Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Honoring the Past, Leading toward the Future

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Honoring the Past, Leading toward the Future

Article excerpt

It is often the dream of professional educators in higher education to be tapped for the leadership position of the

institution that nurtured them. But even when that occurs, no one is ever prepared f6r the realities, the real demands, and sometimes unrealistic expectations placed upon the head and shoulders of the college president.

This is especially true when you are female in a domain that has previously been all male; when you come -- as I have -- from a campus (Georgia Institute of Technology) that was filled with the rapid changes of 21st century technology, but now find yourself immersed in an environment steeped in tradition; and when there are those who stand by expecting you to fail. There is no way to explain to the novice about the jobs within the job; or about the many constituencies to which you are accountable -- the trustees, the donors and benefactors, the faculty and staff, the students and their parents, and the alumni.

At times, the job can be tantamount to embarking on a journey without a definite destination and without a return ticket. For me, it has been an odyssey filled with challenges and some surprises. Coming from an environment of plenty and being plunged into one where the pinching of pennies is a necessity, it has been a cultural shock as well.

Although ;crises upon crises may arise, stability must be maintained. You're expected to have a little magic wand that, when waved while reciting the correct incantation, produces the desired funding for whatever project -- fanciful or fundamental -- presented.

Little did I know that a zero-based budget would be an all-too-constant reality. Coming from a generation when one was taught to respect the wisdom of elders, I believed it when I was told that a successful college president finds the resources and creates the environment where successful ventures -- ventures that establish opportunities for professors to teach effectively and do research, and for students to experience a quality education -- could happen.

The stewardship of my alma mater, while forward looking, had been anchored in the past. While I have not cast aside, the: legacy of the previous eleven presidents, I know that I must consider the needs of the current clientele. …

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