Staton shows path forward at VSU Convocation

| August 12, 2015

Valdosta State

Chip Harp, Valdosta Today News

VALDOSTA —  Dr. Cecil Staton, Interim President of Valdosta State University, led the convocation kicking off the new school year on Monday at Whitehead Auditorium.

Staton steps into a school in transition that has seen decreasing enrollment, on-campus turmoil, and questions in management that led to the former president leaving office.  The standing-room-only crowd gathered were anxious to hear Stanton’s plans for a university suffering through dropping enrollment, budget cuts, layoffs, and campus unrest.

Staton laid out a plan to see improvement in school marketing and recruitment efforts to attract more core, or traditional students to the school.  This includes the University of Georgia Board of Regents approving a plan to allow in-state tuition for students from any of the contiguous states bordering Georgia.  Many believe the school has not done an effective job in marketing itself to potential students as other state schools, such as Kennesaw State and Georgia Southern have increased enrollment and visibility.  Freshmen enrollment at VSU is down 10% this fall.

Staton introduced an example of the marketing plan, developed with higher education marketing professionals, to better highlight what a “hidden gem” VSU is to the state and region.  Or, as the video concludes, VSYou. Here are two examples:

“Our campaign will focus upon the wonderful history of this institution, its beauty both physically and in the people who come here, and how the fabric of our life together on this campus allows students to discover who they are and who they are meant to be as agents of positive change for their families, their communities, and the world,” Staton stated in his address.

In the past, nearly half of the school’s student body has come from metro Atlanta.  Though they will continue to be an important part of the school student body, competition from schools which have grown in stature and resources now challenge that source.

In reference to the on-campus issues which have plagued the school in the past months, shining a negative light on both the student body and school as a whole, Stanton placed renewed emphasis on the Blazer Creed of civility, integrity, and citizenship.

“As classes begin this fall, you will see on this campus a renewed emphasis upon the Blazer Creed,” Stanton stated. “I want to ask you to keep a copy of it on your desks and talk about it on the first day of all of your classes and at other appropriate moments throughout the year when tensions rise. Let’s remind our students and each other that this is at the heart of what a university is, that VSU embraces these core values, and that we can discuss any idea, issue, challenge, problem, passion with civility. To do otherwise runs the risk of taking the spotlight off of the issue we care so deeply about and turning the spotlight on methods, or poor decisions, which allow the issue we care about to be lost from view.”

In positive news, Staton highlighted the success of the VSU Foundation.  As a result of the success of the fundraising effort to date, the original goal of $43,250,000 over five years has been increased to $53,250,000.  Due in large part to an enormous gift from the family of VSU physics professor Dr. Brantley Jenkins, the school has already received over $37,000,000 in gifts and pledges.  However, Stanton believes this is only the beginning for the school.

“We continue to identify and cultivate major gift donors,” he stated. “While our success has been heartening, there is much work to be done. We will continue solicitations for the campaign through July of 2019, but the results of Invest. Ignite. Inspire. will be felt long after that date.”

In conclusion, Staton encouraged the school faculty and staff, just recently notified of job cuts and the elimination of positions, to embrace their role in making the university what it is.

“This is a great university, and I am proud to be here. Valdosta State is what it is because you are here. Valdosta State plus you — your talents, skills, passions, your good will, loyalty, and commitments — is what makes us VSU. Please join me today in recommitting yourself to this great university, but more importantly to the success of our students. They are why we are here! In them we help shape the future of our region and even the world. In them we continue the promise of higher education and its ability to change lives. Let’s have a great year.”

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