Inaugural address

May 24th, 2012 by andisites

President Carolyn Winstead Meyers
Inaugural address
Jackson State University
March 30, 2012

One University, one mission, one continuous commitment to quality, one high standard of excellence! One faculty and one staff with one unity in purpose in all that we do. One student body, one alumni focus, one community in greater Jackson, Mississippi, of learners, partners, and friends: Jackson State University! One Jackson State University!

The book of Romans (12:5) says: “So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

And from the seal of the United States of America:  e pluribus unum – out of many, one – we are one Jackson State University.

Good morning.

Thank you Commissioner Bounds, Board President Robinson, President-elect Blakeslee as well as other members of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees, distinguished platform guests, learned and respected leaders of city, state, and national governing bodies all over, my august colleagues in the academy, delegates, special guests, faculty, staff, students, alumni, family and friends: thank you for sharing this week and this occasion with us. Most importantly, thank you for your support of and love for Jackson State University.

It is a profound honor to celebrate this inauguration and Jackson State’s heritage of excellence with each of you. I welcome each one of you who have traveled across the city, across the state, and across the country to celebrate with us this week. To all of you who have shared your congratulations, your good wishes, and your kind remarks, please accept my sincere gratitude. Your presence and warmth are etched in my heart and indeed are  “priceless” to me.

I am delighted that my family is present today, my three children – Leslie and Anthony, Joseph, Lisa and Andre Brown, and Timothy Meyers. And most especially my four favorite people in the whole universe – my grandkids: Miles, Ava, Gabriela, and Avery.  I look at them and know that I am extraordinarily blessed.

Although I am an only child, I have never been lonesome because I am very blessed with many aunts, uncles, and cousins.  What’s more I get to “pick” sisters, brothers, and more cousins – my friends each of whom I cherish. I am wealthy in family and friends. I really am standing here under a shower of blessings and the umbrella of God’s love.

I appreciate the confidence the Board of Trustees has shown in selecting me to serve as the 10th president of Jackson State. I accepted this huge and awesome responsibility with prayer, enthusiasm, gratitude and humility. After all is said and done, I am just a small town girl from Newport News, Virginia, the granddaughter of sharecroppers and educators.

I extend appreciation to the college presidents and delegates from other universities and professional societies, the elected officials here today, my very own Mayor Johnson and all of our friends who are present. And I adore the faculty, staff and administrators for their continued commitment to the success of our students and to the University and all that she represents. Former presidents Peoples, Lyons, Ward-Fletcher and McLemore, thank you for leaving us the fine University we enjoy today.

To our roughly 40,000 alumni, you are the heart and spirit of who we are. You are proof positive of the exemplary work that goes on here every day. We thank you for your unwavering support and love. For the first time in the history of Jackson State University, the alumni have raised $2.4 million in eight months! JSU alumni not only talk the talk, JSU alumni also walk the walk.

And to our students, the lifeblood, hope and future of this University and of the planet: all of us at Jackson State University treasure your excitement, your talents, and your hopes as well as the many ideas and dreams that accompany you. You have our collective and solemn vow that we at Jackson State University today will do all we can to make your dreams come true.

Remember the words of the great African American educator, Dr. Benjamin E. Mays:

“It is not your environment, it is you – the quality of your minds, the integrity of your souls, and the determination of your wills – that will decide your future and shape your souls.”

We are here to enhance your intellectual capabilities, with our partners in the clergy to nurture your souls, and most importantly, we are here to help you mold your future and fulfill your promise.

We are one Jackson State University. We are one in the mourning of the loss earlier this week of one of our students, Nolan Henderson. May his family and may we find peace and comfort in God’s loving arms.

We gather today to pay tribute to our great University. This week we celebrate the achievements of Jackson State University. This week we celebrate the oneness, the unity of purpose, the togetherness, the excellence.

As we embark upon this 10th chapter in the history of Jackson State, I am pleased that we have nurtured that spirit of oneness started 134 years ago with 20 former slaves – who were eager to learn, eager to advance, and eager to demonstrate to the world their talents and oneness of purpose – as they journeyed to success. From 20 students in 1877 to nearly 9,000 in 2012, we are still one Jackson State.

Jackson State has come a long way from one private church school in 1877 founded to educate newly freed slaves, to a multinational, competitive institution. We are still one Jackson State. From one campus building in 1877 to 51 academic and administrative buildings in 2012 all over the greater Jackson area, we remain one Jackson State.

From awarding one bachelor’s degree in 1924 to conferring over 1,000 bachelor’s degrees today, yes, we are still one Jackson State. And from a teachers college in 1877 to one of only two historically black colleges and universities to be classified as a “research intensive” University by the Carnegie classification of institutions of higher education today, we are one Jackson State University – with one unity of purpose – to make dreams come true.

This unity has allowed us to face challenges, achieve greatness, and embrace our incomparable destiny. Through our growth and expansion, we continue to demonstrate by our actions that we are one. The larger we become, the more united we must act as we bind together. The more international we are, the more focused we must remain. The greater our progress, the greater must be our togetherness. We are one Jackson State.

