JACKSON, Miss. – Jackson State University hosted its 2022 Fall Faculty & Staff Seminar Wednesday, welcoming new and returning faculty and staff and offering words of encouragement ahead of the upcoming 2022-2023 academic year.
Student leaders also extended warm greetings, reminding attendees of the impact their presence has on the student experience and to lean on students to help fulfill the strategic vision of the university.
President Thomas K. Hudson, J.D. expressed deep gratitude for the faculty and staff’s collective commitment toward institutional excellence, selfless service to the community, and their ability to rise in adverse situations.
Hudson played to the seminar’s theme: E3. Elevate. Embrace. Engage., during his address. He thanked attendees for exhibiting resilience and strength in trying times, soldiering through the pandemic, the city’s ongoing water woes, and beyond.
“We have emerged more robust, more mission-driven, and healthier than before. Significant milestones have been reached. Our SACSCOC reaffirmation and the launch of our strategic plan are shining examples of what we can accomplish when we work together on one accord, in one voice, with one goal.” said Hudson.
Trailing a seemingly monumental 2021-2022 year filled with new heights and precedence, Hudson acknowledged that JSU has risen to the forefront of urban academia, securing major financial investments and increasing several academic degree program offerings and certifications. He talked about JSU’s elevating athletic brand and the school’s academic prowess and embracing Jackson State’s increased notoriety as the new normal.
“JSU is seen as a positive force in higher education. During this time of HBCU Renaissance, with the heightened awareness of the importance of HBCUs, we are standing at the forefront as trailblazers. Certainly, on the athletic field, we continue to create champions, but also in the classroom, in the research fields, and in our community,” said Hudson.
He also reminded the audience of the investments made in the students, highlighting the discounted and free textbooks provided, the clearing of tuition balances, and the creation of additional scholarship opportunities.
Hudson also made sure to reiterate that JSU is the only state institution that has not increased tuition for the third consecutive school year.
“We are here to cultivate leaders and empower them to be societal and institutional change agents. Therefore, we must define our roles and settle in for the long haul because our jobs do not end after graduation. Our students should be able to look back and see us rooting them on,” said Hudson. “They should be able to reach back and call us for advice. We are here to help them become who they are meant to be, and that does not stop after two or four years. It is an ongoing process, and we must consume this practice.”
After focusing on the tenants of student success and academic excellence, Hudson shifted to the pursuit of research excellence, noting the over $60 million in research dollars generated over the past fiscal year. It is a more than a 50 percent increase over the previous year.
Concluding his address, Hudson gave faculty and staff a charge for the new year.
“We must advance confidently in the knowledge that JSU is an institution prepared to meet an ever-changing global community. We are equipped with the expertise to resolve the challenges of our growing populations, and we will be intentional and act cooperatively to implement effective change, and from here, we elevate,” he said.
Turn adversity to your advantage
Best-selling author and founder of Inform and Inspire, Isaac Serwanga, served as the seminar’s plenary assembly speaker. Delivering a high-energy keynote speech, in alignment with the program’s theme. Serwanga provided several personal and professional accounts of adversity and the power of shifted perspective.
Although Serwanga was born in Sacramento, California, he shared how his mother risked her life to ensure their family escaped from Uganda in East Africa during an intense political period to ensure opportunities were made available for him and his six other siblings.
Serwanga emphasized the importance of knowing “your why” and honoring the groundwork that was established “before you and for you while also crafting space to show gratitude toward the individuals who stand beside you in your journey.”
As faculty and staff prepare to implement a collective vision for the university, Serwanga stressed the importance of acknowledging the ”team around the team” and remaining community-oriented in both word and action.
Serwanga shared that his mother abided by a principle that he lives by to this day, which is education equals opportunity.
“I understood that if I did my work in the classroom, I was paying my mother back with the work that I was doing. I understand that I’m standing on the foundation of people who have laid and sacrificed for me to be there, ” he said.
Serwanga impressed upon the audience the need to embrace the fear of adversity which often is a fear of change. He also urged listeners to shift perspective from why is this happening to what is this trying to teach them and turn adversity to their advantage
“Any room that you walk into – any situation that you are a part of now – when you’re asked to lead in a new way, I ask you right now to feel that fear inside your heart subside for a moment and step up, anyways, with courage,” Serwanga said.
Faculty and staff also engaged in several workshops broken out by department and college, which presented opportunities to discover unique ways for new collaboration and to learn a deep understanding of the operational functions of different departments across the university.