On Friday January 28th, we had the privilege of sitting down for an elaborate interview with our new Provost & Sr. Vice President for Academic Affairs (Provost), Dr. S. Keith Hargrove. Provost Hargrove was remarkably warm and generous in the interview, giving us the opportunity to ask all our questions. He emphasized the top of his agenda is to implement Tuskegee University’s five-year strategic plan under the leadership of President Morris and to make us the number-one ranked HBCU by the end of this period. He also emphasized his commitment to engaging both the faculty and student body and promised to bring a sense of renewal to the “Tuskegee Experience.” Altogether, we left the interview in high spirits with enormous hope for the future of our One Tuskegee.
In Fall 2021 Tuskegee University was able to fill its vacant Provost position. The university selection committee announced that Dr. S. Keith Hargrove would be appointed as Provost and Sr. Vice President of Academic Affairs Effective January 1, 2022. Dr. Hargrove received his BS in Mechanical Engineering from Tennessee State University (TSU), his Masters’ degree from Missouri University of Science and Technology, and his Ph.D. from The University of Iowa. He has previously served as Dean of the College of Engineering at TSU, and Associate professor at both Morgan State University and Tuskegee University. Dr. Hargrove has also held several administrative/research positions at major manufacturing companies such as General Electric, Boeing, and GM, and several federal research laboratories.
Dr. Hargrove states that the primary role of his office is to provide students with “quality academic programs and instruction” but goes on to acknowledge that academics are not the only factor in a college experience. He asserts that his office is committed to enhancing the TU Student Experience by working with the Offices of Enrollment Management and Student Success, and the Student Affairs Office, to help develop the student’s academic, professional, and social experiences at the university. To achieve these goals, Dr. Hargrove has committed to the philosophy of, “students come first, but faculty are a priority,” which follows the idea of improving and developing the quality of faculty and instruction, which in turn will improve student achievement and success.
Dr. Hargrove also addresses other pressing issues such as the university’s plan to improve virtual learning, maintaining our recent debt-free status, and plans to fully reopen Tuskegee for face-to-face learning. Dr. Hargrove acknowledges that virtual learning at TU has improved over the course of the pandemic, but there is still a significant number of faculty who are struggling with the shift to hybrid/virtual learning. To combat this issue, the Provost’s office has put in place essential training for all professors in order to improve virtual instruction skills.
On the issue of financial status of the university, Provost Hargrove commits to maintaining Tuskegee’s debt-free status stating that, “future operations will be more business-like” in terms of spending, investment, and organizational structure. In terms of the reopening of the university, Dr. Hargrove is not sure about a full reopening for the upcoming Fall 2022 semester. He instead predicts the University will most likely reopen for face-to-face learning in spring 2023.
In addition to the goals and actions of his office, Dr. Hargrove is fully committed to the 8-point, five-year strategic plan formulated under the current University President Dr. Charlotte P. Morris. He considers Dr. Morris as the “right leader at the right time” for Tuskegee. This 8-point plan is a commitment to the improvement of Tuskegee University over the next five years in the areas of:
- Academic Excellence
- Operational Efficiency
- Student Engagement
- Research, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship
- Advancements in Infrastructure and Resources
- World-Class Faculty and Staff
- Community and Strategic Partnerships
Under the leadership of President Morris, one of the goals is to become the #1 ranked HBCU in the nation.
Provost Hargrove is adamant about improving graduation rates as a major step in the completion of the 8-point strategic plan. He attributes that student retention and graduation is typically a function of students having financial issues, academic issues, and/or not having a sense of belonging. In order to address these issues, Dr. Hargrove commits to increasing scholarship funding, academic support, academic advising, and improving the sense of belonging within the student body by working with all units of the university.
Aside from his commitment to improving graduation rates, Dr. Hargrove would also like to enhance the university’s infrastructure in order to attract more “college-ready students.” These upgrades would consist of such items as residence hall renovations, construction of new residence hall(s), improvements in the existing academic programs, and incorporation of new academic programs. He cites the University’s recent hiring of Reginald Ruffin as our new Football Coach stating that, “we went out and got the best coach in the SIAC” to show our commitment to aggressively pursuing our 2021-2026 Strategic Plan.
In order to complete all these goals, Provost Hargrove emphasizes the responsibilities of the students and the university. In order to obtain Student Achievement and Success, each element must do their part. He describes a mathematical balance equation in which student achievement and success is realized when all factors execute and practice their responsibilities: The need for students to register on time, innovative instruction and learning to take place, students to graduate with a degree, and the university to provide good customer service, are just some of the critical elements for student success (this balance equation will be published here in a separate story).
Dr. Hargrove is confident that if these expectations are met by all parties, the students’ success will contribute to the completion of the 8-point strategic plan in five years, and to become the #1 ranked HBCU in the nation. Provost Hargrove concludes his thoughts by stating it is “not about me, it’s about we,” attesting that we all are responsible for the implementation of the 2021-2026 Strategic Plan. Under the leadership of President Morris, we would be able to literally transform the university in academics, research, infrastructure, and student experience. We congratulate him and wish him, and all the Tuskegee University community, success in implementing this revolutionary plan!