In between his many speaking engagements and meetings, President James Ammons still finds time to get his hair cut in the Student Union barbershop or eat in the Cafeteria to interact with the student body.
Ammons said he thinks it’s important to reach out and hear the needs of his students.
In July, the HBCU Digest listed Dr. Ammons as one of the five most visible HBCU Presidents in America.
“Dr. Ammons is very accessible to students and the campus community,” said Chief Communications Officer Sharon Saunders. “To tell FAMU’s story and raise funds for scholarships, Dr. Ammons must sometimes be away from the campus. He does, however, do a good job of balancing all of his commitments.”
Although the president may not hold office hours in the same sense as other faculty members, Ammons sets aside time to meet with students, faculty, and staff.
“I set aside office hours a few days every month to meet with anyone in the university community,” said Ammons during his lunch break in the Cafeteria on Thursday.
Last year, Ammons began an online forum on the university’s website to answer the concerns of FAMU students.
Ammons said his goal is to have an open, digital forum every fall and spring semester.
Although Ammons said he wishes he could be available to hear everyone’s concerns about the university, his hectic schedule sometimes just doesn’t permit such accessibility.
If he’s not meeting with elected officials or negotiating deals with potential investors, Ammons said he always looking for ways to connect with the student body.
But he said in the midst of pursuing a $50 million fundraising effort for FAMU and undertaking an extensive plan to restructure the university, sometimes time just doesn’t permit.
“I’m only one person,” said Ammons.
Second-year business administration student Alfred Henderson said he’s seen Ammons in cafeteria dining and town hall meetings.
“It’s all about the students and the route they take to reach the President. It’s very feasible, but sometimes it can be restricting,” said Henderson.
Ammons said his philosophy on how students should be treated was shaped when he was 17, and attended FAMU in a program for students from low-income families. It was a 13 college curricular program that identified students who showed academic promise.
“During the first year, all students were kept together in the Benjamin Banneker building and that created a family-like environment,” said Ammons. “When we saw the President of the University we knew who he was.”
He said that, in his role as president, he wants the same for all university stakeholders.
“I want to create that feeling that students and faculty and staff know the president and know that if there is an issue they can approach me and they can discuss it. That influenced my approach to administration,” Ammons said.