Sunday, August 19, 2018
Opinion

Column: FAMU's president explains how the university is gaining strength, moving into the future

A little over two years ago, I stood on the steps of historic Lee Hall for my first rally at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University to address the community. At that time, I vowed to move FAMU forward by increasing graduation and retention rates, reducing student debt, increasing student engagement and scholarship opportunities, and the productivity of our degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

We are well on our way to achieving these goals, and the value of FAMU is clear. We are, once again, becoming the school of choice for students across this nation. At a time when the question of relevance looms over historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), FAMU is an example of why they are needed. Right now, Florida A&M University is home to seven Gates Millennium Scholars and at least three scholars who've received more than $1 million in scholarship awards. Those students could have gone anyplace, but they chose FAMU.

In 1887, FAMU was born out of the necessity to provide an educational opportunity to African-American students who, otherwise, would not have had that chance. As the only historically black land-grant institution in Florida, designated as such in 1891, FAMU began with 15 students and two instructors who created a beacon on a hill to light the way for future generations.

Now, FAMU boasts nearly 10,000 students, 600 faculty and more than 70,000 alumni with an economic impact of roughly $3 billion statewide. And the legacy continues.

The value of a FAMU education is strong. Not only do our students graduate with the ability to help their families with competitive salaries in high-achieving professions, through our student engagement efforts they leave FAMU with a special propensity to make positive change in their communities. A recent Essence/Money magazine poll named FAMU No. 5 among all colleges and universities as the best college for African-Americans in the nation. The CollegeNET and Pay Scale Social Mobility Index (SMI) says that FAMU is one of the top universities in the nation for fostering social and economic opportunity.

We continue to develop workforce readiness by focusing on the high demand areas in the STEM disciplines. In fact, this fall FAMU has 113 incoming Distinguished Scholar Award recipients. These students are STEM majors with an academic core GPA of at least 3.5 who are considered National Achievement/Merit finalists or semifinalists, or National Hispanic Scholars.

At FAMU, STEM is converted to STEAM with an "A" for Agriculture, one of the founding tenants of our university. With the recent history-making land transfer of 3,800 acres from the USDA to FAMU and the creation of the Brooksville Agricultural and Environmental Research Station, the university is poised to become an international leader in agricultural research and technology transfer to farmers and local communities in Florida and beyond. The possibilities on this land are boundless.

The energy of our alumni matches the boundlessness of our opportunities. I have never been someplace where people have been more passionate about their alma mater. Our total annual giving is at an all-time high, and alumni understand the need. Just this week, the FAMU National Alumni Association closed a $500,000 campaign to help students overcome financial obstacles. In a recent campaign sponsored by Home Depot, it was the alumni who gave us fuel. Over a period of approximately eight weeks, more than 6 million votes were cast for FAMU in the Retool Your School campaign, resulting in a $30,000 campus-pride grant to the university to fund infrastructure improvement. And hundreds of FAMU alumni gathered right here in Tampa over the past several days to recommit to moving FAMU forward.

When I came to Florida, I established a vision of making FAMU a best-in-class, land-grant, doctoral research university with a global presence. We are well on our way to delivering on that promise. This past academic year, we awarded nearly 600 free passports to students, opening the doors to international travel — and thus their minds to the world beyond their doorstep. In Florida, our pharmacy program has been awarded more research grants from the National Institutes of Health than any other state program; and as it pertains to educating African Americans — that Essence/Money magazine poll mentioned earlier ranked FAMU behind only Princeton, Harvard, Duke and Cornell.

FAMU is moving forward. And while we have a lot of work to do yet, the climate is right, and the future is bright.

Elmira Mangum is the 11th president of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.

Comments
Editorial: Did Rick Scott’s wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Editorial: Did Rick Scott’s wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Within weeks of taking office in 2011, Gov. Rick Scott made one of the worst decisions of his administration and refused $2.4 billion in federal money for a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. Within months of leaving office, the governor...
Published: 08/17/18
Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Local governments across the land can find plenty of reasons to go after the drug industry over the crisis of opioid addiction.Hillsborough County can find more reasons than most.• In 2016, the county led the state with 579 babies born addicted to dr...
Published: 08/17/18
Editorial: Here’s what needs to be done to stop algae blooms

Editorial: Here’s what needs to be done to stop algae blooms

The environmental crisis in South Florida has fast become a political crisis. Politicians in both parties are busy blaming one another for the waves of toxic algae blooms spreading out from Lake Okeechobee and beyond, fouling both coasts and damaging...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

It is real news that the Hillsborough County School District said this week it will accelerate testing for lead in drinking water and release the results after the Tampa Bay Times reported testing would take years and that until we asked families wer...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/16/18

Bumping into GOP cowardice on guns

One small island of sanity in the generally insane ocean of American gun culture is the near-complete federal ban on civilian possession of fully automatic weapons — machine guns.The nation got a bitter taste last year of what we’d be facing on a reg...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Vaccinations are safe way to prevent measles

Editorial: Vaccinations are safe way to prevent measles

The revelation that three people in Pinellas County have contracted the measles virus should be a wake-up call to everyone to get vaccinated if they haven’t been — and to implore parents to immunize their kids. Contagious diseases such as measles can...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

A good reputation can vanish overnight, which is why Habitat for Humanity of Hills-borough County made a smart decision by announcing it would seek to buy back 12 mortgages it sold to a Tampa company with a history of flipping properties. The arrange...
Published: 08/14/18
Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

40%of Americans who were eligible to vote for president in 2016 just didn’t bother. That number dwarfs the portion of all eligible voters who cast a ballot for President Donald Trump — 27.6 percent — or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton, 28.8 percent...
Published: 08/13/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe made a reasonable decision to charge Michael Drejka with manslaughter in last month’s deadly Clearwater convenience store parking lot confrontation. The shooting, which erupted over use of a handicap parkin...
Published: 08/13/18
Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

It’s time to re-establish a permanent home for the state appeals court that serves the Tampa Bay region.It makes sense to put it in Tampa, the same as it made sense 30 years ago when the court’s operations began moving piece by piece up Interstate 4 ...
Published: 08/09/18
Updated: 08/10/18