September 3, 2015
The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
The opening of school always brings a renewed sense of fresh beginnings and infinite possibility. It makes one wonder again what it means, in the words of Seamus Heaney, to "begin again.” We are excited to welcome new members to our College family - students, faculty, and staff.
While, not new to our College family, Dr. Asoka Srinivasan joins us this academic year as the Interim Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs. He has served the College for more than forty years as a professor, researcher, department chair, and director of our successful Undergraduate Training Center, Jackson Heart Study Program. He brings relevant administrative and academic skills, institutional knowledge, and a collegial spirit and commitment to our mission. The transition has been seamless, as we continue to send good wishes to Dr. Bettye Parker Smith in the retirement phase of her stellar career in higher education.
We are pleased to add thirty new presidential scholars to our student body. They are already integrating into college life and settling comfortably into their new home. We have a very engaged group of students and parents. Our parents have already taken the initiative to organize a Parents Club, to be ambassadors for the College and help us to help their sons and daughters cross the finish line to complete their college education without interruption.
We experienced a busy and productive summer. Aside from summer school, we engaged with our alumni at various networking/fundraising events. In June, we joined the Chicago Tougaloo Alumni Chapter for its golf tournament, an event that is a growing attraction for alumni and friends in that area. In July, we joined the Washington Area Tougaloo Alumni Chapter for its annual Mississippi on the Potomac, a weekend of golf, picnic in the park and the Sunday Jazz Brunch. In August, we joined the Houston Tougaloo Alumni Chapter for its 23rd Annual Night of Jazz. These alumni events not only serve to generate funds to support student scholarships but provide great venues to expand our circle of friends and showcase the historic Tougaloo College.
Renovations and technological upgrades were made to a number of our dormitories, classrooms and computer labs, enhancing the aesthetics and functionality of our buildings. We are focusing on the interior redesign of the L. Zenobia Coleman Library to transform it into a more twenty-first century learning center with interactive spaces for teaching and learning. In addition to creating access to high quality collections in both print and digital forms, we are redesigning our existing spaces to allow for active learning and engagement, as well as study and research. We have installed computer banks in the redesigned area on the first floor with about sixty-four (64) Dell and Macintosh computers, including attractive and comfortable furniture. What a delightful experience to walk in and actually see students studying and doing research in the Library! The Call Center has been installed in the Alumni House and a staff person has been hired to coordinate the operations. We expect to impact fundraising and recruitment efforts with this additional infrastructure support. Expect to receive a call from us soon.
In our competitive environment of higher education, we are even more intentionally focused on recruitment and retention. Overall, our retention rate of 78% places the College in the ranks of the top ten HBCUs with the highest retention rates but we are striving to do much better. Hence, we launched the return of the Destination Graduation Program, which allows us to pair our first-year students with a mentor. We invite you, especially alumni, to join us as a mentor to one of our students. You may contact Gloria Watson, director of the Student Success Center, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 977-7763 for more information.
We are also taking a much more assertive role to market our land held for investment. We have formed a special task force, spearheaded by alumnus Pieter Teeuwissen, to aid us in our efforts. We have done a highest and best use study and are using the study to determine the best strategies for developing our land. We recently entered into an agreement with P360 Powered by Mississippi Crossfit, LLC to construct a Sports Training Facility Complex on a small parcel of our land. Our students will have access to use the facilities for exercise and training. As well, we will hold our home baseball games on the turf fields that are currently under construction. We believe this partnership will open the doors to other community and economic development opportunities.
The 2015 Founders’ Week Observance will take place October 12-18, 2015. The Founders’ Convocation is scheduled for Sunday, October 18th at 10:00 a.m. in Woodworth Chapel, and the speaker is the Honorable Geraldine Hines, alumna - class of 1968, who serves as an Associate Justice with the Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts. The following week on Thursday, October 22nd, Angela Davis will be our guest Presidential Lecturer at 6:00 p.m. in Woodworth Chapel. Please make plans to join us for these two exciting occasions.
Tougaloo College was again listed among the top best liberal arts colleges by the Washington Monthly’s 2015 report. Tougaloo is the leading HBCU on the list (#22 on a list of 100), as well as the leading Mississippi institution. Tougaloo was also listed #10 among the colleges with the “Best Bang for the Bucks” in this same report, and #10 among the best HBCUs in the nation in the 2015 Best Colleges.com report. Our national rankings continue to place us among the top performing institutions with much greater resources.
Like many institutions today, however, we face significant challenges as we strive for continuous improvement. With resilience and confidence, we will act, mindfully and intentionally – to adapt where we need to and change our practices where circumstances warrant. Yet, we will remain steadfast in amplifying what makes Tougaloo College an essential and irreplaceable contributor to our nation’s progress and global democracy.
Our aim is indeed to be a place of excellence, relevance, and influence, the place that creates the future and leads the change for a better world. Your support advances our progress, and for that, we are grateful.