Sound followed by Becky Thompson’s reading of We are Cowboys in the Boat of Ra: Sonny Rollins and Ishmael Reed’s Black Cowboy and Brian Flota’s reading of Carrying on: Jayne Cortez, Wanda Coleman, and Amiri Barak.
Photo from http://www.shirleyshowalter.com/ Joanne Gabbin at left. Rita Dove, Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie, Frank X. Walker, Ishmael Reed, Elizabeth Alexander, Yusef Komunyakaa„ Cornelius Eady, Toi Derricotte. Photo by Tina Glanzer.
Blog entry 2 by Kierra Lawrence
Friday, September 26, 2014
The second day of the Furious Flower Poetry Conference consisted of attending a wide variation of events. A few of my most memorable moments were the Critics’ Roundtable Panel, and the Lifetime Achievement Awards Gala.
The title of the Critics’ Roundtable panel discussion was Diaspora Poetry: Black Poetry Crossing, Expanding, and Challenging Borders.
Daryl Cumber Dance served as the moderator. The panelists included Kwame Dawes, Brenda Marie Osbey, and Lorna Goodison. They each shared poetry and discussed topics such as the Africanism, diaspora, modernism and reggae. Brenda Marie Osbey explained three concepts: 1) There is no pure language, 2) If a reader comes across a piece that says the origins are unknown, assume that the piece has black roots; and 3) What makes the new world modern is the slavery industry.
After the panelists finished the discussion, the audience was permitted to ask questions or voice comments. A striving young poet asked what she could do to help with writing poetry and how she could get a better response from the audience when writing. Osbey provided the poets with six tips. “Read, read, read, and write, write, write.” She emphasized the concepts by stating that a productive writer must read other works, as well as continuously write and revise their works. Dance answered the second half of the question by stating “a writer should always write for his or herself so that the piece is sincere.” She continued to say that an individual should never write for the audience, because the writer then loses his or her self which is the most significant aspect of a self written poem.
We were fortunate to attend the Lifetime Achievement Awards Gala. Each student wore professional attire and was fascinated with being in the presence of writers such as Rita Dove, Yusef Komunyakaa, Ishmael Reed and many more receiving Achievement Awards. We also had the magnificent opportunity to experience a dance troupe from Bethune-Cookman University. They gracefully moved across the floor while delivering a powerful message of pain, change, enlightenment and empowerment in the black community. As the evening came to an end, the Gala switched to a poetry jam with a local DJ. Conference attendees gathered on the dance floor to celebrate the event they had anxiously waited to attend for a decade. The vibe of the room transformed from a conference to a cultural family reunion, giving students insight on African American culture.
From left: DaMaris Hill, Jeremy Langs, Brandi Johnson, Kierra Lawrence, Derek Hankinson, Lamar Wilson
Blog entry 3 by Brandi Johnson
Saturday, September 27, 2014
On the third and final day of the conference, we attended two sessions that offered a great deal of information. The first was called Going Too Far: The Queer Poetics Distraction from Issues of Race and Class. This panel explored how African American literary critics tend to overlook the work of black gay poets because of sexual orientation or the presence of sexuality in their poetry.
This panel and discussion was very interesting to us because it introduced us to queer poets, their voices in African American Poetry and how their works are often viewed.
The second session was the open mic portion of the conference. We were excited and highly anticipated this portion of the conference because it is always interesting to witness the up and coming poets’ poetry and see potential and talent. Most of the participants were college students like us so we were influenced and inspired by these young people. Kierra Lawrence and Jeremy Langs, both Albany State students experiencing the Furious Flower Conference, are young poets themselves. So, to witness other young poets who shared their works certainly encouraged Kierra and Jeremy to do the same. This session showed us that poetry is still growing among African Americans and that the younger generation is paying close attention and following in the footsteps of the literary greats such as Sonia Sanchez and Haki Madhubuti. Although Amiri Baraka is no longer with us, his spirit lives on in his works and the works of others.
