November 12, 2015 – The Fort Valley State University campus community gathered in the C.W. Pettigrew Auditorium on Thursday, Nov. 12 to meet with the institution’s new president, Dr. Paul Jones, and First Lady Sylvia Jones during a special meet and greet. In addressing some anticipated fears from the campus community about his selection, Jones said he had no hidden agenda for accepting the post.
The new president said his leadership style is collaborative, transparent and open.
“Some believe that my appointment is an indication of a hidden agenda,” Jones said. “As I mentioned earlier, I take pride in being a transparent leader. The only agenda I intend to promote is to develop strategies that will enhance student success, and to ensure that we have improved health and well being, so this university will be successful for many years to come.” Jones said he would be implementing an “aggressive transition plan,” and would be meeting with alumni groups and other community stakeholders to listen about their hopes for the university’s future course.
FVSU faculty, staff, students were joined by elected officials and community members to engage with the university leader who was appointed earlier this week by the Georgia Board of Regents. Jones was introduced to the campus by University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby.
“It’s an important day, and exciting one for us to be here,” Huckaby said. “I want to express our appreciation to Dr. Jessica Bailey for stepping in and doing an excellent job of bringing us to this point. [The selection of a new president] is a decision that the Board of Regents took very seriously, because we’re dedicated to doing everything we can to bring Fort Valley State University forward. But, we’ve got to work together and be good colleagues that serve students. It’s not about the administration, faculty or the staff. It’s about the students who deserve as good of an education here as anywhere else.”
Huckaby, who had recommended Jones outright for the position after opting to forgo an extensive search, told the FVSU audience the Board of Regents is confident in Jones’ leadership ability. Huckaby also said in addition to deciding against an expensive $300,000 search that FVSU would have been responsible for paying, he believes Jones is the best person to lead the institution because of his background in educational and administrative leadership and finance. Jones, he said, will help stabilize the university’s financial future.
“Dr. Jones is a person we’ve watched a number of years as he moved up through the university system,” Huckaby said. “We’re delighted that he is always willing to take his assignment seriously and do a good job. We are pleased and proud. We know that he will work hard, but it will take the effort of all of us. If we’re not dedicated to making this school all it can be, then it won’t happen.”
Jones thanked Bailey for her leadership as interim and the state’s Board of Regents’ for trusting him to take the helm at FVSU. He introduced his wife of 39 years, Sylvia Jones, who is a Wells Fargo’s Education Financial Services expert to the audience. FVSU’s new first lady also possesses a decade of experience in higher education and financial aid.
“Your support becomes more important as we address our current issues while educating our students,” Jones said. “I know about the rich history and legacy of this university as a regional and land-grant university and HBCU, which has fueled the success of countless alums throughout the state, nation and world. That is why I am elated to become part of this great family. I do not take this appointment lightly, and will do my absolute best to serve you and our stakeholders to ensure that our future is bright for our students.”
Jones said there were critical challenges facing the university that the campus must face as a united team. Jones assured the audience he has a proven track record working with faculty, staff and other stakeholders, and said he has worked at all levels of higher education (that included educational administration, fiscal affairs, student affairs and institutional leadership.
The president also noted his experience working as an American Council on Education Fellow, where he spent a year studying higher education administration. He said he visited with more than 50 leaders throughout the United States and United Kingdom. FVSU’s new leader visited two HBCUs — Dillard and Southern University — after the Hurricane Katrina tragedy. He said he appreciated the insights he received of leading institutions before and after a historic tragedy. He also completed a leadership training program called “On the Road to the Presidency” at Hampton University.
Dr. Jones also revealed information about his past, including a childhood of growing up poor in South Central Los Angeles. At one time, he said, he had been labeled a “special needs child,” but had managed to work past the negative labels to enter college, receive an education and become a scholar. The new president also received experience in higher education administration at Colorado Mesa University, Utah State University, Georgia State College and University and Darton State College.
“It’s incumbent on all of us to come together at this moment and know that we did something special, and did the heavy lifting required for us to have a bright future at this university,” Jones said. “What we need to be focused on for the sake of our students is the future, and I know we have a bright future ahead of us, so long as we all step up to the plate.”
Following Jones’ introduction, system officials and the president held a question and answer session for the FVSU family and the community where elected officials, including Fort Valley’s mayor Barbara Williams, faculty senate president Dr. Josephine Davis and others welcomed the president.
Christina D. Milton, public relations specialist
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