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VOL. 37 | NO. 16 | Friday, April 19, 2013

New TSU leader: 5 points to better future

By Vince Troia

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TSU president Glenda Baskin Glover

-- John S. Cross, Tennessee State University

She may have graduated quietly from Tennessee State University in 1974, but Glenda Baskin Glover, Ph.D, CPA, JD, has created quite a buzz by coming “home” with excitement and determination as its newly appointed president.

Glover, who received unanimous approval late last year from the Tennessee Board of Regents to replace retired president Melvin N. Johnson, just completed her first 100 days on the job – a beginning she described as a “whirlwind” although an expected one.

She is “honored and excited” about becoming the eighth person to lead the 100-year-old institution and the school’s first full-time female president.

Glover took over for Portia Holmes Shields, who had served as interim president for nearly two years. She returned to TSU from Jackson State University where she was dean of the College of Business for 18 years. Glover was chosen from 86 applicants, following a nationwide search that began in May 2011.

Now overseeing a $41.7 million endowment, more than 400 faculty members and nearly 9,000 students, Glover is carrying a heavy burden entering her tenure, including the generation of new funding sources, recruiting and retaining quality faculty, erasing negative headlines, growing enrollment despite rising higher education costs and establishing stronger relationships between the TSU community and local business partners.

A native of Memphis, Glover earned her bachelor’s degree from TSU, an MBA from Clark Atlanta University, a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, and a Ph.D. from George Washington University in business economics and policy.

She worked as a certified public accountant, attorney and professor before becoming dean at Jackson State, where she successfully led a $5 million fundraising initiative while spearheading the implementation of online learning programs, along with other measures.

Glover has said one of her immediate priorities is to initiate a capital campaign to raise needed funds for TSU, annually listed as one of the top Historically Black Universities in the country by U.S. News and World Report.

Her arrival generated much interest, evidenced in February when she shared her vision for TSU in front of an overflow crowd in Kean Hall. And she launched a President’s Challenge by contributing $50,000 of her own money to TSU and asking alumni to match the donation – or make an attempt.

Glover recently took time out of her schedule to answer a few questions for the Nashville Ledger.

You referred to your first 60 days on the job as a “whirlwind.” Does that mean it was more difficult than you anticipated, or just a few joyfully chaotic weeks?

“Actually, things have been just as I anticipated. I expected to hit the ground running, and that is precisely what I did. It’s a whirlwind because everything happens at the same time. Since I bring vast experience in higher education, I am familiar with many of the campus developments and needs. And as an alumna, I am familiar with the TSU system.

“(April 11) marked 100 days in office, and I can honestly say things have been as I expected. Of course it’s been a whirlwind; I’m out meeting with students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the Nashville community on a daily basis.’’

From the start of your tenure, you seem to be working not only to change community perceptions about TSU but of the role of the TSU president as well – living on campus, donating $50,000 of your own money, hosting a “Town Hall Meeting.” Is that an accurate statement? Is there a conscious effort on your part to alter the image of president?

“Community perceptions are extremely important. There are so many positive things about TSU that I am anxious to tell and to demonstrate. All these things you have referenced are all a part of who I am. I have always been a hands-on individual. This lends itself to knowing an operation from bottom to top.

“One of my leadership characteristics is to lead by example. If I’m going to ask an alumnus to give, I have to give as well. My philosophy is that a university president should live on campus among the individuals she represents.’’

Gov. Haslam publicly has been very complimentary about you, saying you will “be a critical piece of the puzzle to move TSU forward.” What are some of the pieces to the puzzle that need to be filled?

“First, I’m very thankful and apprecia-tive of Gov. Haslam’s support. I truly look forward to working with him as we better define the role that TSU will play in carrying out his agenda. My five-point vision consists of components that are the pieces of that puzzle you reference that will help to move the university forward.

“TSU must do two critical things to be a real player:

First, we must become far more intricately involved in the Nashville area business community. And that is an integral component of the vision of this administration. What Nashville needs from TSU is the assurance that we can meet their employment needs by producing employment-ready graduates, and assist them as they move forward with their business agenda. We must be good academic and business partners.

“The second critical need is to ensure that we produce and train excellent teachers for elementary and secondary education. This is desperately needed to help address the national K-12 education crisis.’’

You seem to have garnered favorable reaction to your ‘five-point vision’ (academic progress and growth, fundraising and partnerships, diversity and inclusion, shared governance, and business outreach), but I’m not sure I understand what ‘shared governance’ entails. Would you please expand on that one point?

