MPW '14: Big Blue blueprint

TSU's Glover emphasizes customer service as part of leadership goals

Tennessee State University President Glenda Glover knows that leading by example and with integrity and competence can yield tangible results.

But the veteran academician also realizes that a specific blueprint for success is often needed. 

When Glover began her tenure in January 2013, she instituted goals focused student success and customer service, fundraising and partnerships, diversity and inclusion, shared governance and community outreach. 

During the 15 months that have since passed, progress has been made.

"We mounted a Save our Students (SOS) campaign and were able to raise enough financial resources from the alumni and the corporate community to keep any student from being purged from the university for financial reasons," Glover says. 

With the SOS effort came an overall increase in and strategies for institutional advancement and fundraising, as well as new business relationships

"In general, we made a concerted effort to excite and energize our alumni base," she says. "Alumni contributions have more than tripled from $450,000 in 2012 to over $1.7 million in 2013. I issued a challenge to TSU alumni chapters to match my initial contribution made last year. As of [early February 2014], several chapters have either matched that contribution or are very close. Corporate contributions also have increased substantially, as have the number of new partnerships.” 

Glover says alumni and community support have allowed TSU to avoid having to send more than 350 student for financial reasons. 

"[The SOS] response was phenomenal," she says. "It was the support from the entire TSU family and community that allowed each student to remain in school … during the 2013 fall semester."

Relatedly, Glover says  TSU has made improvements in "customer service," especially with registration and financial aid processes. 

"While we have not reached our goal of perfect customer service, the process has improved and student complaints are down," she says.

Such leadership — from Glover and other TSU officials — is helpful as the university continues its efforts to land federal grants related to research. Most recently, for example, a team of TSU researchers received a $1.93 million federal grant to study the development, discovery and integration of war fighting technologies to support air, space and cyberspace forces with the U.S. Department of Defense. And last October, the university announced the National Science Foundation had awarded TSU a $2.5 million grant related to efforts involving STEM (students in science, technology, engineering and math). 

"These grants help to solidify the university's reputation as a premier institution offering ground-breaking research that benefits the greater community and beyond," Glover says. "The awards also speak to the caliber of faculty and students and the innovative work being done on our campus.  

A former math major, Glover remains a  "strong proponent" of STEM.

"I have charged our College of Education to create a STEM curriculum for our future teachers as well as creating a pilot community program that will engage students at an earlier age, beginning in pre-K, in these areas," she says. "Better educated students in the STEM courses will prepare them for the global marketplace. We have completely embraced Gov. Bill Haslam's Drive to 55 graduation initiative to help students graduate in higher numbers and improve the number of workforce-ready employees."

Regarding Goal No. 5, community outreach, Glover has taken a hands-on approach.

"I have personally visited many of the [TSU alumni] chapters around the nation and presented the vision of this administration," she says. "I am truly excited about the alumni engagement and support. We are so pleased that alumni have not only provided financial support, but have helped us to recruit talented students and have assisted us in accessing corporate America.

“We will continue to keep our alumni informed and engaged,” she adds, “and advance an even stronger communication program."