Editors Pick

University President Used Corporate Strategy to Save HBCU Accreditation

Algeania Marie Warren Freeman Ph.D. took over as president of a struggling Wilberforce University just over a year ago (September 2014). At the time, the institution was facing millions of debt, had a long history of leadership problems, was experiencing a decline in enrollment and was about to lose its accreditation. But in late November, Freeman and her staff were successful in helping Wilberforce meet all five of the Core Components under which the University’s accreditation was evaluated and the HCBU was able to retain its status as an accredited school. “A key component of my strategy was to build a more corporate presence on the university’s board,” said Dr. Freeman. “The corporate presence on the board is deliberate, a new way to run HBCUs — hopefully turning a faltering university around.” The university’s board includes a few exceptional leaders across a wide range of industries, including, Bishop McKinley Young, Bishop of the Third District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church; Mark Wilson, president and CEO of eVerifile; Adrienne Trimble, general manager, diversity and inclusion, Toyota and John Miller, CEO of Denny’s, Inc., and more. [Related: $10 Million: Mellody Hobson and George Lucas Invest in Black and Latino Student Success] During Freeman’s first year as president of Wilberforce University, she’s increased enrollment by 85% for Fall 2015 and increased donations in 2014/15. BlackEnterprise.com caught up with the ‘Transformative Change Agent’ to learn more about her plan and the results thus far. BlackEnterprise.com: What attracted you to this position?Freeman: Wilberforce is the oldest, private HBCU, and I felt it needed to be saved. It was a spiritual calling. I also like hopeless challenges to prove that with God all things are possible and never to count out God. What qualities have helped you succeed thus far? I have a deep abiding faith in God’s grace. I believe where God leads, he will always provide. I have 40 years of accreditation and educational leadership experience necessary for success. Other qualities of success include: • Great strategic planning skills. • Great organizational skills. • Understanding the nuances of business and finance. • Paying attention to details at all times. • Great networking skills. • Confidence, determination, and perseverance to know that I could do the job. When you first came on board as president, what were some of your first steps to restore the university? • Held lots of meet and greet sessions to determine who had the necessary information that I needed to know. • Analyzed the Show-Cause Order and developed a map for responding to the accreditation mandates. • Hired qualified staff as mandated by the accreditation agency. • Reviewed and updated all policies and procedures. • Renovated buildings and installed new technologies for an approximate cost of $5.6 million. • Developed a strategic financial management plan that resulted in an increase in the fiscal fragility score that the accrediting agency uses to determine institutional viability. A key part of your strategy was implementing a corporate presence on the university’s board. What are your intended outcomes? A corporate board enables a university to operate in a more effective and efficient manner as corporations are managed. It allows the university to diversify the skill sets of the board members so that there will not be a myopic view for the board. It also opens doors to resources and partnerships. Corporate board members lend their expertise in such critical areas as fiscal management, strategic planning, and technology. They are highly involved in fundraising, honoring their give/get financial commitments, and serve as excellent role models for our students. (Continued on next page)<!--nextpage--> What are some of the unique attributes of your board members? Mark Wilson is fiscal savvy. He invested his personal finances into the university and engages in fundraising to obtain the necessary resources to support the institution. Additionally, he has a great network of contacts and excellent leadership skills. John Miller has great knowledge of finance and holds everyone accountable for the bottom line. He has a great commitment and understanding of diversity. Additionally, John knows how to ask the right questions, which makes him a great fact finder. You and your team enabled Wilberforce to retain its accreditation. What are some of the other improvements that have occurred since 2014? • Hired/appointed new administrators. • Held university-wide training and development programs for faculty, staff, and students. • Purchased and installed new fiscal accountability software (Powerfaids) for more effective and efficient management of financial aid. • Improved student learning/living campus conditions by renovating student center, putting games and activities in the student center, putting student computer labs in the residence halls, painting, fixing and refurbishing residence halls, establishing a counseling center, and establishing new Climb office space, etc. • New partnerships for enhancement of STEM are being pursued with such groups as ZTE/VOX, NASA, Air Force Research Labs at Wright Patterson, Kroger, Honda, Battelle Memorial Institute, and The OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center. • Developed Promise Program and partnered with Education At Work to permit students to graduate from college debt-free. Did the threat of losing accreditation affect student and faculty morale? How did you boost student morale? How have you instilled trust in students, faculty, and the administration? The morale of students and faculty was at an all-time low when the Show-Cause Order was issued in June 2014. To boost student, faculty and campus morale, the following things were done: • Developed strategic plan for moving forward with input from the entire campus. • Developed a shared governance plan to ensure that everyone has input in the decision-making process. • Renovated student union and residence halls. • Put computer labs in residence halls and purchased new furniture for residence halls and student union. Students had not had new beds in ten years. • Gave faculty and staff raises and bonuses, because they had not had salary increases in seven years. • Operated in a transparent and informed environment. • Provided many opportunities for fellowship gatherings, professional development sessions, and team-building exercises. How can other HBCUs keep from losing accreditation? • Appoint qualified, experienced, and dedicated board members who understand their governance, accreditation, and fiduciary responsibilities. • Hire a competent, experienced, knowledgeable, and no-nonsense president. • Learn and pay attention to the accreditation regulations because they are real.

