Finally, Tennessee State University (TSU) has new leadership. Her name is Glenda Glover and she is an alumna of the institution. She comes to TSU from Jackson State University, where she served as the Dean of the School of Business. From my read of the HBCU presidential pool, Glover was relatively unknown on a national front. However, her past experience seems to have given her the vision to lead TSU, an institution that has been struggling for decades and has been mired in controversy in recent years.
Glover gave a speech on the TSU campus this week and during the talk she did several important things. First, she began her speech by talking about the future of the institution rather than resting on the past. More HBCUs and their leaders need to focus on the future. Yes, the history of these venerable institutions is important, but the nation is changing and as such, HBCUs need to change as well.
Next, Glover jumpstarted her push for increased fundraising and subsequent philanthropic support by giving $50,000 of her own money to support student scholarships (David Wilson of Morgan State University did something similar when he became president). With this donation, Glover challenged the TSU alumni chapters around the country to raise $50,000 each. She seems to understand how important alumni giving is to the future of HBCUs. Although others may give, it is the responsibility of HBCU alumni to support their institutions by giving regularly. Glover has to communicate this sentiment and garner action on the part of the TSU alumni.
The third thing that Glover did was identify the problem areas on campus and commit to focusing her energies there. In TSU's case, those areas are the institutions' academics and customer service (a common problem for many HBCUs) as well as fundraising. In addition to these challenges, Glover pointed to two other areas that are particularly important to the future of HBCUs. First, she acknowledged the importance of shared governance. One of the biggest frustrations among HBCU faculty is the lack of shared governance that they often experience. In TSU's case, faculty members have had little if any voice in the institution's governance. In fact, interim president Portia Shields had the chair of the faculty senate arrested recently, causing uproar among the faculty. Although some presidents think that a college should be run like a business, they are mistaken. Yes, colleges need to be fiscally sound and efficient, but student learning and the production of knowledge complicate a steadfast focus on ONLY the bottom line. HBCUs need more cooperation between faculty and administration for the good of student learning. I am happy to hear that Glover is listening to faculty members' concerns.
The second important area that Glover focused on is diversity and inclusion. As the nation is changing in terms of demographics, HBCUs will become more diverse. Although they can and should maintain their historic focus on African American students, more and more Latino, White, and Asian students will be enrolling and HBCUs need to meet their needs as well. Of course, HBCUs have a long history of inclusion of other racial and ethnic minorities, but actively recruiting a more racially diverse class has not been the norm.
With these goals and her energy, Glover seems poised to lead TSU in meaningful and innovative ways. However, in order to do so, she will need the support of alumni, the community, and to attract the attention of business partners and philanthropists. By paying attention to the institution's challenges first, she will likely succeed.