ETSU president focused on growing university in size, diversity


JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – East Tennessee State University’s president Brian Noland said he wants the school to grow in the coming years.

One of the major strategic initiatives Noland introduced Monday during his State of the University Address was the creation of a diversity task force, aimed at educating students, faculty and staff about diversity and inclusion.

“This taskforce will look at everything from recruitment strategies, to scholarships, to professional development, to efforts to attract more faculty and staff of color to the university, but also issues related to culture and climate,” Noland said.

Special Assistant to the President for Equity and Diversity, Mary Jordan, will serve as one of the leaders.

“How do we include diversity in the curriculum? How do we empower our faculty to talk about difficult subjects,” said Jordan.

Dr. Noland also said he hopes to have 18,000 students enrolled by 2025.

“It’s going to be important that we are inclusive in terms of our campus and in terms of our environment to invite all kinds of students to the campus,” said Jordan.

Noland said the diversity task force plan has been in the works for months, and said it is not a response to what happened on campus last week, when a former student dressed in a gorilla mask and overalls interrupted a Black Lives Matter protest.

“The data indicate the importance of this initiative,” said Noland. “Our graduation rates for African American and minority students are not where they need to be. Our enrollment numbers are not where we would like them to be.”

“We just need to make sure that we continue to grow and that we continue to develop a campus that respects all people and that is inclusive of differences,” Jordan said.

Another big change is coming to ETSU. The university is currently transitioning to a local governing board of trustees. Previously, the Tennessee Board of Regents governed the university.

“Every policy, every procedure, every operating frame at the institution has to be re-written,” Noland said.

Noland said he anticipates to have the board named by the governor within the coming week. The first meeting of the Board of Trustees will be in April of 2017.

Copyright 2016 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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