New FVSU president takes the helm

jmink@macon.comJuly 28, 2013 

FORT VALLEY -- Some would describe Ivelaw Griffith as a workaholic.

At least, that’s how the new president of Fort Valley State University describes himself. It’s one reason for his success in higher education, including his recent appointment as the university’s president. Griffith, former provost of York College of The City University of New York, took the job after former President Larry Rivers stepped down in June. His first day was July 22.

“For me, this is an opportunity to make a difference,” Griffith said as he sat in his new office Thursday, wearing a bow tie and preparing for an enrollment meeting.

His initial goals for FVSU include increasing enrollment and setting the stage for program innovation and budget efficiency. While enrollment is higher compared with a decade ago, it has dipped over the past couple of years, following a trend among colleges statewide and nationwide.

Griffith plans to tweak recruitment strategies, including widening the market to include more international students. In fact, the university will host this fall a delegation from the Bahamas, which is interested in FVSU’s agriculture program. Not only would more international students increase enrollment and, therefore, boost tuition revenue, they would introduce local students to other cultures. He also plans to implement a strong study abroad program.

Student “experiences should be broadened while they are in college,” he said.

Additionally, Griffith plans to build a strong honors program and expand research opportunities for both faculty and students. In fact, one of his proudest accomplishments at York College was expanding research for faculty and starting an undergraduate research program -- something he plans to do at FVSU.

“Research not only needs to be done by faculty, it needs to be done by students,” he said.

Griffith had served as provost of York College since 2007, where a 30 percent increase in full-time faculty is among his accomplishments.

After earning degrees from the University of Guyana, Long Island University and the City University of New York -- as well as graduating from Harvard’s educational leadership program -- Griffith went on to snag leadership positions at Radford University and Florida International University. He also is an expert on Caribbean issues, is past president of the Caribbean Studies Association and has been a consultant to national foreign agencies, according to his biography.

He was one of four candidates selected by a search committee for the FVSU presidency, and the Board of Regents voted in June to name Griffith as the next president.

“I think the Board of Regents had a very difficult challenge in that we sent four exceptional candidates to them for their consideration,” said Meigan Fields, chairwoman of the FVSU presidential search committee. “I believe Dr. Griffith will do an exemplary job advancing us. He’s not wasting any time, and he has a vision that will make Fort Valley State University embrace the idea of multiculturalism and globalization.”

His vision also includes creating a more efficient budget. He plans to reach out to public officials, alumni and businesses to raise new funds and implement ways to help the university save money. His budget goals include increasing funds for athletics, which is suffering from a lack of money and low attendance.

It will be a challenge, but Griffith wouldn’t be interested in a job that did not pose challenges. It’s one upside to being a workaholic, he said.

“In an environment where you have so many challenges,” he said, “strong work ethic is invaluable.”

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.

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