Florida A&M University faculty, students and alumni met with Thelma B. Thompson in the first of a three-day interview process with the FAMU presidential search finalists.
Thompson, the current president of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, is one of three finalists in the search.
The interviews sponsored by the FAMU Presidential Search Committee allotted time for Thompson to address questions and concerns from the audience.
During the closed luncheon for FAMU students, Thompson began the forum by personally greeting each student in attendance.
Thompson, who holds a doctorate in English literature from Howard University, explained her plans if selected for presidency.
“I will come (to the university) with an open heart, ready to work hard,” Thompson said. “Students are my heart and academics are my head, so the school has my heart and head.”
Thompson said she plans to raise FAMU enrollment and retention rates, add a broader curriculum and better manage the university’s fiscal expenditures.
“I am committed to fundraising and to increasing enrollment with time,” Thompson said. “The university needs to take fiscal responsibility and keep their fingers on the dollars.”
Phillip B. Agnew, FAMU student body president and board of trustees member, said the open forum is a way to narrow down his decision for president.
“I get to see the views and concerns from students, whom are the ones affected by the decision,” Agnew said. ” The person that is chosen will make decisions that will impact the student body.”
Agnew, a 21-year-old business administration student from Chicago, said he plans to carefully review and listen to every student’s questions to the finalists, which will ultimately influence his choice.
Other students agree the forum is beneficial for FAMU students.”This event is a way for students to see the candidate’s personality and plan for the university,” said Anthony Murphy, 20.
Murphy, a junior chemistry student from Milwaukee, said the forum is important for all FAMU students, alumni and faculty to attend.
“This gives us the rare opportunity to interact one-on-one with the candidates, which will act as the customer service rep for us,” Murphy said.
Some of FAMU National Alumni Association members are ready for the next president to lead the university in a new direction. “The new president needs to provide a new vision that targets recruitment, retention, fundraising and the school as a whole,” said Buenita Lee, president of the Capital City Chapter of the FAMU National Alumni Association.
Thompson said she is able to supply that vision.
“I have increased my university’s enrollment by 6.7 percent last year,” Thompson said. “This doesn’t happen by accident. I know I can help FAMU.”
Lee, a Riverside, Calif. native and 1996 FAMU graduate, said she is not favoring any candidate at this point.
“As a member of the alumni association and supporter of FAMU, I will view all of the candidates before I decide who I am in support of,” Lee said.
Thompson said she is more than qualified to serve as FAMU’s president.
“When someone asks if I can do the job, I say Mary McLeod Bethune did a good job,” said Thompson, who said she uses Bethune as an example of female leadership.
Lee said she hopes at the Feb. 20 FAMU NAA meeting that Alvin Bryant, the association’s president, will officially announce whom the organization supports.
“Even though I haven’t made a candidate choice, I congratulate all three of the finalists because they are all strong candidates,” Lee said.
Today, presidential finalist Howard Johnson, provost of University of North Texas will meet with FAMU students, faculty and alumni, and finalist James Ammons will meet Thursday.