GRAMBLING, La. ― Willie Larkin, newly named president of Grambling State University, said he is listening to the Grambling faithful and he hears them saying one thing: “We want our university to be great again.”
Larkin said the united message is directed at all areas ― academics, athletics and community relationships.
“We need to have balance,” he told The News-Star Editorial Board on Wednesday. “If we have balance, we will be able to advance the mission and goals of the university.”
For the university to be successful, Larkin said he has to convince people to believe in Grambling again.
“I have to win people over. I have to help build or regain the confidence of the Grambling faithful,” he said. “I want to convince the state, including the Legislature, that Grambling State University can be a player in economic development.”
Larkin also addressed the Louisiana State Board of Nursing’s decision to revoke the approval of the school’s undergraduate nursing program, saying, “We can’t be embarrassed like that again.”
“Anytime you lose an anchor program, you take a big hit,” he said. “We have to face that reality. We have to give it some time. I still think that Grambling State … needs to have a nursing program. We can be good again at that. And at the appropriate time, I will marshal the resources and work with the right people to get that program reinstated at the university.”
Larkin also announced a significant opportunity for the GSU Tiger Marching Band.
When the football team opens its upcoming season at the University of California, Berkeley, the band will have the opportunity to play at Apple’s corporate headquarters.
The state has to be a champion of higher education, he said.
“If you have border states that are doing more for their universities, they’re beating you,” he said. “We can’t give [students] a reason to leave. We have to give them a reason to stay.”
Larkin said providing a high-quality education is critical in retaining Louisiana students.