Later that day, Jeremy Langs spoke with a seasoned poet and author who goes by the name Zack. He offered Jeremy pointers on navigating his writing journey based on his personal experience. One of the points Zack made was to include ideology and facts in our poetry and in any form of writing. This, he noted, will make us better writers. Jeremy said the conversation with Zack encouraged him to conduct research before writing.
French philosopher, Frantz Fanon, admonishes that “each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it.” Albany State is at a critical junction in its history. We can move forward with a new sense of purpose or we can hold on to damaging practices from the past. The way we operate, treat our students and respond to each other as colleagues are conscious decisions that impact the future of the institution. When we choose to implement best practices in our policies and procedures, we work towards making ASU the best university it can be. Conversely, when we do not change our techniques and traditions to comply with the continuously changing times or treat our students as valued customers, we make a decision to limit the growth and prosperity of the university. The political, economic and social environment will force us to change or ultimately face extinction.
This morning, I met with members of the cabinet and deans’ council to ask them to join me in modifying the culture at ASU. I challenged them to look at their respective areas and to make decisions that will improve this institution. Each staff member will treat our customers with the utmost respect and care, understanding that a negative decision today will yield negative results for years to come. We must make immediate changes to increase our enrollment, retention and graduation rate of students to ensure that ASU continues to grow. Every decision, no matter how small, will make an impact on ASU. Beginning today, let’s make certain that every decision, action and process is making ASU bigger, better and stronger.
-Dr. Art Dunning
This year’s U.S. News & World ReportBest Colleges issue shows that Albany State University is moving up in the rankings as a public university. To receive national recognition is always a prestigious honor, but the report also revealed the areas where we can improve and become better at what we do. The rankings evaluated us in several critical categories. While the #15 ranking is noteworthy, we have the potential to move even higher if we find new and creative ways to implement business processes and increase our level of private support. It is my goal to be at the top of the list among not only public and private HBCUs, but all of the nearly 1,800 colleges and universities assessed. An increase in private support will be the key.
Private support makes the difference between a good institution and a great institution. Our current level of support from alumni, corporations, foundations and individuals is a factor that tamped down our ranking. Let’s shoot for much higher. I encourage each of you reading this blog to join our ASU Still We Rise Challenge commemorating the flood of 1994. I ask that you give $19.94 and challenge 10 other faculty, staff, friends or alumni to do the same. Simply go to the ASU website www.asurams.edu and click Give to ASU. I know we have the loyalty, commitment and dedication that it takes to move up the ladder as a top tier institution. Albany State deserves your support today.
By: Dr. Art Dunning, Interim President of Albany State University
Traveling to Ghana was one of the greatest experiences of my life. The study abroad experience has made me overall a better person. I have become not only more appreciative of what I have here in the U.S., but more culturally aware and educated. I’m not going to sell Africa or Ghana in this article, but I would definitely encourage anyone, particularly individuals of African descent to visit this remarkable continent. Africa has so much to offer, in so many ways. It’s culture, history, wildlife, scenery, friendly and festive atmosphere are all elements individuals must experience in their lifetime.
I grew up in a cultured home, and my parents always explained the importance of knowing who I am. They instilled in me that I can never truly prosper in life without having the knowledge of my history. This, they explained, is the first step toward developing an identity. As an African-American male, it was my dream to travel to Africa. My love for African American history, art and culture coupled with my passion for traveling fueled my desire to travel to the birthplace of civilization to study abroad in Ghana.
I made preliminary preparations through the Office of Global Programs and was encouraged to apply for study abroad scholarships. I applied for the Gilman scholarship and the ASU Student Affairs scholarship, both of which I received. The Gilman Scholarship paid for the entire trip. I received all necessary vaccinations, began packing and was set and ready for Ghana!
