VOL. 130 | NO. 219 | Tuesday, November 10, 2015
LeMoyne-Owen’s Miller To Chart New Course
By Bill Dries
The new president of LeMoyne-Owen College says the historically black college is going to change under her leadership – in its philosophy, goals and size.
“I think that LeMoyne-Owen as it is today has to be very different if it is going to be viable and if we are going to be able to compete with the rest of the colleges and universities in the area,” Andrea Lewis Miller said on the WKNO-TV program “Behind The Headlines.” “What really excited me about coming back was the opportunity to transform the school into something very different.”
Miller, a LeMoyne-Owen alumna, has been the institution’s leader for two months, succeeding Johnnie Watson as college president.
Behind The Headlines, hosted by The Daily News publisher Eric Barnes, can be seen on The Daily News Video page, video.memphisdailynews.com.
“I don’t think that we can just stay with the liberal arts tradition,” Miller said. “We need to develop a niche. … We have got to be able to say to individuals in the community, ‘If you want a degree that’s going to guarantee you going to graduate school or getting into the job market in this area or that area, you might want to think about Lemoyne Owen.’”
Miller previously was the chancellor of Baton Rouge Community College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and prior to that served as chancellor of Southwest Louisiana Technical College. She also worked as vice president at Southwest Tennessee Community College. All three institutions have been an influence.
“We now are beginning to look at how do we align our programming with the needs of business and industry,” Miller said. “We value our liberal arts tradition. But we also recognize that we have students who, sometimes, the liberal arts curriculum may not be what they need. We need to give them options.”
Those options include associate degrees and workplace certification as well as getting into allied health training, which LeMoyne-Owen doesn’t currently offer.
The school is part of the Tennessee Promise program, scholarships provided by state government that provide up to two years of free community college or technical center education. Although it is a private college, LeMoyne-Owen joined the program because of its plans to offer associate degrees.
The school’s tradition includes producing teachers and Miller talked of reclaiming that tradition.
“K-12 is a very important population of students that need so very much these days,” she said. “I’d like to have teacher education, especially alternative teacher training, to be a center of excellence at LeMoyne-Owen.”
The school, at 807 Walker Ave., currently has 1,000 students. One of Miller’s early goals is to expand that to 1,500 in the next three years and 2,500 in five to seven years, which long term will mean satellite campuses.
“I don’t think we could have 2,500 where we are anyway,” Miller said. “We’ve got to have some branch campuses. We have to be very strategic about that growth. So that growth can’t be in everything.”
Miller said the school should remain a “nurturing” place for students who “would not otherwise do well at some of the other colleges that are here.”
She also points to a recent survey that shows 80 to 90 percent of the college’s students work full-time as they pursue college education.
“That impacts their ability to persist,” she said. “Oftentimes we think students don’t persist because they are not doing well. Students are not persisting, we’re finding, because they don’t manage their time well. And if they have to give up something because it gets to be too much, it’s going to be school.”
In addition to education toward degrees, Miller said LeMoyne-Owen, as well as other colleges, have to do a better job of educating students about student debt and its impact on their futures.
“I think it is a great investment but I think what has traditionally happened, not enough training and information has been given to students about their responsibility and making sure they follow up in repayment,” Miller added. “Sometimes students don’t know when the loans are due. But the federal government holds the institution responsible for making sure the students are paying their loans in a timely manner.”
If they aren’t, it can affect the school’s default rate, which in turn affects the school’s ability to provide loans as well as Pell grants.