As Florida A&M searches a new vice president of student affairs, an unofficial candidate may be the frontrunner.
William Hudson Jr. heads of the search committee and was hand-picked by President James Ammons to “help us maintain a level of excellence.”
Hudson, 39, was appointed to retention director last fall. In June, Ammons chose him as acting vice president for student affairs. Last week, the first of three candidates, Cherise Peters, toured the campus and spoke to students on her plans for the university.
Timothy Beard, the second of three candidates, will arrive Monday. The search committee will make its final decision by the end of the year.
Ammons said in a statement, he was confident in Hudson’s leadership and his experience and background in higher education to serve during the transition.
Hudson’s father, William E. Hudson Sr., the dean of the School of Allied Health, said he doesn’t see his son’s success as father-son competition.
“I was hoping he would wait to surpass me once I left, but I am happy with his success,” Hudson Sr. said.
The two are involved in martial arts and they eat lunch weekly.
Hudson Sr. said he warned his son about the pressures of serving as interim while balancing his other role as the director of retention.
“This would be very different for him and time consuming trying to do two product-driven jobs at once,” Hudson Sr. said. “He knows he can call upon me to support him.”
Hudson Jr. received his bachelor’s of science degree in psychology and a master’s in counseling education from FAMU.
“He came to FAMU on a track scholarship, but a knee injury ended that career and he focused on other things,” his father said.
He later earned a specialist degree in counseling and human services and a doctorate in rehabilitation counseling from Florida State.
Hudson was assistant program director in the Center of Academic Retention and Enhancement (CARE) at FSU.
Angela Richardson, CARE program director and Hudson’s former supervisor, said he is well suited to work because he has experience working with diverse groups at FSU.
“He can, and has, worked with presidents and with freshmen,” Richardson said. “It’s great that Will can see both angles; he has a broad perspective on how universities function and the interrelationships within the university.”
Hudson can talk to students at their level said Richardson. His interaction with students sometimes resulted in their tardiness to meetings held across campus.
“We would be walking on campus on our way to a meeting and if Will saw a student he knew he would immediately ask, ‘How are you doing? How are your grades? How is your mom?’ ” Richardson said.
Hudson takes a no-nonsense and pragmatic approach to educating, and graduating FAMU students. He has often challenged the popular notion among students that it takes more than four years to graduate with a bachelor’s degree.
According to the Federal Student Aid the university has a 39 percent graduation rate, a 78 percent retention rate and a 5 percent transfer rate.
The Department of Education defined the graduation rate as the percentage of a school’s first-time, first-year undergraduate students who complete their program within 150 percent of the published time for the program. The retention rate is the percentage of a school’s first-time, first-year undergraduate students who continue at that school the next year.
With a 78 percent retention rate it suggests that 22 percent of FAMU students do not return.
As director of retention, Hudson’s job is to keep students and move them toward graduation on time.
Before FAMU, Hudson Jr. said he spent the early years of his childhood with his mother and father in Alumni Village at Florida State. He opted to move in with his grandparents near the gulf.
“I loved the atmosphere of a small town,” Hudson Jr. said. “Nothing came easy for my grandparents; they only had a seventh and eighth grade education, but that didn’t stop them from encouraging me to achieve more.”
Because Hudson, is under 40 some doubt the wisdom of Ammon’s high-profile appointment in student affairs. Using history as an example, the former vice president of student affairs, Roland Gaines, also started as an interim director and head of the search committee when he was later appointed as vice president. Gaines retired in May.
Richardson said Hudson’s work ethic makes him more than qualified for his current position, “He has the ability to see a problem, diagnose it and helps to find a solution.”
Working in both full-time positions, Hudson said was hard, however, “They are both so important, I couldn’t choose if I had the choice to do just one.”
Hudson is housed in the office of student affairs in Foote-Hilyer and his office reflects the transitive position he is in.
Earlier this semester, a few boxes remained unpacked, some books were stacked on shelves and others were still lying on the floor. The former vice president was a bigger guy and Hudson sitting in his chair looks like he is trying to wear oversized shoes.
Although he has not yet had time to unpack in his office, he said he has no plans to leave FAMU any time soon.
“I will stay as here long as they’ll have me,” Hudson said.