South Carolina State University plans to develop an enhanced fundraising strategy, review university-wide policies and increase research and grant proposal submissions during the next quarter.
“We've got to really get down into a study and see what other universities are doing. See what's working, see what's not working. We must always ensure that we're providing our students the same opportunities,” S.C. State President Alexander Conyers said during a recent meeting of the university board of trustees held at the 1890 Research and Extension Coastal Regional Research & Education Center in Charleston.
Conyers said he’d like for the university to increase its research and grant proposal submissions.
“We need additional faculty and staff to help with that, but I know there's great success. The money that we spend on new faculty or a grant writer to do this will be well invested,” he said.
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Conyers said the university is continuing its review of university-wide processes, procedures and policies.
“We should be wrapping up with the IT piece of that. Just what we did with IT, I need that deep look across the university. Many of our systems aren't talking to each other. Many of our policies are outdated. We know we certainly need to be updated. So I'm looking forward to that," he said.
He said the review of the university's policies and procedures would require a consultant and that the timeline for the completion of the work has not yet been set.
“We're going to hire someone to come in and take a look at that for us. Then once we get that contract, we'll have a timeline. We know that internally we can't do it. We're too tied to it. ... So we're looking for a consultant,” the president said.
A consultant has completed a review of academic programs, Conyers said.
“Now we need to move on to the next level of getting that to the faculty, to the Senate so that we can get back to the board what our recommendations will be,” he said.
He’s looking to hire a new athletics director and vice president for strategic initiatives and alliances.
\Keisha Campbell is serving as acting athletics director.
“I will be advertising hopefully within the next week or so for a new athletic director. That's huge. Ms. Campbell will not compete for that position,” Conyers said. She will remain at the university.
The vice president for strategic initiatives and alliances position is a critical one, Conyers said.
“It is so key to all the things that we're doing. Every day we get 10 or 15 great ideas from across the country, ... but we need someone that's dedicated to getting all of those initiatives” together to decide whether they’re good for the university or not, he said.
“Every opportunity that we get offered may not be good for South Carolina State University,” Conyers said.
The person in that position would also be tapped to sit “on high-level boards across the state,” he said.
Conyers said the university must also be more aggressive in seeking out funds.
“We're currently in the receive mode. We can receive money if folks wake up and say, ‘Hey, I want to donate to South Carolina State University.’ We can take that money, but we're not doing enough of going out and soliciting money and making these presentations to corporations, to individuals,” he said.
He continued, “So as we gear up for that, within the next quarter we’ll hire a major gifts officer, as well as a planned gifts officer” before ultimately developing a “true fundraising strategy and not just receive funds.”
Conyers said a call center staffed with volunteer students and alumni will be brought back.
“We did away with that. So I will reestablish that call center maybe in January so that we are fully prepared as we continue to really increase our fundraising capacity. So I'm looking forward to that, as well as establishing a training room for mandated training,” he said, including training in such areas as equal opportunity, customer service and sexual harassment.
“There's lots of training that we need to consolidate. What I'm finding is some of our employees have been here many years, but we must continue with this annual mandated training, and we must have a place that everyone knows, ‘Here is our training room,’ and then we set up the schedule. There's so many different types of training that we need,” he said.
Developing the university's 2023-2024 strategic plan and continuing its master plan review are among the president's other priorities heading into the new year.
He is also focused on talent management.
“We'll look across the board to ensure that we have the right people in the right places. If not, is it training that we need? Do we need to flip flop positions? Whatever it takes, we need to make sure we've got the right directors leading those 40 to 50 directors across the university," Conyers said.
He is also looking at bringing a “Taking the Pentagon to the People” program to the university.
“As we talk South Carolina State, we always talk about our ROTC program and our contributions to the Department of Defense, but there's so many other opportunities in the federal government outside of those students who serve in our military.
“We know most of our students won't serve. So there's a program called ‘Taking the Pentagon to the People,’ where they will come out to underrepresented communities and universities and explain all of the different federal opportunities for students (such as internships), as well as faculty and staff,” Conyers said.
He also plans to reassess the value of the university's presence at the University Center of Greenville site, which was established to bring bachelor’s completion and graduate degree programs from many of the state’s universities to the greater Greenville area.
“I'm not sure at this point we're getting our money's worth out of what we pay for that space,” Conyers said.
The center offers a variety of programs from several universities.
“We can't go in and offer the same thing that every other university is offering, especially when they've got the better name recognition in that area,” the president said.
He continued, “So perhaps what we're looking at ... is certification in that area, to use the Greenville Center for certifications for the industry in that area. It could be anything from hospitality certifications to some type of courses as implicit biases that police forces may send their officers to.”
“We've got to figure out what we can do in the Greenville Center where we're going to really put butts in seats. We don't need the Greenville Center to do online education," he said.
The university will have to do something different, he said.
“Obviously, when it comes to enrolling students, we will get a better bang for the buck with our presence being closer to Orangeburg, such as Fort Jackson, Shaw Air Force Base. With the Greenville Center, there's just so much competition with the other universities in that area,” Conyers said.
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