Algeania Marie Warren Freeman Ph.D. took over as president of a struggling Wilberforce University just over a year ago (September 2014). At the time, the institution was facing millions of debt, had a long history of leadership problems, was experiencing a decline in enrollment and was about to lose its accreditation. But in late November, Freeman and her staff were successful in helping Wilberforce meet all five of the Core Components under which the University’s accreditation was evaluated and the HCBU was able to retain its status as an accredited school.

“A key component of my strategy was to build a more corporate presence on the university’s board,” said Dr. Freeman. “The corporate presence on the board is deliberate, a new way to run HBCUs — hopefully turning a faltering university around.” The university’s board includes a few exceptional leaders across a wide range of industries, including, Bishop McKinley Young, Bishop of the Third District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church; Mark Wilson, president and CEO of eVerifile; Adrienne Trimble, general manager, diversity and inclusion, Toyota and John Miller, CEO of Denny’s, Inc., and more.

[Related: $10 Million: Mellody Hobson and George Lucas Invest in Black and Latino Student Success]

During Freeman’s first year as president of Wilberforce University, she’s increased enrollment by 85% for Fall 2015 and increased donations in 2014/15. BlackEnterprise.com caught up with the ‘Transformative Change Agent’ to learn more about her plan and the results thus far.

BlackEnterprise.com: What attracted you to this position?
Freeman: Wilberforce is the oldest, private HBCU, and I felt it needed to be saved. It was a spiritual calling. I also like hopeless challenges to prove that with God all things are possible and never to count out God.

What qualities have helped you succeed thus far?
I have a deep abiding faith in God’s grace. I believe where God leads, he will always provide. I have 40 years of accreditation and educational leadership experience necessary for success. Other qualities of success include:

• Great strategic planning skills.
• Great organizational skills.
• Understanding the nuances of business and finance.
• Paying attention to details at all times.
• Great networking skills.
• Confidence, determination, and perseverance to know that I could do the job.

When you first came on board as president, what were some of your first steps to restore the university?
• Held lots of meet and greet sessions to determine who had the necessary information that I needed to know.
• Analyzed the Show-Cause Order and developed a map for responding to the accreditation mandates.
• Hired qualified staff as mandated by the accreditation agency.
• Reviewed and updated all policies and procedures.
• Renovated buildings and installed new technologies for an approximate cost of $5.6 million.
• Developed a strategic financial management plan that resulted in an increase in the fiscal fragility score that the accrediting agency uses to determine institutional viability.

A key part of your strategy was implementing a corporate presence on the university’s board. What are your intended outcomes?
A corporate board enables a university to operate in a more effective and efficient manner as corporations are managed. It allows the university to diversify the skill sets of the board members so that there will not be a myopic view for the board. It also opens doors to resources and partnerships. Corporate board members lend their expertise in such critical areas as fiscal management, strategic planning, and technology. They are highly involved in fundraising, honoring their give/get financial commitments, and serve as excellent role models for our students.

(Continued on next page)

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