Alcorn president delivers state of the university address at annual Faculty and Staff Institute
Alcorn's 20th and first female president laid out a bold vision for the year ahead in her State of the University address during the annual Faculty and Staff Institute. This year's theme coined "The Path Forward: Forging Ahead" after the institution's latest five-year strategic plan.
President Felecia M. Nave, Ph.D., reflected on returning home to Alcorn "to continue to build on the legacy of the great leaders that served before her." She noted that her charge was to elevate the profile of an already giant of an institution.
"Although change can be disarming, we have and must remain One Alcorn," Nave said. "More importantly, in spite of it all, we have continued to excel and deliver on our charge. This time of year is one of my favorites; it's the time of year when we welcome our newest cohort of students. Students who are filled with excitement and promise."
Serving a few months into her tenure, the world shut down and faced an unprecedented global pandemic, which shook many industries to their core, including higher education — from shipping delays for much-needed parts and services to inflation, a never seen before pressure was placed on the institution.
"Nonetheless, we pulled together as a community to navigate the uncharted waters and deliver on our institutional mission to students, community, and the world," she said. "In many ways, we have lived a new life in that time, a life characterized by shared trauma, resetting, and restoration. The truth of it is so much has changed."
As higher education institutions continue to grapple with lower perceptions about the value of a college degree, Alcorn continued to persevere, bolstering record fundraising and legislative support to several national rankings that continue to propel Alcorn into elite company, among some of the nation's top higher education institutions.
"I recognize that it's because of everyone in this audience and those unable to come today. It is because of you that we were able to deliver exceptional service to our students, parents, alumni, community, and industry partners," said Nave. "I am very thankful and fortunate to work with such a dedicated and committed faculty, staff, and administrators, and for that, I give you a round of applause."
Among other highlights mentioned by President Nave, Alcorn has made record progress in Finance, Administrative Services, and Operations while keeping a balanced budget and strengthening the institution's financial position, as well as a historical retention rate for fall 2021.
"We are sitting at 81 percent retention for the fall 2021 freshman cohort, the highest ever. It takes everyone from the janitor to the administrator to keep the students here and happy. "Also, 97 percent of students eligible to return are returning for the fall semester. Our academic profile is increasing for new students."
As she closed her remarks, President Nave expressed her continued gratitude for Alcorn's students, faculty, staff, alumni, and University partners.
"The state of Alcorn State University is strong and getting stronger," said Nave.
University vice presidents highlighted accomplishments from the 2022 academic year, new hires, and goals for 2023.
Alcorn's Provost, Ontario Wooden, Ph.D., announced key accreditations, including SACSCOC, American Chemical Society, Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, and Association of Technology, Management, and Applied Engineering. The institution has expanded its dual enrollment partnerships to five — adding the Hazlehurst City School and Jefferson Davis County School districts. In addition, the division has signed agreements with Copiah-Lincoln Community College and The University of Southern Mississippi.
Finance, Administrative Services, and Operations (FASO) has worked to streamline and digitize the University's processes. Dr. Cornelius Wooten, Senior Vice President of FASO/CFO, shared the completion of Faculty and Staff Housing on the Lorman campus along with the near completion of the Rudolph E. Waters, Sr. Technology Building, which is slated for move-in in January 2023. Alcorn has implemented several projects to improve safety and the technology infrastructure on campus. The University will begin its campus lighting project in the fall. A laptop kiosk checkout system for students was introduced during the spring semester. In addition, the University will undergo campus Wi-Fi upgrades that will include outdoor hotspots and strengthened signals in all campus buildings and a $2.9 million classroom technology upgrade.
Alcorn also had another record fundraising year bringing in over $3.5 million and an increase in alumni giving to $1.4 million. Dr. Dennis E. Thomas presented Alcorn with its largest gift from an alumnus by donating $500,000 to establish the Russell & Marjorie Thomas Endowed Scholarship. Marcus Ward, vice president of Institutional Advancement and executive director of the ASU Foundation, Inc., stated that the division has hosted successful and record-setting Giving Days, raising $621,205.39 in June. Also, Alcorn received a 14 percent increase in legislative support, and the School of Agriculture and Applied Sciences' budget increased by 7 percent.
Marketing and Communication at Alcorn has continued to raise the institution's profile as one of the nation's best buys and educational destinations. Alcorn has received national recognition from Money Magazine, USA Today, U.S. News and World Report, and Diversity in Action, among many others. Vice President of Marketing and Chief Communications Officer Larry Orman noted an overall 160 percent increase in media exposure. The division has also completed six commercials for the institution and its schools to be released this fall.
Dr. Tracy Cook, vice president of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, expressed his excitement to welcome over 700 first-time freshmen and transfer students to campus this week. His division has implemented digital processes to improve the prospective student experience, including Slate, a customer relationship management software, and Scholarship Universe to ease the scholarship application process. Completed building projects are the Burrus Hall roofing project, shower replacement in the Honors Hall, carpet replacement in Heritage Complex C & D, and renovations in Rowan Hall. Repairs and renovations in the division currently underway include new computers and computer lab upgrades throughout all residence halls and a flooring project in Heritage A and B. In the fall, students can operate laundry machines with their mobile devices.
The newest cabinet member, Athletic Director Raynoid Dedeaux, showed that Alcorn continues to compete on the highest level on the playing field and in the classroom. Alcorn coaches Jimmy Joseph, cross country and track and field coach, and Landon Bussie, men's basketball coach, brought home Coach of the Year honors. The ASU women's cross-country team won the first SWAC championship in the school's history. Men's basketball captured the first SWAC regular season championship in 20 years. Alcorn graduated over 40 student-athletes during the spring Commencement. Student-athletes maintained a 3.35 term grade point average.
During day two of the Institute, technology consultant ENNCLOUD provided updates about the campus technology infrastructure, and the Office of Compliance held its annual Title XI training. On day three, divisional vice presidents developed goals with their teams to support the strategic plan.
"We are poised for even greater accomplishments in 2022-2023," said Nave. We will continue to "Forge Ahead" with greater intentionality and a laser focus on elevating the whole experience for our students, faculty, and staff.