On May 29th, we arrived at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
From Atlanta we headed to Chicago O’ Hare airport then to Rome, Italy. We spent about two hours in Rome. It was my first time in Italy. From there, we took a flight to Accra, Ghana with a stop-over in Lagos, Nigeria. Finally, we arrived at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra on May 30.
My study abroad adventure had begun! There were several cultural excursions. My first tour was to the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum, and took place the day after our arrival in Accra on Saturday June 1. The memorial and museum is dedicated to the prominent Ghanaian leader and first president. Led by Nkrumah in 1957, Ghana became the first African nation to successfully gain independence from British colonization.
Under Nkrumah‘s leadership, cocoa (Ghana’s primary export) production doubled; forestry, fishing, and cattle-breeding expanded; and deposits of bauxite and gold were exported more effectively. In 1961, the Volta Dam was constructed on the Volta River providing water for irrigation and hydro-electric power which produced enough electricity for the towns, as well as for a new aluminum plant. Nkrumah set the standards for all other African nations fighting toward independence. He believed in “Africa for Africans” and was truly a remarkable leader. His legacy will forever stand and is honored throughout the entire continent. It was truly a privilege to visit his museum and gravesite.
Dr. Kweme Nkuruma historic “Forward-ever” statue at the Nkuruma Museum Accra, Ghana
The grave site of Dr. Kweme Nkuruma(1909-1972) at the Nkuruma Museum, Accra, Ghana
ASU-Ghana Study Abroad Group 2014. From Left: Sidney Wilson, senior middle grades education major, Wonteshia Merrit, senior business major, Dr. Nneka Nora Osakwe professor and program coordinator, Oriel Myles-College, senior business and logistics major, LaTeshia Blakeley, senior criminal justice major from Virginia Union University, and Ebenezer Dormey, University of Cape Coast.
After leaving the Nkrumah Museum we headed to the W.E.B. DuBois Memorial Centre for Pan-African Culture. I was very excited to visit the home and burial site of legendary author, historian, Pan–Africanist, scholar, and founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Dr. W.E.B. DuBois. The Ghana Museum Association has made his home into a museum to celebrate his life and accomplishments. Ghana invited DuBois to Africa to participate in their independence celebration in 1957, but he was unable to attend because the U.S. government confiscated his passport in 1951.
During my visit to the Centre, I learned that DuBois visited Ghana in 1960 and spoke with President Nkrumah about the creation of a new encyclopedia about the African diaspora, called the Encyclopedia Africana. Funds to support the encyclopedia project were appropriated, and DuBois was invited to work on the project in Ghana. In 1961, at the age of 93, DuBois and his wife moved to Ghana to begin work on the encyclopedia. The United States refused to renew his passport in 1963, so he became a citizen of Ghana, but his health declined during the two years in Ghana, and he died on August 27, of the same year in Accra at age 95.
Wilson observes the sketches of Marcus Garvey, Frederick Douglas and other collaborators W.E.B. DuBois.
We headed to Cape Coast, an historic town which is home to the University of Cape Coast, our host university and the Cape Coast Slave Castle. We stayed in this location for four weeks to complete the internship and academic programs while touring historical and cultural sites in surrounding cities and rural villages.
Each student lived with a Ghanaian host family on campus. I loved my homestay family! My host family mother is a professor at the University of Cape Coast, and my host family brother is a lecturer. They opened their home to me and were very hospitable. I got a taste of true Ghanaian culture. Every morning when I woke up, my host mother had breakfast prepared for me and when I got home from my classes or internship, she asked me whether I was ready to eat. We spent many nights talking and others rooting for the Black Stars, Ghana’s national soccer team (Go Black Stars!) during the world cup. I felt as if I was a part of the family. I had my own room and house key. The Ghanaian food was amazing! No preservatives or chemicals. Everything is grown fresh. This was quite refreshing, especially coming from the U.S where so much food is processed.
