Florida A&M students warmly greeted Elmira Mangum, the university’s 11th president, Friday at a welcome rally in front of Lee Hall.
A large welcome banner draped across the white, historical architecture of the building.
Mangum sat with a stern face, a face that said she was ready to be FAMU’s leader. Then a smile of validation and confirmation crept across her face.
Mangum began her speech reminding the crowd that the rally was not just a celebration of her, but also a celebration of the institution, its staff and its students.
“This institution was formed to serve our community and the state of Florida,” Mangum said. “It is a symbol of hope and proof of what can be accomplished when all students are given an equal opportunity to receive a great college education.”
Mangum’s presidential term follows some trying moments at FAMU, the most recent issue being the attempt to split the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering. However, she reminded FAMU that she was equipped to take on all challenges.
“I stand for a new season at FAMU, a season of greatness,” Mangum said. “I didn’t know the test would come within my first 48 hours, but I want you to understand that I am prepared for those tests … I am prepared to deal with what’s to come.”
Kianna Laurent, a freshman business administration student from Atlanta, believes that because Mangum was not previously employed with FAMU, she could remove the complacency of the institution.
“She will see the university from a different perspective,” Laurent said. “The phrase ‘That’s just FAMU’ will no longer be a reason to not push change.”
Mangum briefly talked about her plans for the university. She said she plans to hold listening days where anyone can call her office and schedule a time to express concerns about FAMU.
“My interest is FAMU first,” Mangum said. “Not your personal problems but FAMU’s issues.”
Mangum also plans to increase the graduation and retention rates, reduce student excess credit hours, increase the productivity in degrees in the science, technology, engineering and math areas, and reduce student debt, which means, “We are going to do a lot of fundraising,” Mangum said.
Constant complaints from students about campus services led to one of Mangum’s most important planned programs of action.
“We are going to enhance our customer service,” Mangum said. “The customer is always right.”
Roger Walker, a faculty member and adviser at FAMU Developmental Research School, has no doubt that Mangum is capable of achieving what she sets out to do.
“Coming from her background and experience, coupled with knowing what FAMU’s current status is, she is more than ready,” Walker said.
Mangum’s 20-minute speech ended, and the percussionists began rolling the drums. The spirited president whipped her two fingers at the crowd, let out a loud hiss and demanded the crowd to stand to their feet as she began the Rattler strike.
“I also want to pursue excellence with caring,” Mangum said. “But we will pursue excellence until it is achieved.”