December 10, 2009
In a word, here's what the next permanent president of Grambling State University must do: communicate.
So when the University of Louisiana System search committee seeks and reviews talented applicants over the next several months, that's one arrow that search panel members must find in the right candidate's quiver: an ability to get Grambling's mission and message across to myriad audiences in and around Louisiana in a clear and compelling fashion.
Grambling needs a leader that can present a mission and a plan. It needs a leader who can inspire confidence in all people who wish Grambling well. It needs a compelling voice that can earn the trust of faculty and staff, students and alumni, lawmakers and donors. It needs a leader with charisma as well as competence, embodied in the same package.
Not everyone will line up squarely behind the new president, no matter his or her qualifications. After all, Grambling in recent years has become known best for two things: football and infighting. It needs to be known for more than that. No chosen candidate will command the complete confidence of everyone who claims to hold a stake in Grambling's success.
But the next president must not only keep GSU on the road to improvement, he or she must share the message of improvement to others in a way that will enlist the support of allies, both steadfast and new. If he or she can do that, naysayers and detractors will be left to yap among themselves.
The next permanent president must address competitive admissions, static enrollment and further integration of the campus. Grambling cannot hope to grow only locally nor can it hope to grow only by marketing itself in a limited fashion. It must attract better students who are lured by the strength of better academic programs.
To accomplish that, the next permanent president must also clearly define Grambling's academic strength, especially in the shadow of two nearby state universities that have clearly defined areas of academic excellence. Louisiana Tech can point to engineering and nanotechnology, ULM to pharmacy and health, as leading programs. GSU has had success in nursing, business and education; can one of those programs or another become a premier program, one that sets Grambling apart from all other state campuses? That would help Grambling establish its academic identity more clearly; it would help sell the campus to top-tier students around the state.
Grambling holds great strengths: a proud history, improved facilities, and a location that is central to students across north Louisiana. It needs to articulate those strengths and others.
The person to do that is an effective, articulate spokesman, the man or woman who can make a most convincing statement about Grambling.
The editorials in this column represent the opinions of The News-Star's editorial board, composed of President and Publisher David B. Petty, Executive Editor Kathy Spurlock, Managing Editor Ken Stickney, community representatives Gretchen Dean, Anthony Killian and Jake Metzger and newsroom representative Margaret Croft.