This oneness of purpose has allowed us over our 134-year history to remain steadfast in our pursuit of excellence and in the development of the talents of all who pass through the doors of Jackson State University.

Yes, we’ve come a long way since 1877. We have undergone name changes; we have resided in several locations; we have encountered and we have accepted many challenges; still, our distinguished history grows. This institution was built on a solid foundation by each of our past presidents, a foundation of integrity, high quality, and unity. This foundation has stood the test of time and we all are beneficiaries of the wisdom and dedication of our past leaders. We are here today with a defining spirit, a collaborative work ethic, and an enviable track record.

Jackson State University (Jackson State) is designated by the State of Mississippi as the Urban University for the state. As such this designation imparts a sense of the critical roles JSU must play not only today but also in the future of the state, the nation, and the world. With her teaching heritage, her excellent reputation as a leader among Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and her traditions of access and learning¸ Jackson State is poised today to play these roles.  My vision for Jackson State focuses on enhancing this special designation as Mississippi’s Urban University.  Jackson State is not only in the city, she is also of the city and for the city. Our economic impact exceeds $413 million!

As the Urban University, Jackson State must position itself to lead the development and implementation of realistic and relevant solutions to today’s urban and global problems. These solutions must be flexible to allow the modifications and adjustments necessary for scaling up to the national and global contexts. This positioning involves curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular activities and programs, the alumni and friends, and the community at¬ large, as well as the up-to-date learning facilities – virtual and real.

Like Susan Taylor I Dream A World, I dare to dream a Jackson State University where students receive the excellent preparation they deserve and need to make their dreams come true; this dream reinforces our commitment to excellence.

I dare to dream a Jackson State University where faculty and staff are committed to students and learning and model lifelong learning; commitment is one of our core values.

I dare to dream a Jackson State University with the facilities that stimulate faculty and staff to do their best work every day – and in which students learn all they can. Why? Because, place matters.

I dare to dream a Jackson State University whose finances are diversified and strong enough to support adequately its people and programs. High quality is not free.

I dare to dream a Jackson State University as the place where the best minds and the most concerned people inside and outside of the academy gather to address common problems and to celebrate successes; we give the world hope.

And, I dare to dream a Jackson State University where alumni, friends, and the local, national, and global communities look with pride, enthusiasm and eagerness to engage – homage to our traditions and values, which are timeless.

Because academics is the “business” of any university, first and foremost the academic programs must continue to focus on excellence in design, content, and delivery. This is our first priority. Maintaining accreditations and certifications as well as seeking those where needed is one measure of excellence and are givens. Another measure is the attainment of additional national recognition for outstanding programs and activities. Yet another is the confidence that adequate preparation imparts to lead the development of new academic enterprises. Design must encompass the expedient deployment of the rapidly changing teaching technologies and pedagogies. Content must be embroidered with ever expanding discovery (research) and new knowledge. And knowledge transfer must be delivered in venues that stimulate curiosity, innovation, and thoughtful reflection and discourse.  The quality, depth, and venues of learning must be top-notch.

We will focus more on online education, distance learning, and evening/weekend programs as we accommodate both traditional and nontraditional students. Our delivery of knowledge must keep pace with the future – all within an accredited framework.

We will continue to ensure that our students receive the best education possible, with a focus on communication skills, problem-solving skills, management and administrative skills, and critical thinking processes and skills – understanding that our focus is on our students, the young people who made Jackson State their institution of choice.

And, those who transfer knowledge, those who directly and indirectly engage in and enable this knowledge transfer – i.e., the faculty, the support and administrative staffs – must continuously renew their commitment to insuring that the students of Jackson State are afforded what they deserve – simply the best educational experiences possible.  As many of today’s problems are not discipline or activity specific, faculty and staff must cross departmental, program, and activity barriers with ease and with support, recognition and rewards.

With the leadership of the deans I am pleased to announce that JSU will reinvest in its academic endeavors through internal creative awards for faculty and staff. These awards will focus on high-risk, high-reward ideas across the silos here that will advance the University’s mission and reach. And of course, as with all of our endeavors, excellence, performance, accountability and professionalism must pervade these awards as they must pervade everything we do. We must foster a community of creativity and innovation.

And I am extremely proud of the work of the Staff Senate under the leadership of Dr. Rosella Houston.  Starting in April, the Staff Senate will conduct a staff leadership institute to encourage and assist staff members in contributing to their units.

As you can tell, our second priority is to invest in the best people and do all we can to enable their doing their best work as they engage our students and community.

In homage to and respect for the founding traditions of Jackson State, as well as in the sincere interest in the future success of the students, the nurturing of the whole student must infuse every program and every interaction. The relatively recent work of Peterson and Seligman, Character, Strength, and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004) and the subsequent articles in the Journal of Positive Psychology, verify what HBCUs have lived by for generations: that success in life depends not only on how much you know and its application (wisdom and knowledge) but also on “virtues” such as courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence. We will continue our tradition of nurturing.

