Former Alcorn State University President Dr. M. Christopher Brown has been named provost and vice president for academic affairs of the Southern University System, a newly-created position.
“I had taken myself to the advisory and consulting role in HBCUs,” said Brown. “The more I read and heard about what President (Ray) Belton was trying to do, I said I wanted to help.”
Brown’s strategy as system provost will be three-fold, he said.
First, there will be a heavy focus on “retention and completion rates, because that has meaningful value to a few Federal indicators,” including financial aid eligibility and the new College Scorecard ratings.
Second, he intends to take an intentional “look at our recruitment map … and make sure that we are looking carefully at where our institutions are located across the state to make sure” the school is leveraging its program strengths to maximize recruitment.
Third, great attention will be paid to the academic offerings across the system’s schools to ensure “we [have] found synergy in the courses that we offer,” he said, pointing out the strength of Southern’s academic catalog as being the only HBCU to offer a degree in museum studies (SUNO), a law school that has the largest headcount enrollment of any HBCU in the country (“we beat North Carolina Central by only about eight students, but we’re number one,” he said laughing) and a newly-approved doctorate in social work program.
Despite the “murmurs” around the country about the state of affairs at the university, Brown said it is an “exciting moment in Southern University system’s history.”
“A lot of eyes are on Southern right now,” Brown said, adding that the school is “too big to fail” if the HBCU community as a whole is to succeed.
“There is a lot of churn, a lot of change, a lot of ambiguity [in the HBCU community], and the last thing you need is a churn in the community’s only system,” Brown said.