New Langston University president shares plans

Sunday, September 25th 2005, 12:16 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Expanding economic opportunities, increasing enrollment and boosting fund-raising top the agenda for new Langston University President JoAnn Haysbert.

``I say all the time that I'm not looking to do this by myself,'' she said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. ``I told the students that I want to come away with a joint vision.''

Haysbert, who has a doctorate in administration and supervision in higher education from Auburn University, succeeds Ernest Holloway, who retired after 25 years of service. Before accepting the Langston presidency, Haysbert was provost and chief operating officer of Hampton University in Hampton, Va.

Langston is the only historically black university in Oklahoma and has three campuses_ the main one in Langston and others in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Haysbert is the first woman president of the institution since its inception in 1897.

Oklahoma's only other female public university president is Cindy Ross, who is president of Cameron University in Lawton.

``I have been very well received,'' Haysbert said. ``Some of the students come by and say: Good morning, Madame President.''

Focusing on creating more jobs for Langston graduates is a priority, Haysbert said. She said she realizes many of the students who earn college degrees in Oklahoma often put them to use in other states.

Employment opportunities will increase with efforts to expand Langston's business community, Haysbert said.

``I want there to be jobs for them here as soon as they graduate,'' she said.

Haysbert also said she wants to concentrate on developing programs of distinction at the university's three campuses, rather than worry about other colleges duplicating Langston's courses.

A plan adopted by state regents in 1998 authorized Langston to offer a number of exclusive programs in Tulsa. A provision of the $500 million bond issue for higher education that was approved by the Oklahoma Legislature and signed by Gov. Brad Henry on March 31 called for regents to examine allowing expanded course offerings at other colleges in the Tulsa area.

Some lawmakers who opposed the provision feared Langston's Tulsa campus would be jeopardized if competing colleges expanded their offerings. Other lawmakers said Tulsa-area students are underserved and can't get the programs and degrees they need.

``We have to take a look at our programs in Tulsa and see what more we can offer,'' Haysbert said. ``You've got to cover your market and you just can't be a specialist in everything.''

By enhancing the university's programs, Haysbert hopes to raise more money for student scholarships and endowed professorships, she said.

``The scholarships are very important and to assume that you wouldn't raise as much money as possible for your strongest customer is unacceptable,'' she said.

Doubling enrollment at the Oklahoma City and Tulsa campuses and increasing enrollment by 10 percent on the main campus is another one of Haysbert's goals. Langston has an overall enrollment of 3,129 students, with 2,258 of that total on its main campus.

Langston has seen an increase in the number of credit hours being taken this fall. Students are enrolled in 25,647 credit hours, up by 11.8 percent from last year's 22,615, Deena Thomas, a Langston spokeswoman, said.

Haysbert said her greatest ambition is to help students develop good character.

``I want my students to take dignity in what they do_ not pride, because pride is a falsehood,'' she said. ``Getting a degree without obtaining values, leadership abilities and exemplary character is all for naught.''