FORT VALLEY -- Phyllis Dawkins knows what its like to build up a college.
As provost of Dillard University in New Orleans, Dawkins was instrumental in jump-starting several new programs and reaffirming accreditation for the university. Now, Dawkins has plans for Fort Valley State University as she vies to be its next president.
The Asheville, N.C., native kicked off a week of presidential candidate forums at the university, where four candidates will state their case for leading the institution. The position will be vacated when President Larry Rivers steps down June 30.
This is an opportunity to make a difference, Dawkins said after the event.
That difference includes concentrating on enrollment, retention and graduation rates; responding to economic challenges; and balancing the universitys budget, among other goals.
She also highlighted plans to increase enrollment and assist students. She focused on bringing new, relevant programs to the university; expanding internships and study abroad programs; bringing in more international students; and reaching out to current students -- particularly new students. Dawkins has a history of building programs to assist freshmen and sophomores, she said.
Im really big on making sure that in the first two years students are grounded, and we capture them in terms of retention, she said.
She discussed building a strong strategic plan, working to meet the universitys goals and being fiscally responsible. That includes monitoring tuition, securing clean financial audits, managing debt services, fundraising and increasing communication with alumni.
A big portion of financial stability is snagging grants, and Dawkins wants to make sure as many faculty as possible are proficient grant writers, she said. Dawkins has proposed and received grants totaling more than $28 million at Dillard and Johnson C. Smith universities.
She hopes to create a culture in which faculty are not just relying on university resources but writing grants as a group, she said.
When it comes to working with faculty, Dawkins calls herself a participator. As the former president of a faculty senate, I like to operate through the faculty senate and the faculty to accomplish common goals for the university.
Dawkins has worked extensively with faculty development, according to her biography. She has held several roles at both Johnson C. Smith University and Dillard University, where she is provost, vice president of academic affairs and professor of psychology and education. She has degrees from Johnson C. Smith University, University of Michigan and Ohio State University.
Several employees at the forum wanted to know what impact she would make at FVSU. As a major agricultural college, some wanted to know what her goals would be in terms of agriculture programs.
Dawkins said she would look into expanding the schools cooperative programs. She plans to visit surrounding counties, determining their needs and then growing those programs. She also emphasized expanding research and grant writing.
I didnt think she was speaking in haste in order to just give answers. She thought about what the questions were, said James Brown, interim assistant dean for academic programs in the College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology. She was not speaking prematurely on things.
Faculty also wanted to know how Dawkins would prioritize athletics needs. Dawkins emphasized the need for athletics in terms of student engagement, but academic programs should not suffer because of athletics. But I think they can coexist, she said. I am a big proponent of athletics.
The next candidate to speak will be Sandra Westbrooks, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Chicago State University, at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in the C.W. Pettigrew Center at Fort Valley State.
Daniel K. Wims -- provost, vice president for academic affairs and professor of agricultural sciences at Alabama A&M University -- and Ivelaw Griffith -- provost, senior vice president and professor of political science at York College of The City University of New York -- will speak Thursday and Monday, respectively.
To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.