“Shared governance is simply having the university community participate in the decision-making process. This includes the faculty, staff and students. This is pivotal as we all work collectively to reach our benchmarks of the “Complete College Tennessee Act” set forth by the Tennessee Board of Regents (which changed the formula for how Tennessee’s universities are funded; rewarding them for graduating students, not just enrolling them).

“Shared governance is about the inclusion of diverse input to help us resolve old issues, reach new heights, and recruit and retain quality faculty and students.’’

Without minimizing the role Portia Shields played as interim president, you are now the first full-time female president of Tennessee State University in a century. Can you express your feelings on attaining that honor and its potential effect on the university?

“I am extremely honored and blessed to have this opportunity. I awake every morning thankful to have the opportunity to continue the legacy of this great institution that began a century ago.

“I hope my presidency will affect student attitude and culture two ways. One, my matriculation through life is integrally woven with education. Therefore, education is important for life’s success. Two, all things are possible with a plan, commitment and faith in God.’’

You were aware of faculty divisions at TSU and have credited Shields with mending the divisiveness to a large degree, but do you have a plan to keep the faculty fabric from tearing again?

“I believe “fabric from tearing again” is too strong of a term. I have tried to foster a spirit of unity on campus and wanted faculty and staff to know that their opinions are valued and actually expected. I have engaged faculty as outlined in my vision of shared governance and diversity and inclusion.

“The diversity of ideas and conver-sations are important for an engaged and excited faculty.’’

A student who attended the meeting at Kean Hall commented that what most impressed her about you was that you seemed “to have a sense of urgency.” Do you have urgency about you and could it be considered a good thing for a TSU president to have?

“I do have a sense of urgency that was instilled in me as a small child and is a central part of my success as a professional. I believe it is essential for any college president, CEO, or leader of any kind to understand that time is not to be considered a “friend.” TSU has critical imperatives that demand immediate attention.’’

Last year, a student on the verge of going back home secured a last-minute scholarship to attend TSU. You told a local TV news team that you had a similar story of standing in line decades ago waiting on a scholarship that arrived at the last minute. Do the two tales serve as a gauge for how little has changed all these years, or is it a telling example of just how much work you have to do?

“Finding funds for education remains as critical a problem today as it did during my tenure in 1974. I actually believe it just speaks to the socio-economic background of our students. I also believe we have to keep in mind the true reality of the recession that our country experienced over the past few years. What has not changed is the economic disparity that many of our students face.

“What has changed is that we have alumni and corporate partners who are stepping up to the plate to help families that don’t have the income to send their children to college, nor do they have additional monies to leverage educational dollars.’’

What has been the reaction so far to the alumni match request? Was it crafted as a way to avoid what happened in 2012 when hundreds of TSU students who couldn’t pay tuition costs left school, or is it part of something bigger?

“I believe the best way to have individuals buy into a new philosophy – my philosophy – is to lead by example. If alumni were to buy into my request that they give more, it was important that as the “requester” I show them I was willing to do it, as well.

“The President’s Challenge has demonstrated success. Overall, alumni giving to the university have more than doubled when comparing the first quarter of 2013 to 2012. A majority of these donations are from alumni dedicated to the President’s Challenge. Keeping students enrolled is a major priority. Alumni’s giving is one way to help us do just that.’’

You are on record as saying good news trumps bad publicity and that there are such good stories at TSU that need to be told. Do you have a media strategy for supplanting bad news for good? Would you like to share one of those good stories?

“We do have a media strategy that is part of an overall public relations plan for TSU. PR is simply about reputation. Our plan will address crafting a single message for internal and external purposes to our stakeholders and customers. This message will include all the wonderful, innovative things taking place at TSU.

“There are several good stories. A more recent one is with our College of Engineering. We have been awarded a grant in which faculty will help design “night vision equipment” for aircrafts. The research will be tremendous in keeping U.S soldiers safe during combat and help to eliminate civilian casualties. Our award speaks to outstanding research and how what we do here at TSU impacts everyday living.

“This is great news for military families, especially those families here in middle Tennessee, to know Tennessee State is conducting research that could play a major factor in their loved ones returning home safely.’’

Lastly, will the TSU experiences of Glenda Baskin (class of 1974) play any part in the new administration of Dr. Glenda Baskin Glover, and what might they be?

“Needless to say, there is a marked difference in the two roles.

“I am thankful for the foundation that I received as a student at TSU which set me on the path that I am experiencing today. The critical thinking, the analytical skills, the leadership training, the firm management style and the caring, collaborative spirit – are not only employed in this Administration, but are an integral part of the Glenda Baskin Glover that TSU produced.’’

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