University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Chancellor Laurence B. Alexander used his inaugural fall convocation address to the student body, faculty and staff Tuesday morning to rally the crowd behind his declared objective of increasing student enrollment to 4,000 within the next two years.
Enrollment numbers released Monday give UAPB a total student enrollment for fall 2013 of 2,615 students.
“During the 2008 U. S. presidential campaign candidate Barack Obama said that there has never been anything false about hope,” Alexander said. “So today we adopt the spirit of the 2008 campaign. Yes we can. We will continue to focus on creating a college-educated workforce. We will partner with businesses and grow alliances between the university and the community in order to provide internships and co-op programs for our students.
“Do you believe we can?” an energized Alexander asked the audience.
“Yes!” came the enthusiastic reply.
“Can we increase our enrollment to 4,000 students within two years?” Alexander asked.
“Yes we can!” the audience answered.
“Can we increase customer service on campus?” Alexander asked.
“Yes we can!” the audience responded.
Alexander recounted growing up in the lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans as the child of a single mother.
“We received public assistance and survived on food stamps,” Alexander said. “We lived in public housing. We got around on public transportation. I am a product of public schools and I am a first-generation college graduate.”
Alexander emphasized to the students that despite his humble beginnings he was able to go on to become a journalist, a lawyer, a college professor and a college administrator.
“We are a university that is mission-based and success-driven,” Alexander said. “Our student body remains our lifeblood, our reason for existence. UAPB has a long and distinguished history. We believe we can do it because we have hope.”
Alexander paid homage to the interim chancellorship of Calvin Johnson and to the multi-decade career in service to the university of former chancellor Lawrence A. Davis Jr.
“I now assume my place in the history of the leadership of this institution and it is with great humility that I do so,” Alexander said.
Alexander praised the accomplishments of students, faculty and staff.
“This is the place to be,” Alexander said. “The place where I am proud to be. The place with the highest and greatest HBCU traditions. I am honored to be here.”
Q & A
Immediately after Alexander’s address the floor was opened to questions from the audience, which were submitted on note cards and read by several students at two microphones on opposite sides of the arena.
The first questioned asked was whether new outside lighting was planned for the campus to improve security.
“Public safety is in the process of conducting an assessment of campus lighting and security cameras to see what may need to be added to ensure campus safety,” Student Affairs Administrative Coordinator Elbert Bennett said.
Another question concerned whether Alexander was confident in the UAPB faculty and staff.
“If I didn’t think that the faculty and staff were capable I would not have come here,” Alexander said. “Is there room for improvement? Yes, of course. But I believe that we have an excellent group of faculty and staff members.”