Transformative Leadership at Lincoln University: The First Degree-Granting HBCU

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Dr. Richard Green will leave the historic Lincoln University in July after serving as interim president for two years. Green’s selection for this leadership role was recognition of his extensive background in executive, administrative, and academic leadership positions in both corporate settings and higher education. His charge was to assess, recommend, and implement necessary improvements for efficiency and effectiveness, which he accomplished in the short window of time.

When he leaves, Green will hand over the reins to Dr. Brenda Allen ’81, who currently serves as provost and vice president of Academic Affairs at Winston-Salem State University. Allen takes over on July 1, and when she does, she’ll inherit a cohesive and seasoned administrative staff, a comprehensive strategic plan, and an array of new programs, initiatives, and projects.

Green and Kimberly A. Lloyd ’94, chairwoman of the Board of Trustees, recently participated in an interview about several initiatives that were executed by the president under the guidance of the chairwoman over the last 24 months. Just within the past month, the president finalized a partnership between the University and AGRiMED Industries to complete important medical research with cannabis.

Q: – The list of accomplishments is quite impressive. What do you attribute to its success?

A: Green – I believe working with a group of dedicated professionals makes the difference in successfully executing any task. We set realistic timelines, met with and secured buy-in from campus units and selected teams with specific subject-matter experience to lead special task forces. This — along with the fact that they helped to shape the trajectory of the future of the institution — was meaningful and extremely beneficial.

A: Lloyd – First, I believe we put ourselves in a good position to succeed by selecting a seasoned, higher education professional. Lincoln worked with The Registry of College and University Presidents, which is an agency that specializes in placement of educational executives in top leadership roles. The Board interviewed Dr. Green and felt confident he would be capable of the task presented to him. It’s now clear that he not only met the expectations, but he also exceeded them.

Q: Looking back over the last 24 months, what will you miss the most and what gives you pride?

A: Green – I am most proud of what we have done to help our students. We have secured several partnerships that directly impact the quality of education. These include: establishment of the Lincoln University-Barnes Foundation museum studies program; a signed agreement for partial and full scholarships with the School of Law and School of Pharmacy at Drake University; expansion of the programs offered through the Bond-Hill scholarship program; and partnerships with Los Alamos National Research laboratory and Brookhaven National Laboratory for summer research. As for what I will miss, I would say my new friendships and professional working relationships. My wife and I have come to call Lincoln our home, and the staff, faculty, students, and administration have done everything to make us feel welcome since our arrival. I have worked at many institutions and by far, Lincoln is one of the most picturesque and inviting. We have enjoyed the friendships and family environment at Lincoln.

A: Lloyd – The University has submitted a record number of federal, corporate, and foundation grant applications over the last two years, including a record number in STEM. Also, as an active member of the Board’s Buildings and Property Committee, I led the discussions to solidify the acquisition of additional leased space — 9,220 square feet — in the building of our University City location. As a direct result, we are now able to offer more classes to students who desire an undergraduate or graduate degree from Lincoln University and give Philadelphia residents another higher education option close to home.

Q: You must have faced challenges stepping into this role. What were some of the challenges, and how did you overcome them?

A: Green – Sometimes a challenge comes as a result of success. Our Enrollment Management team implemented strategies that increased enrollment by 13 percent in the two years since I arrived, which was welcome news. However, the challenge was finding adequate on-campus housing for incoming freshmen and upperclassmen. Working with our Fiscal Affairs team —including our chief fiscal officer, capital projects program manager, and the general manager of Aramark— we were able to bring an existing vacant, on-campus housing unit (Rendall Hall) online in fall 2016. Because our student numbers continue to outpace previous years, for fall 2017 we have secured an agreement with a nearby apartment unit for off-campus housing. Subsequently, we have signed an agreement with our dining services vendor, Thompson Hospitality, to expand the dining options for our students. This includes the construction of additional dining space in the main student dining hall, a build-out of food stations in the Wellness Center, a full-service Starbucks kiosk, a bakery station and other healthy food offerings.

A: Lloyd – Maintaining a balanced operating budget over the last four fiscal years. This was no easy feat given the recent appropriations budget hearings in Harrisburg and the 10-month delay in receipt of appropriations funding in fiscal year 2015-16. Even with the challenge facing Lincoln, we were able to reduce our cohort default rate from 24.9% to 16.8% over three years. In this same period of time, Lincoln established a fixed tuition rate to attract more in-state and out-of-state students - a move that supported retention and graduation rates, which are two very important numbers for our long-term health.

Q: The University’s accrediting body, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, will visit campus soon. Were any accomplishments tied to augmenting that campus visit?

A: Green – A cornerstone of accreditation is having a process for continuous quality improvement. Working with the Board of Trustees, we have improved efficiencies and processes throughout the institution. In review of Lincoln’s many documents and processes, I worked with faculty and staff on an ongoing basis to update, review, and improve policies, procedures, and efficiencies, all of which reduced redundancies. For the improvement of communications, I implemented monthly newsletters from the Office of the President, held casual, open, campus-wide meetings, which we called “Coffee and Conversation,” where faculty and staff could meet with me and my cabinet, created the Faculty Council, established extended Cabinet meetings to include more voices in the room for decision making, and streamlined practices associated with Title IX regulations and reporting — to name but a few. In addition, monthly dinner meetings were held with student leaders to help obtain student input.

A: Lloyd – The Board charged the interim president to assess institutional functions and recommend areas of improvement for the University. Dr. Green worked with staff to review, revise, and update the 2013-18 Strategic Plan. This guiding document was vital to review and update in preparation for the accreditation visit. The assessment determined that the five goals in the previous plan should be restructured into seven strategic imperatives. As an important part of the process, SWOT analyses were conducted with all constituents. The entire review process, which involved meetings with the Board of Trustees, executive-level staff, and the campus community at large, was a group effort and good practice for how we will come together as a community for the on-campus accreditation visit.