Thursday, September 10, 2009

President Ammons Challenges the University to be Great

Florida A&M University (FAMU) President James H. Ammons delivered the state of the university address to a packed crowd with standing room only Jake Gaither Gymnasium for the first official convocation. His message was clear: “Dare to be Great.”

Larry Robinson, vice president for research, set the tone for the convocation by introducing Ammons.

Robinson mentioned that since Ammons’ arrival to FAMU, he has been successful in the reaffirmation of accreditation for the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and full-accreditation of the College of Law. He also noted that during his first year, FAMU received its first unqualified audit in three years from the Auditor General’ Office, and admitted students to a new doctoral program in physical therapy.

Ammons opened his address with a warm welcome to the university community, and reminded the audience of the many accomplishments that have taken place at FAMU since his arrival in 2007 – restoring the public’s faith; rectifying business processes; completing the process for SACS accreditation; the start of the new Veterinarian Technology program; and student achievement across campus.

“But, truthfully, these were all fleeting headlines – merely mementoes in the big scheme of things,” Ammons said.

Ammons used four fading magazine covers that hang proudly in Lee Hall, which featured some of FAMU’s greatest achievements as an example. Each of those magazine covers were once bright, fresh, new and chronicled a time when FAMU conquered new territory.

“But, the stark reality is these images are fading and it’s time for a new era of greatness,” Ammons said. “ New trends in higher education are impacting the rankings that once made FAMU a leader.”

Ammons said that FAMU must adjust to meet the needs of a new generation, or like the images, FAMU will fade. In order to do that, FAMU must become concerned with the preservation process — those things that will sustain the institution over time.

“If we are concerned with the substance of preserving excellence in all things at the University, then it will stimulate progress in times such as these,” Ammons said. “It is time for FAMU to awake from the comfort of her great past and lead.”

Ammons urged faculty to use the “Stimulus Fund” link provided on the main page of the FAMU website to obtain funds to deliver additional services and programs that can sustain and preserve our vision of being a premier university. According to Ammons, this cannot happen if faculty and the administration do not collaborate and compete.

He also thanked President Barack Obama, Florida Governor Charlie Crist and the state legislature for providing FAMU with $8 million.

Ammons also mentioned U.S. healthcare reform and the absence of minority voices. He urged and challenged the FAMU School of Allied Health Sciences to inform the community about the issue.

“Hold campus forums on this issue, challenge your peers at other HBCUs to do the same, invite scholars from this campus and this community to speak,” he said. “Draft your solutions and text, tweet, or email them to elected officials here, in your hometowns, and in Washington. Remember, we must be the change we want to see. Likewise, rather than ranting and raving, our forum must be the voices of change that we want to hear!”

According to Ammons, strengthening the academic core values, and increasing our scholarship and research while inspiring students to become the change agents that the world needs and will stimulate and preserve FAMU’s greatness. His vision is to make FAMU one of the nation premier doctoral research institutions.

To do his part, Ammons said he will work to improve the student experience; develop distance-learning programs; increase private and research dollars; partner with major corporations; promote the university internationally; develop a School of Dentistry; and embark on a rigorous fundraiser for FAMU athletics.

Ammons asked the audience to review the updated FAMU strategic plan – which covers the next decade, 2020, with a long-range view to 2050 – and provide feedback. According to Ammons, the plan discusses how FAMU will create a 21st century living and learning community that produces global leaders and change agents. It also provides strategies for attaining excellence in processes and procedures; focuses on FAMU’s need to be efficient and effective in the management of fiscal resources; and promotes internationalism and inclusiveness.

Ammons also made sure the packed gym knew of the potential threat posed by the H1N1influenza virus. Ammons said that FAMU will provide regular updates and preventive measures on the campus website that students can access from the home page.

Ammons closed with words from the late Sen. Edward “Teddy” Kennedy: “The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dreams shall never die.”

Gaither gym roared with excitement in response to Ammons words.

Following the keynote address, Robinson introduced the FAMU community to its new professors. Julian White, Ph.D. introduced the Marching “100” and the “Presidential Ten” drum majors. Joe Taylor, head football coach, introduced the coaching staff and the Rattler Football team to the university community. The convocation concluded with the singing of the alma mater.

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