{mosimage}Dr. James Anderson, the new chancellor at Fayetteville State University is the right man at the right time to lead FSU into the 21st century.
    Coming off a tumultuous year at FSU that included the much publicized nursing school brouhaha, Anderson, 59, wants to restore order, raise admission standards, and, most importantly, make FSU more competitive and attractive to students.
    “We have to not only emphasize recruitment, but on top of that, retention and graduation. It hurts an institution when it lowers its standards,” Anderson said. “Now, I didn’t get into why that happened. What I have tried to say since I’ve been here is when you lower your standards you begin to lose your competitive edge. It’s very hard to argue that you’re a great institution when you’re lowering your admissions standards.
“So we’ve bumped those up some and they will continue to gradually move up,” Anderson said. “But we are not an institution of choice, meaning when students think about their first choice, many of them don’t think about Fayetteville State University. For many of them, we are their default institution. We want to change that; we want to be able to go after some of the best and brightest in North Carolina, who either leave the state or go to other schools here. We want to be able to offer the competitive scholarships that attract them.”
    In order to attract “the best and the brightest,” Anderson says the school needs to recruit star students, just as athletes are recruited. He also says the business of recruiting should not be left solely to the admissions office, but should also include the faculty.
    “We want to have faculty involved in student recruitment, to have faculty to begin to contact students in their junior year in high school or get them to come here for various kinds of summer initiatives, etc.,” Anderson said. “When they begin to see you early on, they begin to develop more of an affinity for you, they begin to see how serious we are about wanting them here.”
    As part of his recruitment strategy, Anderson wants to add more diversity to the student body, recruiting more Hispanic and international students. And he says he especially wants to attract more black males to FSU — a commodity that is sorely lacking not only at FSU, but across the nation as a whole.
    Anderson has a hard won advantage over most university presidents or chancellors in the recruitment of black males — he can relate to black males because he’s “real.”
    Anderson was born out of wedlock in a Washington, D.C., hospital. His mother’s family forced her to leave the infant at the hospital and he didn’t see her again until six years ago.
He lived the wild life, surviving and hustling on the hard streets of D.C., getting in and out of trouble. But he was saved by the discipline of a Catholic classroom and the stern, no-nonsense guidance of the schools’ angels in black and white.
    “I got in lots of trouble, and yet I always did well in school,” Anderson said. “The nuns saw something in me and just always pressed me to do well. In high school I was a big high school basketball player, but I always put academics first.”
    After leaving high school, Anderson attended Villanova University — where he remains a member of the board of trustees — and then to Cornell, where he earned his Ph.D. in psychology under his first true mentor, Wade Boykin — the first African-American faculty member at Cornell in the psychology department. Anderson was the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. in Boykin’s program.
    After having spent most of his academic life at all-white or predominantly white schools, Anderson decided that for his next gig, he wanted to experience a traditionally African-American college, so he chose to teach at Xavier University in New Orleans.
    Anderson left Xavier for Indiana University in Pennsylvania, where another mentor, Hilda Richards, suggested he get into administration.
    “She said, ‘James I know you love teaching, you’re rated as one of our best instructors on campus ... our students love you ... but I think you would make a great administrator,” Anderson said. “She said a line I will never forget: ‘You can change a few lives of students in a classroom, but you can change the whole university if you run it.’”
    And thus began his quest to lead a university as a president or chancellor. His journey to that destination took him to the University of Richmond in Virginia; N.C. State, where the school created a brand new position for him — the dean of undergraduate studies; Texas A&M, where he served under then-President Robert Gates, who is now President Bush’s secretary of defense; and finally, he went to work at Albany State University.
    Shortly after starting his job at Albany State he learned about the opening for a chancellor at FSU.
“I finally made the decision that I wanted to be a chancellor,” Anderson said. “I only applied to two places and this one came through.
    “A couple of things pulled me to FSU,” he added. “First and foremost, my respect and admiration for the University of North Carolina system, which I consider the best in the country. When I came down for my visit I really felt a couple of things: one, that there was very good student leadership here, and that if people were given the chance to be creative, to be innovative, they would. I knew there was a little troubled time here preceding that search, so we had to recast the image of the university in a more positive light. The board seemed very inspired in that they really wanted to find someone that was a good match. A lot of the stars aligned at the same time.”
    After a long search, Anderson, who has a wife and three daughters, says FSU is his last job ... that he will be here until he retires.
    Anderson says implementing the changes he’s seeking won’t be easy. He says that some of the “old guard” may resent the recruitment of different races at a traditionally African-American school — though he says that at one time, FSU’s student body was 33 percent white  — he says that some alumni may balk at the fund-raising he says is necessary to implement some of the technological initiatives needed to make sure FSU students remain competitive when they venture into the work place.{mosimage}
    “The fund-raising effort at Fayetteville State may appear to have been sufficient in some ways, but for the things we want to do, the creative initiatives, the things we want, we have nowhere near the resource support,” Anderson said. “So we’ll have to do fund-raising, which entails having alumni increase their gift giving rate, which is very low. I don’t understand why 25 percent of the alumni can’t give $50 each year. See, people always think you’re asking for $100,000 or $50,000, etc. If $50 is all you can give, that’s fine. But I would like to be able to say one day that 25 percent of our alumni give, which is pretty good considering the national average is around 19 percent.”
    Anderson insists that when it comes to recruiting students, fund-raising and pushing his initiatives, he will never take a back seat.
    “I will lead the push for more money. I will lead this school in the pursuit of new technology. I will recruit  prize students, even if it means hopping on a plane at my own expense and flying across the country.”
    The right man. The right time. The right job.

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