After spending his first year assessing Jackson State University, President William B. Bynum Jr. and his team will begin crafting a strategic 10-year plan that will fulfill his three pillars for university success.
“This strategic plan will be an active plan, not a static plan. It’s not something that we will want to put on the shelf. It is, indeed, something we want to see as a living, breathing document. … We will be able to change it and revise it as we go through this process,” Bynum said during the 2018 Fall Faculty and Staff Seminar on Thursday.
“I’ve learned about this great university from students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends. I see exactly what their views are and see what they’d like to accomplish.”
After becoming JSU’s 11th president on July 1, 2017, Bynum revealed his three pillars: student centeredness; teamwork and collegiality; and pursuit of excellence. Last week, the process of implementing his plan began in earnest as he unveiled “One JSU 2029: The Blue & White Print: Strategic Plan Goal 2018-2029.”
To begin, he defined each of his pillars:
- Student centeredness: “Make sure we put students first and foremost … We must incorporate them in everything we do, treat them right and make sure they receive a return on their investment.”
- Teamwork and collegiality: “Because of the extreme financial environment that we’re dealing with – depleting revenues that are coming to higher education institutions – we have to be more efficient and more effective. Then, we have to work across divisional lines, departmental lines and office lines. … So, how we treat our fellow co-workers and how we treat ourselves are extremely important. I can already see that teamwork is increasing, but we’ve got plenty of work to do to eradicate silos and make sure people are working across divisional lines.”
- Pursuit of excellence: “Raising the bar, we must make sure that each and every time we do something we do it better by getting an assessment and feedback. … The status quo is the enemy. It is not sufficient.”
Beyond fulfilling those objectives, Bynum said he’s on a definite time schedule.
“If I have my way, I will step down as president on June 30, 2027.” He then explained that the two extra years in his strategic plan would help his successor – the future 12th president – continue moving forward until that person develops his or her own vision.
For now, however, Bynum said he would begin JSU’s transformation through planning and prioritization based on ideas he learned during a recent visit to the Gates Foundation in Seattle. He outlined the following five goals to complement his pillars toward success:
- Goal No. 1: Students’ success. “It’s a mind-set, a mentality. The goal of college should not be just to get a degree. The goal of college should be to get an education for holistic development. We must treat that young person who is making an investment in himself or herself the same way we want our son or daughter treated.”
- Goal No. 2: Academic and research prominence. “I make no apologies for the status quo. And, I make no apologies for raising the bar and pushing things higher and higher. I will not accept minimalism. … We are a higher-research institution. And, for the rest of the world, that means something.” (Bynum added that he also would begin looking for solutions to reduce faculty load to allow more time for research and writing. He said he aims to make 15th-ranked JSU a Top 10 HBCU based on rankings in U.S. News & World Report. He seeks to benchmark JSU against other public research institutions such as University of Alabama-Birmingham, Georgia State University and Virginia Commonwealth University.
- Goal No. 3: Athletic prowess. “We want a return to the glory days of JSU Sports. We want to become one of the premier NCAA programs. With the recent induction of Robert (‘Dr. Doom’) Brazile, JSU has four NFL Hall of Famers. That puts us in the Top 15 of institutions in this country. … Student athletes at Historically Black Colleges and Universities graduate at a 13 percent higher rate than non-student athletes at HBCUs. An investment in athletics is an investment in our retention and graduation rates. … When we have winning programs in our revenue sports of football and basketball applications for admissions go up. This allows us to increase the size of our freshman class as well as the overall student body, which, of course, improves our bottom line. It also increases pride, retention and graduation rates on the campus. Winning leads to increased giving, not only to athletics but every aspect of the university.
- Goal No. 4: Campus aesthetics and sustainability. “Less than 10 percent of African-Americans graduating from high schools now select HBCUs for their higher education … and that number is shrinking every year. … There is a facilities race. … For JSU to be competitive, we must have nice things.” We don’t have the resources as other schools and can’t build as fast. … As we look at campus aesthetics, there are two major things we talk about – improving our retention and graduation rates. We need a higher percentage of our students residing on campus. Research show that those students who reside on campus are more likely to graduate, and they take a shorter time to graduate.” Furthermore, Bynum said, “We will grow toward downtown, thereby fulfilling our designation as Mississippi’s public urban research university. Our interest is to connect the campus to the downtown corridor.”
- Goal No. 5: Changing the culture and making sure our customer service is second to none. “We may not have the endowment or the financial resources as other schools, but there’s one thing we can do better than anybody, and that’s treating people the way they deserve to be treated. That doesn’t cost us anything or take away any value from us. We can outdo any institution in the way we nurture and care for our students.” Bynum also emphasized that JSU must be a pillar because “this community, city and state expect a lot from Jackson State University as a major anchor in West Jackson. … We must behave as a community resource and … do the same thing as other institutions. We’ve got to be initiators and go out and meet folks. … I expect deans to run their colleges and schools just like small universities … and make connective dots off campus and build partnerships.”
Aside from those goals, Bynum expressed optimism about continued future support from constituents. He especially thanked the JSU National Alumni Association for reaching its $1 million mark this year in financial giving to the HBCU.
Still, he said, “For a school our size, with our alumni base, we should be hitting between $4 million to $5 million a year.”
Bynum said the bottom line behind these goals is to emphasize the importance of education.
“JSU started as Natchez Seminary and was founded in 1877 for moral, religious and intellectual improvement. … This strong foundation is the reason I don’t worry about anything that happens here at Jackson State. I don’t worry about the finances; I don’t worry about anything we’re facing.”
Overall, he said, “We have an awesome duty and responsibility as a vessel by which we get to impart wisdom and knowledge on our young people. … Everybody is important. … We all can make a difference.”