We had class sessions with Dr. Osakwe every Tuesday and Thursday. We had our internship every Monday and Wednesday at a local primary school in Cape Coast, Ghana. This by far was very rewarding and worthwhile. As an aspiring educator, this was the part of the trip I was most excited about. The first visit, I had the opportunity to observe the teacher and the classroom structure. The school does not have a cafeteria, gym, clinic or library, all of which are amenities that every school in America has. The students buy their own lunch from a local street vendor. Additionally, in the school where we interned, all of the girls cut their hair to attend school, wear uniforms, and the students begin school with worship and song. There are very few discipline problems and when there are problems, teachers handle them.
Sidney Wilson with his Middle Grades Class in Ghana
The first lesson I taught after observation was greetings. I immediately fell in love with my students. I don’t know if it was my accent and speech or just my personality, but they thought that I was the funniest guy on earth. The class sessions were vibrant and full of laughs.
I was so impressed with the students’ inquiring minds and thirst for knowledge. It was truly amazing to see a class full of students who are still motivated and love to learn, despite the limited resources in their learning environment. I was in love with my daily internship experience and hated when the school day ended. Teaching in Ghana really taught me how to become a culturally responsive educator. Because of the lack of resources, I learned how to become creative and think outside the box when creating lesson plans and interactive activities. I truly believe that if you can efficiently teach in similar environments such as Ghana, then one can teach anywhere.
Wilson with his middle grades class in Ghana
Ghana has overall made me a better person. I have learned so much in just four weeks and thank God for blessing me with such an opportunity which will be cherished for a lifetime. I will host a variety of forums to encourage other students to study in Ghana and will facilitate presentations describing my experiences. I plan to work in collaboration with the Office of Global Programs at ASU to double the number of students studying abroad in Africa.
Sidney Wilson, Jr., a middle grades education major is an ASU Gilman Study Abroad Scholarship Award Winner, summer 2014. Funding for his study abroad program was from the Gilman’s Study Abroad Scholarship, the ASU Student Activity Scholarship, and donations from individuals and institutions committed to human development. Wilson wishes to thank all individuals and institutions that made the experience possible. The article is part of a technical writing report for Dr. Nneka Nora Osakwe –ENGL 3106-1 SA.
The fall semester brings new students who are eager to make their mark at ASU. Returning students are even more excited because accomplishing the goal of earning a college degree is within eyeshot. But sometimes accomplishing the objective can seem elusive when there’s a gap in financial resources to pay for tuition, housing and books. Approximately 95 percent of ASU students receive federal financial aid and supplement their educational expenses through loans and other privately funded grants and scholarships. With changes in eligibility of the PLUS loan program, students at HBCUs nationwide are continuing to feel the impact. Privately funded grants and scholarships are critical in helping our students fill the financial gap they face.
A matter of a hundred dollars or more can determine whether a student can remain on campus or be dismissed from the institution. Five alums sending a monthly donation of only $50 can make a tremendous impact in the life of a student. As alumni and friends of this great institution, you have a unique opportunity to invest in the education of our new and emerging leaders.
This week, without your support hundreds of students may be forced to leave Albany State without the degree they worked so hard to obtain. I challenge you to seize this opportunity to give and make a profound difference in a student’s life by contributing to our need based scholarship fund. Visit our website www.asurams.edu and click on “Give to ASU” to make an online donation, or mail a check to the ASU Foundation, Inc. at 504 College Drive, Albany, GA 31705. Your actions today will greatly determine our university’s impact in forthcoming years.
Registration is always an exciting and challenging time of year. New and returning students come to campus eager to complete their coursework toward earning a college degree. Faculty and staff plan for their arrival by executing action steps to make the registration process seamless.
This semester, there are several issues that must be addressed in order to improve customer service to our valued clients and strengthen Albany State’s infrastructure. Let’s begin by opening the lines of communication between students, faculty, staff and the administration. Each of us must play a role in tightening campus processes and procedures if ASU is to remain strong. The administration is committed to making necessary changes to ensure that our actions comply with nationally accepted best practices. Students must do their part to complete and submit documents in a timely manner. More teamwork among staffers in critical areas can solve our beginning-of- the- new-school-year hiccups.
