Dr. Daniel K. Wims returned to his alma mater of Fort Valley State University two years ago in a reversal of roles in which a young administrator is now helping to steer the campus to new programs to meet an old mission.
When Wims became Fort Valley’s executive vice president and vice president of academic affairs he inherited a staff of veteran deans, department chairs and faculty, some of whom were his professors when he was a 1987 cum laude graduate with a degree in agronomy.
Returning to his academic home means the staff knows of “my love and respect for Fort Valley, and they knew I would be accountable and a good steward of the university’s resources,” says Wims, 44. But that connection, he cautions, does not diminish the leadership challenge of winning them over with a degree of respect and accountability because many of them have been at Fort Valley for three decades or more.
Wims has laid out a vision for lifting Fort Valley’s status in academic circles. “I want us to have quality master’s and doctorate degree programs and at some point, in the near future, expand our curriculum offerings and the number of the colleges and departments that we currently have commensurate with our student growth.” Executing lofty goals in a climate of tight finances, he says, means tapping other resources such as grants, contracts and gifts.
The university has already expanded several programs in the College of Education to include new undergraduate degrees in agricultural education, middle grades, early childhood and special education. Other new programs include three master’s degree programs in biotechnology. Fort Valley also was recently approved to offer several online programs to include undergraduate degrees in criminal justice, political science and psychology.
The university also hopes to offer a doctorate program in educational leadership in collaboration with a sister school in the University System of Georgia within a year, and within the next two years offer a doctorate degree in one of the agricultural sciences.
In graduate school at The Ohio State University and the University of Maryland, College Park, Wims had other aspirations but his career unexpectedly steered him to academics. While Wims’ career path to academics was unexpected, his choice of education as a profession was easy to predict. He comes from a family of educators in his native Lumpkin, Ga., a farming community in south Georgia.
As a relatively young vice president, Wims says he identifies with the challenges faced by the 3,200 Fort Valley students who are half his age.
“I have slept where they sleep; I have eaten the food they eat; and I’ve had some of the same professors they have,” he says. “Therefore, I have a unique knowledge of the culture on this campus.”
Those experiences along with his age allow him to speak candidly to students and be critical yet uplifting to encourage them against excessive tattoos, drug and alcohol abuse and Internet postings that may hurt their future careers.
Wims says his career goal is set for him to continue as Fort Valley’s chief academic officer in the immediate future. “I will entertain opportunities for a presidency in the distant future; however, that is not my focus at this time.”
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