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Adams’ influence will be lasting at UGA

Everette Freeman

Everette Freeman

With grace and dignity, Michael Adams announced the end of his presidency at the University of Georgia. Having served for 16 years at UGA’s helm, Adams’ time in office as president has been double the average length most presidents stay. On average, we serve for seven years. In devoting more than a decade and a half of his life to providing leadership and vision to Bulldog Nation, Adams leaves the University of Georgia powerfully positioned to continue to cast a huge and important shadow over the educational landscape of Georgia and elsewhere.

As one of Albany’s favorite sons, Mike Adams has done well personally and professionally. He also has done well for Southwest Georgia. Under his leadership, key partnerships have emerged with Albany State University that benefit the ASU and Albany community. Mike always was doing double-duty. He never ceased working for UGA while simultaneously looking after his beloved Albany and ASU. Mike has been incredibly generous to ASU and me. On March 27th, I spent a much anticipated day in Athens shadowing Mike and seeing first-hand his world — a richly complex one — which gets to the point I wish to make.

Nobody but nobody knows what is involved in running a complex educational organization that happens also to be a fully operational village unto itself other than a sitting or former president. Others who sit near the president as administrators see significant segments of the whole, but even they don’t know its full breadth. They can’t. Until you have awakened in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, relieved that the horror that you have just experienced is only a dream, you simply cannot grasp the enormity of the job heading a university is.

Take something as mundane on its face as computer services. You buy a few computers. You set them up. Done! Right? Not so fast. What policies are in place governing computer use? Is there sufficient protection in place to guard against computer hackers? Is there enough bandwidth for academic computing? Who’s policing the computer frontier? Do you lay more fiber optics or place all of your marbles on cloud technology? What happens when an unexpected power surge wipes out vital operations that didn’t get migrated to the new servers? Did we pay the electric bill in the first place?

When I arrived at Albany State in 2005, I thought I knew something about running a university. I’d been second-in-command at the University of Indianapolis, dean at Jackson State University, and executive assistant to the president at Tennessee State University, two distinguished historically black universities. I thought I knew as much as anybody about heading a higher educational institution. There was so much I didn’t know. Presidential job-knowledge comes from the slow, unglamorous hard work day after day of making tough decisions on the educational field of the sort that Mike Adams excelled at.

Like many of my presidential colleagues, I attended Harvard University’s institute for higher education, an accelerated executive education programs for presidents and those aspiring to be presidents. One of the recurring principles taught there was that of reframing; namely, taking an issue in casting it in a different light or perspective in order to find new solutions. I have found reframing particularly helpful to ASU and me. Since 2005, we have reframed ASU in ways that our graduates truly believe that they can realize their potential by staying the course of dedication and hard work. We have reframed ASU in ways that have made us a welcome and engaged civic and community partner. We have reframed our teaching and learning approaches to emphasize learning communities as an integral part of how we prepare students for the work of the world.

Our newly completed strategic plan calls upon ASU to reframe our future to more fully embrace by creating an environment that nurtures academically focused learners from diverse backgrounds, excelling in discovery, learning, teaching and the use of technology, leading in community and global partnerships and service, and continuing to build a workforce that collaboratively achieves operational efficiency, effectiveness and agility.

I am going to miss Mike Adam’s sure and confident hand at UGA’s helm. One lesson I learned early from Mike is that the office of president has its headaches, but it also provides a rare opportunity to influence positively the lives of so many in such a lasting way by concentrating on the unfinished business of providing educational opportunities for all. What a lesson!

Dr. Everette J. Freeman is president of Albany State University.

Comments

FryarTuk 1 year, 11 months ago

Dr. Adams has done a Herculean task at UGA. Dr. Freeman is effectively facing the challenges at ASU. Albany and southwest Georgia is fortunate to have him at the University.

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GoldenDawg 1 year, 11 months ago

Are you serious? Any objective observer can see that ASU has regressed tremendously under Freeman. For one, the Presidential scholars program which spawned a large number of accomplished and high achieving graduates is now non existent due to Freeman's inability to fundraise to support the program. The former presidential leadership established meaningful and fiscally productive partnerships with local and national corporate entities as well as prominent philanthropists to fund the program to the tune of millions in scholarship dollars which subsequently resulted in a large influx of academically accomplished students who made ASU their choice for a higher education. I know one of those scholarship recipients who along with others from Albany area and metro Atlanta area high schools graduated from ASU and have since earned graduate and professional degrees not only from our state's flagship university's (UGA, GT, MCG, Emory, etc.) but great academic institutions throughout the nation (UPenn, IU, FSU, Johns Hopkins, and Wisconsin.)

In sum, this initiative and numerous others had begun to shift the competitive profile of the university and under the current leadership that all important mission for ASU has not just stalled but reversed dramatically. Not to mention the consistently low morale amongst alumni, faculty and staff as well as a record of disenchantment from student leadership during the current administration. Or how about the continued promulgation of Darton and its academic programs and now impending four year status because of a continued inefficiency and lack of collegial, respectful and productive leadership that empowers all constituencies of the university to serve and participate at an optimum level for the overall betterment of the university?

Generally speaking, the success of University Presidents are in large part measured by a combination of their ability and effectiveness in leading efforts towards 1.) increasing enrollment (with integrity), 2.) enhancing the academic profile of the institution and 3.) Fundraising. At every turn, the current administration has simply not met the mark. Enrollment numbers have been embarrassingly inflated with unqualified students, the once proud retention rate (which ranked third in the entire USG system behind GT and UGA in 2004) has plummeted towards the teens at last count and fundraising has been abysmal as the new student center was built on the backs of a student fee increase and the Ray Charles Fine Arts Center isn't anywhere close to being funded because of a lack of any strategic effective state legislative lobbying plan. And again, no robust academic student scholarship program (SAT's of at least 1000+ and GPA's of 3.3+)

It's really not a personal affront to Freeman as much as it is a purely objective indictment of his inability to build upon a foundation that was ripe for ASU to move to the next level.

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