Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

The Corporate Chancellor: University System of Georgia Chancellor Erroll B. Davis Jr. Wrestles with How to Measure Success in Higher Education, but He Has a Few Ideas

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

The Corporate Chancellor: University System of Georgia Chancellor Erroll B. Davis Jr. Wrestles with How to Measure Success in Higher Education, but He Has a Few Ideas

Article excerpt

Add the name Erroll B. Davis Jr. to the ever-growing list of chancellors who have been plucked from the world of business and industry. Among the factors that make his appointment to head the vast Georgia postsecondary system so unusual, he is not a son of the South. He's never headed a higher education institution. And to the dismay of many, he is not inclined to provide special dispensation to the state's three historically Black colleges and universities.

In August, Davis sat down with Frank L. Matthews, Diverse publisher and editor in chief, to talk about his vision for the University System of Georgia.

DI: After such a distinguished career in corporate leadership, what made you decide to come to this position?

ED: My grandfather often said that the only thing that you can do during your lifetime is to try to make an impact. You bring nothing into this world, and you certainly will take nothing out. So I see this as an opportunity to make an impact for the better.

DI: How do you measure success and excellence in higher education? Rankings? Grants? Enrollment?

ED: I've been wrestling with that question. In my previous life, you could measure success by earnings and stock price, which were easy to focus on. I don't think I want to measure success by rankings. I believe rankings should be a byproduct of our success. Ultimately, our success must come from our graduates out in the world and in the demand for them in the marketplace. And that's difficult to measure. But you look at grants, for example. What if I had only one grant, and I had a major cancer breakthrough? Am I more successful if I have 100 grants and I just happen to be spending money but not moving the frontiers of knowledge very much? So even grants and research are difficult.

DI: How do you view the access and equity legal battles that generally center on who gets to attend the University of Georgias and the Georgia Techs of the world?

ED: I look at minority access from two dimensions: One, whether we have enough qualified kids applying, and that's more a K-12 issue than it is a university system issue. It's one of the reasons, of course, we're actively engaged in the K-12 system. So we are not indifferent to our pipeline. The second is whether we create atmospheres where qualified, diverse and minority students are interested in attending. We are continuing to make substantial progress at places such as the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech. But we still have a number of minority students that we would like to come, that we do admit, and that for reasons of their own choosing decide they'd like to go elsewhere. …

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