FVSU presidential candidate looks to come home

Daniel Wims is third FVSU presidential candidate

jmink@macon.comMay 30, 2013 

FORT VALLEY -- Daniel Wims’ experience at Fort Valley State University stretches back to sixth grade, when the Lumpkin native traveled to the university for summer camp.

After graduating from FVSU and spending time as the university’s executive vice president, Wims hopes to return as its next president. Wims was the third presidential candidate to make his case during weeklong forums at the university. The role will be vacated when President Larry Rivers steps down June 30.

In addition to FVSU, Wims has worked at several institutions from South Carolina State to Florida A&M universities. He received graduate degrees from Ohio State University and The University of Maryland-College Park. But his initial degree came from FVSU, which was Fort Valley State College at the time.

“I am here because this is home,” he said. “I am here because I am concerned. I am here because this is where I belong.”

Now as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Alabama A&M University, Wims returned to FVSU on Thursday with a list of concerns. Among those is the need to invest in enrollment management, he said.

“We have to have some superstar students,” he said.

Snagging those students means targeting them, marketing to certain areas and developing a strategic plan for enrollment. Once students get to campus, faculty need to not only teach them in class but become their on-campus parents. To retain students and increase graduation rates, faculty need to be involved to the point of being meddlesome, making sure students are not “sitting in rooms playing video games” when they should be in class, Wims said. “We don’t have a choice.”

Too many students take too long to get their degrees at colleges across the nation. At his current university, Wims has one student who is about $130,000 in debt, he said.

While improved graduation rates would help that issue, institutions also need to focus on garnering more funds to assist more students. That means focusing on capital campaigns and marketing the positive sides of the institution, he said.

Other concerns include fiscal management, accreditation reviews and reports, faculty credentials and academics, he said. Wims would implement program audits and reviews, requiring program leaders to demonstrate why their programs are effective and, if not, a plan for improvement.

One faculty member asked Wims how he would address his concerns. First, Wims said, he would look at the numbers and determine how the university is investing its resources. He would also focus on faculty development. In some cases, faculty members put service before research, meaning they get involved in many organizations but spend little time on scholarly pursuits, he said. Wims advocates investing in research opportunities for faculty.

Another faculty member asked Wims what he hopes newspaper headlines would say about FVSU three years from now. He envisions the public recognizing the institution as the first choice for students. In several cases, the university is not among students’ top choices, he said.

“At some point, I’d like to see us become the first choice,” he said.

Kendall Griffin, a senior, chose to attend FVSU and major in early childhood special education. For Griffin, Wims is an ideal candidate, she said.

“He’s very consistent,” she said. “And you can tell he cares about this university.”

The final candidate, Ivelaw Griffith, provost at York College of The City University of New York, will speak Monday at 3:30 p.m. in the C.W. Pettigrew Center.

Candidates Phyllis Dawkins -- provost, senior vice president for academic affairs and professor of education and psychology at Dillard University -- and Sandra Westbrooks -- provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Chicago State University -- spoke this week.

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.

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