During his first week as president of Florida A&M University, James Ammons spoke with faculty, staff and local media identifying his areas of priority and improvement.
In his overall effort to reach all the stakeholders of the university, he received feedback and substantial support throughout the day.
Ammons sent a message to faculty and staff about the importance of caring for students. “We cannot be a world class university if we are not a student centered university,” Ammons said. He emphasized that “the students of FAMU are number one.
They are the reason that we are here and without them there would be no need for us-regardless of the kind of day that you are having.”
Adding that he expects students to respect faculty and staff in return. Participants at the faculty and staff meetings were very supportive of this request, applauding upon its announcement.
“No student should leave your office with a problem unresolved,” Ammons said. “And if you can’t fix it you find someone who can.”
As a result of a 10 percent budget cut issued by Gov. Charlie Crist, Ammons said FAMU must “diversify revenue, (because) state funding alone will not allow us to build the university that we envisioned.”
Ammons also stressed that faculty should become more knowledgeable in writing grants and researching how to write proposals in order to augment state funding.
In addition to addressing some of his goals for the university, which included improving communication, increasing enrollment and developing a sound financial base, Ammons introduced the new leadership team to the media. There was some question as to why the majority of the team was taken from North Carolina Central University.
Ammons said, “outside of their experience and expertise,” he chose to bring these individuals from NCCU because they knew each other well and required no retraining or certification.
He also responded to concerns about his decision to appoint Henry Lewis III as the new dean at the college of pharmacy and pharmaceutical studies. “He was (in the college of pharmacy) when I was and before then,” Ammons said. “Much of the (school’s) progress was done while he was here.”
Ammons also talked about building improvements. Designing and construction for the next phase of the pharmacy building is going to include an additional 42,000 square feet. This space would allow room for more offices, classrooms and research.
The College of Pharmacy’s accreditation was another focal point for Ammons. He called the college one of FAMU’s “signature schools” saying it attracts students to the university, and requires much attention. He said that he would “focus on it like a laser beam” with 100 percent effort.
Other suggested improvements were to provide more faculty positions and state-of-the-art curriculum.
By December 2007, Ammons hopes to provide positive results to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Recalling advice and knowledge gained through several visits to the university, he informed staff on his areas of attention and also encouraged any staff without bachelor’s degrees to take advantage of their higher education benefits.
“We’re going to put people in the right places and we’re going to provide the support that you need to do your job, whether it’s technology or you need to go to a workshop to get the development you need, we are going to invest in you,” Ammons said.In closing, Ammons addressed those not confident in the university’s plans for a turnaround.
“For all of those people who are betting against FAMU, they’ve got their money in the wrong place,” Ammons said. “We are going to show the state, this nation and the whole world that we can handle our business.”