Dr. Charlotte P. Morris, A native of Kosciusko, Mississippi, and current resident of Tuskegee, Alabama, began her tenure as the 9th President of Tuskegee University on August 1st, 2021. Dr. Morris began her work at Tuskegee University over 30 years ago as a faculty member in the College of Business, and worked her way through various faculty and administrative positions up to several terms as interim president and now as our permanent president. We had the honor of sitting down with her for an interview on her vision for Tuskegee University and what she plans to accomplish during her tenure as our 9th President.
As the 9th President of the illustrious Tuskegee University, Dr. Charlotte P. Morris is focusing on leading Tuskegee into the future and setting a framework for the university that will create lasting change and growth, with the ultimate goal of Tuskegee becoming the #1 Ranked HBCU in the nation. President Morris plans to achieve this goal through the 5-year strategic plan for the university which covers the areas of: Academic Excellence, Operational Efficiency, Student Engagement, Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Advancement in Infrastructure and Resources, World-Class Faculty and Staff, Athletics, and Community and Strategic Partnerships.
President Morris is no stranger to Tuskegee University! She has served in various positions over the past 38 years – she explains how proud she feels for taking part in the “Tuskegee experience and making a difference [for Tuskegee].” During her time at the university, Dr. Morris has served as professor, administrator, and interim president. She uses the experience gained in all past positions to guide her leadership now. Dr. Morris also makes note of the mentorship she received from the previous presidents, Dr. Benjamin Franklin Payton (the 5th president) and Dr. Lily D. McNair (the 8th president), as inspiration for her current work.
In her short time as President at Tuskegee, Dr. Morris has gotten to work swiftly, through projects such as demolition of abandoned dorms, uncovering of financial discrepancies, filling of athletic positions, and increased partnerships and collaborations. All with the purpose of following the 5-year strategic plan, in order to make Tuskegee University the #1 HBCU in the nation. Currently, the most prevalent project the university is undertaking is demolition of old dorms and construction of new dorms and student spaces. Dr. Morris notes that this project was essential to the goal of bringing Tuskegee students back to campus from Auburn, which is key to accomplishing the 3rd goal of the strategic plan (i.e., Student Engagement).
These projects became feasible partly due to the new financial and administrative philosophy and policies put into place by Dr. Morris. She notes that infrastructure projects she has been able to start were in part set up by her predecessors and her support team. However, she also acknowledges that a large influence behind the unfavorable financial status of the University prior to this year was caused by the loose spending habits of previous periods. President Morris describes the spending and debt management of the previous administrations as “good debt, but [that which] needed to be strategically planned” – which means the debt incurred by previous administrations to complete projects such as construction of dorms and buildings was good in the sense that it enabled the launch of projects around the campus. However, since the borrowed money was in high volume and taken at such a fast pace, the university became overwhelmed attempting to pay it back. That, in turn, led to the massive amount of debt the University amassed. To ensure that the University maintains a sustainable financial status, President Morris has made the commitment to regulate spending and borrowing in a more “steady and strategic” manner.
In addition to internal improvements, President Morris has also made it a priority to “take full advantage of the current political climate” – the increased number of opportunities allocated to HBCUs and their students in the business and government spheres. President Morris sees great possibilities in the current political climate to acquire grant funds, debt forgiveness, and other resources from outside organizations. Specifically, she refers to the massive federal debt forgiveness program and various grants allocated to the university, such as the Feinberg gift and donations from Mackenzie Scott and other philanthropists. President Morris sees an urgency to take advantage of as many of these opportunities as possible, as they will not necessarily last forever.
President Morris has made a commitment to laying the foundation for her successor to lead Tuskegee into the future. She has already made strides with this commitment through the creation of the 5-year strategic plan, the initiatives she has already put in place, and the hiring of her administrative staff. By the end of her term as President, Dr. Morris hopes to “leave Tuskegee better than how [she] found it” and to be remembered as “a person who was genuine about the position.” We are glad to have such a transformational leader as our new president and look forward to a much-improved Tuskegee University in the next few years!