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
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.
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.
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