The learning environment and supporting facilities must be stimulating and conducive to learning. This requires a long-term and continuous commitment from the Legislature to JSU’s designation as Mississippi’s Urban University. We thank the Mississippi Legislature for its ongoing support and know it will do the best it can for us in the future. The hard work ahead for us at Jackson State is in the design and implementation of new definitions of partnerships for learning with the private sector, creative virtual and real collaborations with local and federal government agencies, and renewed commitments to the University from the community. Our third priority then is to hunker down and work hard and efficiently on new designs and the way we do business.

Resources must be developed to allow faculty and staffs to model lifelong learning along with infrastructure changes to facilitate awards and rewards for such.  Diversifying and strengthening our resources is our fourth priority.  Every day we are building the future for all of us.  A part of leadership of a University is insuring the future. We must remember that quality is not free, in fact it is increasingly expensive, and that this future is too important to humankind, too important to do “on the cheap.”

As we go forward, engagement activities must be strengthened so that the local and state communities identify Jackson State as my place to learn and to grow. And through transparencies in operations, goals, and priorities as well as constant positive and continuous communications using all sources available, a sense of competency, relevance, and enthusiasm about Jackson State must be promoted and sustained. Time and resources must be invested to develop strong advocacy groups among alumni and friends in the community. We must tell our own story.  Letting the world know what a treasure this University is – telling our own story – is our fifth priority.

In summary, I dream a Jackson State that is singular in its focus on learning for all students, strong in its reputation, unique in its formal and informal learning environments and programs, and valuable and relevant to the local and global communities – a true Urban University.

This is the dawn of a new day; this is a time when we use our collective strength, our spirit of oneness to work for a more inclusive Jackson State, to take advantage of opportunities, to lead our competition, and to celebrate our rightful place in the history of academic excellence.

And on this dawn of a new day, our spirit of oneness will reinforce the love that sets us apart and makes us great. We share a binding fellowship, a contagious love, and an extended friendship, a oneness in our commitment.

This day is not about me, but it is about this great University, Jackson State University, and that is what we celebrate. We assemble to applaud our remarkable history, to marvel at our successes, and to affirm our future potential.

In my opening address last fall, I promised to continue our proud commitment to service. I now ask Jacksonians to join me and serve by helping us to fulfill the mission of Jackson State University in every college that comprises this academic enterprise: in the college of business, the college of education and human development, the college of liberal arts, the college of public service and the college of computer science engineering and technology. We are one University with many parts. We are one.

As the Scripture says, “we have many members but one body.” Each of us depends on the other, and we are forever mindful of the fact that we are all in this together. Education and learning are the most powerful tools we humans possess. It is an honor and a privilege to together promote the environment of academic excellence, intellectual growth, advanced research and service.

I now ask that we continue to pool our collective efforts as we advance our mission and our purpose while respecting our core values of tradition, accountability, learning, nurturing, responsibility and service. Let’s not forget that we have a mandate to serve – to serve well and to serve as one.

We must now stretch ourselves further than we ever have before.  This is a different world than it was in 1877 or even the world of 10 years ago.  As we reach our next goals, we must dream colossal dreams and then be courageous enough to chart the paths to achieve them. We must move forward with all deliberate speed to maintain our competitive position. And then we must raise continuously the bar of excellence, while standing on the platform of unity.

To the young people who are here today – never forget that you are our raison d’etre. Let me remind you that it was 20 young people who participated in the start of this great institution in 1877 as they sought new horizons and increased opportunities.  You – young people – started this one Jackson State. And it’s up to you to carry it on. Indeed those here before you touched the conscience of America and the State of Mississippi. And now this same torch of leadership at its finest has been passed to your generation. You must never let the flame go out. Use this spirit of oneness to bear the torch of the tiger spirit! We depend on you to help us as we promote one spirit. One Jackson State.

To all of our friends and supporters gathered here today, we ask you to assist, encourage, and keep us in your prayers as we expand this unity of purpose, this spirit of oneness.

As our campus works as a single unit to promote the one mission and the one purpose of this institution – and that is, to continue to challenge minds and change lives, our strength and greatness will be derived from our ability to be together – one Jackson State University. We will walk together; we will talk together; we will work together; no doubt we will achieve together; and always we will believe together in ourselves and most importantly in God Almighty, from whom all blessings flow.  And every day we will pray together. Then we will celebrate together. We are one Jackson State!

As stated in the book of Genesis (11:6), “behold they are one people, and they all have one language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to will be impossible for them.

It is on the wisdom of this verse that I accepted the call to this exceptional service, and accepted the challenge of leadership, leading Jackson State as one University.

Indeed, we are one people, with one language, one mind, one purpose, and one University. We are one Jackson State!

God bless each one of you and thank you.

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