Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Woman's Intuition

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Woman's Intuition

Article excerpt

Three women college leaders discuss how their respective Ohio colleges are faring in the economy, leadership and what tops their presidential agendas these days.

Patricia L Hardaway, president, Wilberforce University, Wilberforce

Patricia L. Hardaway was appointed president of Wilberforce University in April 2008. An attorney and graduate of the historically Black university, Hardaway and her administrative team are focusing much of their attention on student retention, and they're seeing positive results. This spring semester's student enrollment is equal to the enrollment last fall. "It took work from every part of the university to hold retention and to create a situation where we don't have a net loss between the first and the second term," says Hardaway.

DI: How does it feel to be president of your alma mater?

PH: It's a humbling feeling because you don't necessarily plan to be the president of your alma mater when you're a student. It's really an honor to be selected. It provides an opportunity to create a vision for the university's growth.

DI: What aspects of the job as a university president have required the steepest learning curve?

PH: What this position has done has required and enabled me to use all of the skills and capacities that I've developed over the course of my professional life. The steepest area has been in getting the financial underpinnings of the university to a place where we are moving ahead with bringing financial strength to the university - attracting and bringing resources to the university that will support our programs and allow us to enhance what we do and grow what we do. I think that's a challenge for every college president.

DI: What items on your presidential agenda are getting the most attention these days?

PH: That would include our academic areas to ensure that we are providing what we say we are providing and developing ways to assess and review what we do to make sure that we're on point. We have been seeing a steady increase and stabilization in our (student) retention. We're pleased about that, but that comes as a result of focused attention to all those things that feed into retention - what we offer, how we offer it, our support services (and) our attention to determining whether a student is falling [through thecracks].

DI: As president of the oldest, private historically Black university, how do you respond to those who question the relevancy of HBCUs?

PH: Historically Black collèges account for a disproportionate share of African-Americans in graduate and Ph.D. programs. For as small as we are, we are the lion's share resource for that. So that in and of itself says that we are relevant. The other thing that we do that the other schools don't is that we accept the valedictorian of the class as well as the potential scholar. And on graduation day they are both fully equipped to move into the larger society as educated men and women. That's certainly something that most of the majority colleges don't do.

DI: What would people be surprised to learn about Wilberforce?

PH: We are a primary source of talent in the work force, locally and around the country, as a result of our co-operative education program that is part of the academic experience. Every student must complete two co-op experiences as requirements for graduation. So our students are head and shoulders above many students because of their experiences as professionals in the work force. In addition, we graduated in the last couple of years 75 percent of the African-American electrical engineers in the state of Ohio. That, I know, is not a well-known fact.

Dr. Debra L. McCurdy, president, James A. Rhodes State College, Lima

Dr. Debra McCurdy is presiding over a college that has experienced significant enrollment growth since she arrived in 2006. She attributes that growth to the college's outreach efforts and the economy. …

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