Mississippi Valley State University, as similar to other state of Mississippi higher education institutions, needs to make changes to improve the university. A successful MVSU leader implementing change must be aware of its mission. Shared leadership is a collaborative effort involving students, staff, faculty, administrators and the community. Shared leadership is based on a commitment to the principle of inclusiveness among these groups. Inclusiveness is a democratic and collaborative decision-making process characterized by mutual empowerment. Shared leadership comprises structures, procedures, standards and time limits arranged to make decisions and policies in a systematic and effective manner. All participants share in the consequences of those decisions and should embrace the ‘my alma mater atmosphere’ at MVSU. Shared leadership is neither created nor sustained to benefit any individual or particular group, but functions to achieve the mission and purposes of the university.
Educational institutions are places of enjoyment, comfort and challenge, and meaningful relationships will translate into organizations that achieve goals. The communication in a shared governance model will develop feelings of value and excellence among students, faculty, and staff. This is absent at MVSU! A university with a dedicated staff geared to achieve these established recognized variables and objectives will advance. Community-driven MVSU with a history of shared involvement depend on the President and others for leadership and a path of success for students. Disconnecting the university from this relationship with the campus will decrease the value of the university with the surrounding support sources. These support sources – community, faculty, students and administration are the foundation of the university and this foundation need to be recognized as the university redevelops. Historically, MVSU was known for providing academic programs to enhance the Mississippi Delta. In the current higher education competitive climate, colleges and universities continue to assess their academic programs to remain an attractive institution for the future students.
All internal and external stakeholders connected to the university must give their HEART to “The Valley”. “H” Being honorable is essential to MVSU survival. An honorable leader sets moral principles, willingness to risk it all, and make a tough decision. The faculty and staff at MVSU must do what’s right and equal-when difficult, do something symbolic when in leadership and when you stand for something, ignore those people who thrive off negativity. If you participate in the negative behavior “Chair of the Street Committee,” you’re just to blame for MVSU downfall.
“E” The MVSU family must empower everyone around them. Each person serving in a leadership position should have a set vision and transparently communicate that vision. Visionary leaders should communicate in a transparent form that will allow people to put things in perspective for the greater good of MVSU. Stated by a current alum and administrator, “A leader with no vision cannot move the ship”.
“A” Howard Thurman stated “You need a specific blend of people to build a successful team – Make sure you utilize people talents that best fit them, not for you.” MVSU has talented people currently working on campus. They also have talented alumni who are willing to help if they are not hindered to progressing MVSU. If MVSU faculty and staff must rely on their strengths, the university will prosper. As a university on a path of improvement, the current internal constituents should participate in a 360 degree review of themselves, which include an evaluation from their peers, family, supervisory and community stakeholders. This will help MVSU become authentic.
“R” Doing my tenure at MVSU as a student and administrator, I continue to hear the phrase “I love the Valley.” If you love the Valley, you will have a true intimate relationship with the Valley and the Itta Bena/Mississippi Delta community. A relationship with MVSU colleagues and the community will help people feel secure about the university. MVSU faculty and staff must always remember they are a public figures and there to serve. The best way to serve your delta constituents, you must have a relationship with your constituents.
“T” Power and a title can corrupt some people. Regardless of your position on campus, you must be approachable. Being approachable also mean being touchable. Don’t let the leadership position go to your head. At MVSU, leadership should come from the soul and understand how people view a leader when they see you. MVSU is a family structure, human resource frame atmosphere. It is necessary that leadership is touchable at all times.
Mississippi Valley State University owes nothing to anyone working on campus. MVSU was established to provide a quality education to students. If each internal and external constituent at MVSU is there to serve and not be served, MVSU will progress at the highest level. Valley is in need of someone who cares and understands the culture. Yes, an alum/true leader is the best fit for MVSU. The next leader should:
1. Preserve the historic buildings and culture of MVSU (President home and etc..).
2. Create a direct linkage with the Itta Bena community and surrounding Mississippi Delta cities/towns.
3. Understand the history of the university (i.e. College Heights).
4. Eliminate excess employees who fail to be productive in their area.
5. Enhance the total operation of the university and eliminate favors.
These are some of the initiatives that should take place. As I paraphrase a quote by John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what Valley can do for you, but what you can do for Valley”.
Johnny D. Jones is a 1996 graduate of Mississippi Valley State University.