Contact: Michael Tullier, APR
Office of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing
Tuskegee University trustees hosted a town hall meeting of faculty, staff, students and alumni on June 8 in the University Chapel. The forum allowed the trustees to introduce incoming Interim President Charlotte Morris and Provost Tejinder Sara, as well as detail short- and long-term goals for bringing stability to the university’s senior leadership structure.
Norma Clayton, the board’s first vice chair, highlighted the trustees’ commitment to maintaining transparency during the university’s current leadership transition and the pending selection of its next president. She also underscored that the university’s ultimate responsibility during this process is to its students.
“What we do must be in the best interests of the students we serve and the integrity of their academic experience,” Clayton said.
Clayton indicated the board would initiate a national search soon to fill the position of university president. She said the board would balance the goal of keeping the university’s various stakeholders apprised of its progress with the need to protect the confidentiality of the candidates being considered.
John Page, chairman of the Board of Trustees, indicated that finalizing the search process will be a priority at the board’s already-scheduled planning retreat on June 9-10. The focus of that retreat, he said, will be on advancing the university’s strategy, structure and culture.
“Culture is an important part of this conversation because it is who you are,” Page said. “It is your identity and your purpose. We must crystalize the culture of leadership and unity at Tuskegee.”
Page credited the collective campus community for advancing the university’s strategic goals. Progress during the past couple of years has included net financial surpluses, increases in fundraising support and the endowment, streamlining and reducing operational expenses, and lowering the university’s overall debt by approximately $20 million. He also acknowledged that the university must make closing the graduation gap a priority by increasing success in student recruitment, matriculation, retention and graduation.
“Your trustees are committed to getting the university’s financial house in order, its administrative hour in order, and identifying the leadership needed to keep us there,” Page said. “Thank you for the trust and faith you have placed in our efforts to be good stewards in administering and leading the university. We need everyone to run fast and run focused with us in supporting Dr. Morris and her team,” he continued.
Following Page’s introduction of Morris, during which he called her “a calming presence…a clear voice for what’s right,” the incoming interim president was greeted by a standing ovation.
Morris acknowledged that current circumstances present the chance for evaluation, especially in moving the university forward technologically in how it educates its students, communicates with its constituencies and conducts its business.
“Our goal will be to seize the opportunity to do something different as we move this institution forward,” she said. “Yes, we have a number of challenges, but working together, we’ll get through those together….I look forward to working with all of you in this role and hope that we can do extraordinary things for Tuskegee University. It’s an uphill journey, but let’s begin it together.”
Morris and Sara will begin in their respective capacities as interim president and provost officially on July 1, and a formal presidential search plan will be in place by the end of the summer. The Board of Trustees’ initial steps will include empaneling a search committee comprised of administrators, faculty, students and alumni, as well as engaging a search firm to coordinate the recruitment process. Progress made in this area will be shared on the university’s website as information is available.
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