Rankins selected as Alcorn State president
Published 12:01 am Wednesday, March 5, 2014
NATCHEZ — Alfred Rankins Jr. was named Tuesday as the 19th president of Alcorn State University.
The Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning announced the unanimous decision at a press conference at the university’s Lorman campus following a day of interviews with various constituency groups.
“I look forward to working with the ASU family to build a university that is a shining example of how to be student focused, supportive of faculty, responsive to the needs of business and a source of pride for all alumni,” Rankins said. “I look forward to coming back to campus and serving this great institution.”
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Rankins, who was serving as the deputy commissioner of academic affairs and student affairs for IHL, is an Alcorn alumnus and served for a year as interim president of Mississippi Valley State University.
C.D. Smith, IHL trustee and chair of the Alcorn State University Board Search Committee, said Rankins is well prepared to serve at Alcorn.
“He is an Alcorn alumnus and has a background in academics and agriculture,” Smith said. “We know that he loves his alma mater and have full confidence he will do great things for Alcorn State University.”
Earlier in the day, Rankins visited with Alcorn State faculty, staff, students and alumni at the Natchez campus in the graduate school of business auditorium.
Rankins spoke about the importance the Natchez campus played in the university’s overall mission.
“I often hear faculty and staff and students that reside on campuses other than the main campus that feel like sometimes they’re neglected and their voices are not heard,” Rankins said. “But I know there are 500 students here on this campus at Natchez, and I also know this campus produces more undergraduate majors in nursing than any other major we offer at Alcorn State University, so I think that makes the Natchez campus a little special.
“If I’m selected president, I’ll make sure this campus and this community does not feel neglected.”
Rankins shared a few of his top goals for the university, which include academic support for students, quality customer service and quality academic programs.
“In order for us to recruit and graduate more students, we have to be competitive,” he said. “We have to compete for our students, because they don’t have to attend Alcorn State University.”
Rankins also said the university needed to be a leader in economic development for southwest Mississippi and partner with local industry and public schools.
“We have to be responsible at Alcorn to work with local communities to attract new industry, new jobs and play our part in improving the quality of life for the citizens in this region,” he said. “And a big part of economic development is quality public schools, because after available workforce, the second question that potential industry asks is what are the public schools like?
“And we have a responsibility and obligation to play our part at Alcorn State University.”
Rankins entertained questions from the audience of nearly 30 attendees including Debbie McDonough, from the school of nursing at the Natchez campus.
McDonough asked Rankins to comment on the university’s commitment to diversity for the university.
“Our doors are open to everybody,” Rankins said. “I think we have a tremendous opportunity here in Natchez and our campus in Vicksburg to serve non-traditional students that are place bound because of work or family responsibilities because diversity is not just tied to race.
“Diversity includes all types of different students.”
Darlene Jones, who is student services coordinator, told Rankins she often has trouble communicating with the main campus at Lorman and asked him what he would do as president to help bridge the gap between the two campuses.
“You’ve struck a nerve there with me, because I don’t have any tolerance for people not answering phones and not following up,” Rankins said. “Customer service is paramount, and we’re not going to lose a student because people are not answering the phone.”
Before Rankins headed to Lorman for more interviews with constituency groups, he assured the group of his commitment.
“I want to assure the people in this community that I’m a man of my word,” Rankins said. “I understand how vital this campus is to this community, and I’m going to be the type of leader that takes Alcorn State University and this campus to the next level.”
The search process for a new president came after former president M. Christopher Brown II resigned in December. Brown stepped down as the board moved to suspend him during an investigation into purchasing violations.
Records show Alcorn spent almost $89,000 on furniture and renovations at the president’s house without seeking bids as required under state law. Documents also show Alcorn paid $85,000 in fees to a concert production company associated with a Brown aide, possibly violating state ethics laws. And an auditor says the school spent more than $67,000 in bond money on projects not allowed in the lending agreement.
Norris Edney, a former interim president of Alcorn and Natchez-Adams School District Board of Trustee chairman, has been serving as acting president since Brown resigned. According to board policy, the acting president is not eligible to apply for the permanent position.
Alcorn’s main campus is located in Lorman, with satellite campuses in Natchez and Vicksburg. The historically black university is fully accredited with seven schools and degree programs in more than 50 areas, including a nursing program.