In the next few days, I will conduct a series of meetings with key stakeholders to analyze the registration process and outline a plan that I believe will yield improvements.
Golden Rams always rise to meet challenges. Our response to the aftermath of the 1994 flood illustrates the reason “unsinkable” is inextricably tied to the ASU brand.
By: Dr. Art Dunning, Interim President of Albany State University
This fall, I will teach a section of the ASU 1201 Foundations of College Success course. Incoming freshman are assigned to this class in order to provide them with a solid foundation for scholastic achievement, while immersing them in the university’s rich heritage and tradition. Students will cover an array of topics while dialoging with campus and community leaders; thereby, providing students with essential elements for continued success. This course is yet another example of the value that universities like Albany State provide to their students, offering holistic learning to our most significant stakeholders.
As the face of higher education continues to evolve, we must use courses such as this one to go beyond the ordinary to prepare our students for the global marketplace. The inevitable seismic changes in education require no less a commitment to our students. Characteristics such as confidence, compassion, and competence are needed to prepare our leaders for the future. My goal is to use this exposure to ignite a desire for achievement and success that I’ve seen in our loyal and committed Golden Ram alumni.
I’m calling on our alumni to assist us in giving our students a sense of personal accountability that will keep them on track in pursuit of the dream that J.W. Holley had for his students. In keeping with the tradition of Albany State, we expect our students to operate in their utmost potential.
Written By: Dr. Art Dunning
Photos: ASU EDUCATION & RETENTION SUMMIT 2014
This week, members of the ASU leadership team engaged in a Retention and Education Summit to help chart a course through the changing environment in higher education. One of our facilitators, Dr. Stephen Portch, referred to the “seismic changes” that have occurred in higher education in the last few years to describe the changing face of education. Many of the public historically black colleges and universities like Albany State are the ones most affected by these changes. A recent article posted on Highered.com detailed the challenges faced by our institutions including reductions in state and federal funding and enrollment declines. The summit also allowed us to identify additional topics such as the standards for accreditation and the proliferation of online programs.
Today, Albany State University has to reposition itself to address these challenges head on. We must reframe our lens to ensure that we are the best in recruitment, retention and the graduation of students. Our senior administrators have done an excellent job in identifying strategies to address challenges, but it will take each and every person on campus to bring them all to fruition. I encourage you to talk with your division head to seek details about our new plans and to chart your own individual plan that will support our efforts to succeed. Together, we can have a seismic wave of success!
This week, the nation pauses to celebrate Independence Day. We celebrate the privilege of being citizens of the world’s most progressive nation. It’s a nation where we are not only encouraged to dream big but to act boldly, utilizing those incomparable freedoms that are too numerous to name. Collectively, those inalienable rights guaranteed in the U. S. Constitution afford us the best quality of life known to man. A law that guarantees all Americans a quality education was one which many of our forefathers fought and sacrificed for.
During its history, Albany State has educated countless students who as graduates are enjoying the full benefits of a college degree. As celebrations across our great country begin this week, we should consider creating an Independence Day for ASU.
Independence for ASU can be realized when those who have derived benefits from our beloved institution support it, financially and otherwise. With resources, ASU can operate more independently when it comes to expanding its educational offerings, diversifying research opportunities and enhancing travel abroad programs for all students, for instance. The University will be less dependent on state funding, a mandate that higher education institutions across the country are tasked with in order to construct state of the art facilities and increase the amount of need based scholarships.
Let’s use this holiday to make a contribution toward ASU’s independence. Make a donation, large or small to the ASU Foundation. Earmark the contribution to an area that interests you. Give online at www.asurams.edu. Click the “Give to ASU” link or mail a contribution to the ASU Foundation, 504 College Drive, Albany, GA 31705.
By: Dr. Art Dunning, Interim President of Albany State University