By Kathy Taylor and Eddie Francis
October 14, 2022
This week, Dr. Rochelle Ford completed her first 100 days as Dillard University’s eighth president. When Ford began her tenure, she immediately pointed to the University’s mission as a foundation for building a culture of excellence throughout the campus community.
Within her first two weeks, Ford and her team launched an online feedback forum for faculty and staff to openly share their visions for “The Jewel of Gentilly.” The suggestions, memories and stories provided insights and inspiration to develop ways to support Dillard’s mission to cultivate “leaders who live ethically, think and communicate precisely, and act courageously to make the world a better place.”
Activating Our Commitment
With community feedback in hand, the president created the theme “Activating Our Commitment.” The theme has been designed to set the tone and unite the University as a campus community of leaders who must focus and act upon their commitments to themselves and to “Fair Dillard.” To ensure that the University’s mission remains at the forefront of everyone’s minds, it was posted in classrooms and hallways before the first day of classes. That way, on a daily basis, as everyone walks the halls to and from their classes and office, the community would see it, read it, memorize it and live it.
After meeting with the board of trustees, current and former cabinet members, faculty, staff, students, alumni and community leaders to learn their aspirations for Dillard, Ford further developed former president Walter Kimbrough’s “3 Fs” to lead the University community into its next era.
Facilities that Withstand the Forecast
To ensure one leader reporting to the president would focus on the University’s immediate and long-term facilities improvements, she recruited and hired a beloved son of Dillard, Marion Bracy, who had served as Xavier University’s vice president, to become Dillard’s new vice president of facilities management and real estate planning. Dillard’s administration advocated for and secured permission to allocate $6 million in HEERF and other federal funding for roof repairs and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) improvements. The University also secure $255,000 from the United Methodist Church Black College Fund for Lawless Memorial Chapel repairs. Dillard also made significant progress in achieving campuswide ADA (American Disabilities Act) compliance including a ramp for Williams Hall. Faculty, staff, alumni and students joined to initiate a monthly campus clean-up and beautification day. Additionally, mural sized photographs and posters showcasing campus life have been placed throughout buildings, including a mural, showcasing the history of the nursing program in the Professional Schools Building.
Fortifying Faculty and Staff
Having served as a faculty member, chair and dean prior to arriving at Dillard, Ford wants to celebrate and engage Dillard’s faculty and staff and continue to provide additional resources for employees to be successful in their roles. To encourage faculty and staff to apply for grants and contracts, the University established a privately-funded faculty and staff incentive program, offering $100 for the first external sponsored program application submitted by each employee. As a reward for receiving external funding, the University implemented an indirect cost return policy for grant principal investigators and their departments, allowing them to use their portion of overhead revenue from their external funding.
To recognize faculty and staff scholarship, individually framed poster-size covers of their books have been hung outside of their offices. To further support a spirit of collaboration and inclusive community-building, a staff council was established to serve as the voice of all full-time and part-time staff.
“Just to see my book cover in a portrait outside of my office means everything to me. I couldn’t stop smiling at my work,” posted Caleb Robeerson, coordinator in Dillard’s Center for Career and Professional Development, on LinkedIn. Roberson published the book “Road to the Front Office.”
Financing the Future for Students
To build stronger relationships with alumni, the church community (especially United Methodist and United Church of Christ) and corporate partners, President Ford began a seven state tour to begin engaging with key constituents including UNCF, Google, Louisiana’s U.S. senators and the Ray Charles Foundation. Since July 1, alumni giving participation rate has increased as compared to the same first quarter last year and donations from the faith community increased significantly. The University has also secured three new endowed scholarships totalling $125,000 from alumni and friends of Dillard. Recently, Dillard received a $1.3 million grant to establish the Ronald McNair Scholars Program which aims to increase the number of students going to graduate school.
“These represent only a few of the more than 101 accomplishments that were achieved collectively since July 1. Our DU community continually strives for excellence by being more effective and efficient. Our community of alumni, parents, friends, students, staff and faculty give generously of their time, talent and treasure, and for that I’m grateful,” said Ford.
Board of trustees chairman, Michael D. Jones, has taken note of how Ford has fully engaged faculty, staff and alumni who are eager to support her efforts to take Dillard to the next level. “She listens to them and incorporates their valued input into her planning.” Describing Ford’s faculty and staff incentive program as innovative, Jones said that the board is pleased with Ford’s focus and energy. “We are confident that we chose the best leader to move Dillard forward.”
For more photos, videos and information about Dillard and its accomplishments during Ford’s first 100 days as president, visit https://www.dillard.edu/president/newsletter/first-100-days.php.