After a seven-year hiatus, JSU’s new interim provost Dr. Alisa Mosley returns to the urban campus just as the institution undergoes a rigorous reaccreditation process and amid a pandemic that has halted business as usual. But she’s ready for the challenge.
Mosley, who began her new role on June 1 is also Jackson State University’s vice president for Academic Affairs. She left Mississippi’s urban HBCU in 2013 to begin working at Tennessee State University, where she served as the interim vice president for Academic Affairs. “At this point in the university’s history, I felt I could make an impact at Jackson State,” she said.
“I thank JSU President (Thomas) Hudson for providing this awesome opportunity. I’m glad to be back and glad to see everybody, who all have been so kind. It’s surreal to be sitting in this seat because I was fortunate to benefit from those who sat here before me.” Among her influential predecessors included Dr. Beverly Foster and Dr. Felix Okojie.A native of Muskogee, Oklahoma, Mosley was raised in Fort Worth, Texas. All of her academic degrees are in business. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s from Florida A&M University and her doctorate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She acknowledges that she’s not a JSU alum; however, she said she’s “passionate” about JSU’s mission – not to mention she’s been a football season ticketholder since 1998.
Moreover, she describes herself as a “very engaging person with a high need to know when it comes to details. I ask a lot of questions. I’m a researcher who likes to find answers unobtrusively, but I do believe in talking to people to get a lot of information. I’m a collaborator who loves to work with people and hear their ideas.”
Mosley also acknowledges that her higher education experience has taught her that “you don’t have all the answers, and students have shown me over the years that there’s more than one way to get to the same solution.”
She said that is true of students at JSU and TSU, where she had worked with JSU alum Dr. Mark G. Hardy (former JSU provost) when he subsequently became Tennessee’s vice president for Academic Affairs. Mosley said both HBCUs are similar “pound for pound,” with each accredited by the same regional body, offering degrees up to the doctoral levels and serving similar quality students.
“There are things I took from Jackson State to TSU and put into place. And, there are things that I hope to take from TSU and bring to Jackson State,” said Mosley, celebrating her return to the Magnolia state. She said she learned a “tremendous amount” during her first stint at JSU and expects to continue engaging with students who will help shape the future of the city, state, nation and the world.FOR now, that future includes some uncertainties for all U.S. academic institutions as COVID-19 dominates the headlines and upends their operations.
“One of the impacts of the pandemic is that everything is off the table. This is happening to us in real time. I’m interested in ways the HBCU has addressed it. I think we can offer a unique perspective. There are opportunities and challenges. I hope we’re at the forefront because we’re surrounded by people in our communities looking for answers to very important questions. We can be of valuable service to them.”Despite the current challenges “we’re still planning for the fall semester; we have a good roadmap.” — Dr. Alisa Mosley, interim provostMosley said the changed climate in the world today, and especially at JSU, means more online offerings and a “reinvention of oneself.” She continued, “Our challenge is to mimic some of the things that we love about HBCUs in an online format. We have to be malleable. For example, every time an alum or student needs something we must be sure they think of JSU first – whether they’re trying to get an additional credential or anything else on their continuous lifelong learning path.”
As she settles into her new role, Mosley said despite the current challenges “we’re still planning for the fall semester; we have a good roadmap.” In fact, she plans to partner with Student Affairs, Enrollment Management, IT and others to make sure JSU is doing everything to support its online degree infrastructure.
Her goals also align with the university’s ongoing efforts to renew its accreditation standards through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Mosley is quite familiar with the strict process, and she emphasizes that everyone can play a small role.
“The hook is being able to tell our stories through documentation. While some universities take an organic approach to telling their stories, others are so busy that they don’t always show the wonderful things that occur. This is our shot to talk about those efforts. But, it’s a collaborative process. This is not just an academic endeavor. This is all hands on deck.”
With a SASCOC report due this fall, Mosley invites the entire campus to join the various webinars that are now available. She said the online trainings and informational series can contribute to a successful accreditation by revving up people’s interest to share JSU’s story.HER other plan for JSU is to continue encouraging and measuring professional development and student success – benchmarks that proved worthwhile when she served as JSU’s director of the Center for University Scholars.
By enhancing these areas, she said she expects to learn more about the professors, their research and be able to provide support to help “early-career faculty” earn promotions. “Some things might have changed over the years, but our commitment to faculty has not. We will capitalize on and build on our work with faculty while also making sure they know we’re concerned about their health and safety just as much as we are with our students. We know faculty have in their hearts to do well and get promoted. Because of the pandemic, we will make adjustments to ease some pressures.”“Some things might have changed over the years, but our commitment to faculty has not. We will capitalize on and build on our work with faculty while also making sure they know we’re concerned about their health and safety just as much as we are with our students.” — Dr. Alisa MosleySince entering higher education years ago, Mosley has dedicated her life to creating opportunities for students and her professional colleagues. Well before then, however, her original intent was to pursue a STEM career because math and science fascinated her. But then she chose to study business because the allure of organizational dynamics sparked an interest in HR.
Everything changed, though, when a professor steered her in another direction. Because of that influence, Mosley would soon discover that she could be more impactful as an administrator. Before, she had relished her role as an academic researcher who loved the classroom and her students.
Nevertheless, the leadership role meant that her life would become even more hectic. Still, she adroitly juggled her professional, social and spiritual lives. Although satisfying, her busy work duties meant little sleep. Yet, she made time for worship. “I’m a spiritual person,” she said, and Mosley credits her faith with helping her navigate tough challenges.
Especially, she leans on Isaiah 40:28 – a scripture that she said reminds believers that God is the ultimate source of power and understanding. “When I have to do something hard in higher education I depend on God to increase my strength. Then, you can get through anything. I read that scripture in the mornings, and it has been a comfort for me when it seems everything is closing in on me. It really helps me keep a positive attitude at all times. And, sometimes, the best experiences and relationships may be during times of challenges.”IN addition to her daily meditation, Mosley – the youngest of two sisters – credits her mother and father for keeping her grounded. She said her parents didn’t work in academia, but they held management positions. They are the top influencers who molded her leadership skills.
Beyond that, Mosley is constantly seeking wisdom. As a voracious reader, she gleans knowledge from various authors. She cites the literary writings of Karine Jean-Pierre (“Moving Forward”); Verna Brown (“Something Fishy”); Joy-Ann Reid (“The Man Who Sold America: Trump and the Unraveling of the American Story”) and Stacy Abrams (“Lead From The Outside”).
Mosley said these writers, like her predecessors, have inspired her. Yet, despite all her accomplishments, she reflects on the words of another person who sat in the seat she now occupies.
“Dr. Evelyn Leggette used to say, ‘We have all these degrees, but, at the end of the day, what will you be known for? What kind of person were we when we came through here?’ I try to maintain my humanity. There’s no better way to do that than to go a family gathering and hear somebody say, ‘Hey, you’re on duty to wash dishes, or it’s your turn to make the potato salad.’ That’s a level set,” Mosley said. “That’s when you truly know that we’re all equal that day.”