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Dr. Hawkins gets prestigious fellowship

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This website is provided for the convenience of University of Wisconsin faculty and staff to view and access the ACE Fellowship award updates and related information.

Muriel A. Hawkins, 2007-08 Fellow
Submitted December 15, 2007

Dillard University, Host Institution   
Marvalene Hughes, President and Mentor 
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, Home Institution
Richard H. Wells, Chancellor and Nominator


My experience as an ACE Fellow, at Dillard University, with President Marvalene Hughes as my mentor, has been phenomenal.   The entire University community -- students, faculty and staff, have made me feel welcome and a part of the Dillard University community.   I was officially welcomed during a reception, which the President hosted, to introduce me to the University community as Dillard University’s first ACE Fellow.

As a member of the Senior Cabinet, I have had opportunities to work closely with President Hughes, Provost Emily Moore (1989-90 Class of ACE Fellows), the Deans’ Council, Faculty and Staff Councils and the Student Government Association on a number of projects.  These include revision of the faculty handbook, promotion and tenure guidelines, faculty and staff directory, and various student activities, to name a few.

In early fall, President Hughes announced a new initiative, the President’s Mini Grants Program, themed, “Transforming the New Dillard University.”   I was asked to coordinate the program, which opened doors for me to create new connections, campuswide with deans, faculty, staff and students.  My charge included forming a selection committee, developing guidelines and administering the grants’ program for the academic year.  To date, we have reviewed and recommended funding of 15 innovative, faculty, staff and student proposals, totaling more than $40,000.

ACE Fellows Program, having hosted three ACE Fellows at California State University Stanislaus, where she served as President for 11 years.

While Dillard University is very much like any other academic institution, with the same responsibilities and issues of higher education, it is different.  Dillard University has experienced a major disaster, Hurricane Katrina, which has impacted every aspect of the institution.  Regular meetings include those with builders, contractors, and attorneys, while dealing with academic and student issues, and respective financial implications.   Until recently, Dillard University employees lived and worked on two campus sites.

President Hughes maintains an incredibly busy schedule, both within and outside of the country, for which she has made me an integral part.  I have had opportunities to travel with the President to various meetings, programs and events, including the White House Initiative on HBCUs in Washington, D.C., where I met the Secretaries of Education and Housing and Urban Development and their Cabinets, Louisiana Senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter, Presidents and Chancellors and a host of new colleagues and friends.

I am learning more about private colleges through my interaction with President Hughes and colleagues in the Louisiana Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (LAICU).  At the Association of Presidents and Chancellors’ meetings, I have had the pleasure of meeting and visiting with presidents and chancellors at other local colleges and universities. 

When colleagues ask, “What is a typical day like at Dillard University,” I say, “Expect the unexpected.”  We may have an impromptu visit from a famous alumnus, like Garrett Morris (’58), best known for his roles on Saturday Night Live and on Broadway, or Dr. Vartan Gregorian (1973-74 Class of ACE Fellows), and CEO of the Carnegie Corporation, who came to campus to present Dillard University with a grant for two million dollars for faculty salaries. 

Following Dillard’s fall board meeting on November 9-10, the campus celebrated Founders’ Day on November 11, 2007.  It was amazing to learn about Dillard’s rich history, and how the institution has evolved since its beginning in 1869.   Our Founders’ Day speaker, Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, President of the University of Maryland Baltimore County, received a standing ovation before he spoke, as he presented President Hughes with an unrestricted gift of $250,000 from the Marguerite Casey Foundation.

This year’s holiday concert was fabulous, with Dillard’s own Gospel Choir and the VisionQuest Chorale performing, along with special guests Lucresia Campbell, Garrett Morris and Ellis Marsalis.  The event was videotaped with a DVD forthcoming.

Amidst my unbelievable semester of activities and experiences, I hosted a visit for 13 of my ACE classmates to visit Dillard University, my host campus, Delgado Community College and Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO).   Dillard University’s visit began with a roundtable by Provost Emily Moore at the Hilton Hotel, which we affectionately refer to as the “Dilton,” since it was home to Dillard’s students, faculty and staff for an entire semester, post-Katrina.  On campus, we shared breakfast with President Hughes and members of the Senior Cabinet, followed by President Hughes’ presentation on “Transforming the New Dillard University.”  Dr. Walter Strong, Executive Vice President, led a powerful discussion on “Board Development and Advancement.”  Following lunch, we took a post-Katrina tour of the city, including the Lower Ninth Ward.
The following day, Dr. Alex Johnson (1987-88 Class of ACE Fellows), and Chancellor of Delgado Community College hosted our group of ACE Fellows.  Delgado Community College is the oldest and largest Community College in Louisiana, operates three comprehensive campuses and three satellite sites, and has links with four Louisiana Technical College sites.

Dr. Johnson’s presentation, “A National Perspective of Community Colleges and Katrina Challenges for Delgado,” gave us more insight about two-year institutions and some of the challenges they encounter.  Other presentations and discussions focused on “Accreditation, Articulations and Louisiana Technical Colleges Linkages,” and “Workforce Development and Technical Education.”

Following a wrap-up and lunch at Delgado, we visited SUNO, where we were greeted by Chancellor Victor Ukpolo and members of his Cabinet.  SUNO is one of five campuses in the only Black University System (Southern University System) in the country.  Chancellor Ukpolo and his Cabinet offered various perspectives on post-Katrina challenges.  SUNO is the only New Orleans University that has not returned to its original campus, two years, post-Katrina.  In addition to losing 20 academic programs, one of SUNO’s greatest challenges is that the entire campus currently operates out of 45 modular units (trailers). I believe that New Orleans was an eye-opener for my ACE colleagues, and everyone left with many lessons learned.

The project I agreed to explore for my home campus (UW Oshkosh) is a faculty exchange program between UW Oshkosh and Dillard University, and possibly other HBCUs.  Although Dillard is currently one of four HBCUs already participating in a faculty exchange project with Southwestern University (Georgetown University), I have met with Dillard’s campus liaison, and will participate in the next collaborative meeting.  Southwestern University received a $150,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation to develop the faculty exchange programs with four other universities, of which Dillard is one of the HBCUs involved in the project.  As a first step, I have begun exploring funding possibilities  for the UW Oshkosh Faculty Exchange Program, which will be a topic of discussion when I meet with the Chancellor and Provost at UW Oshkosh later this month.

This report serves as a summary of my activities for the fall semester, the mid-point of my Fellowship year. 

During the fall semester, I have had bi-monthly, individual meetings with President Hughes.  During our meetings, the President has always provided feedback on projects I am working on for the President’s office and in other areas on campus.  In addition to weekly Senior Cabinet meetings, I am invited to meetings of the Faculty, Staff and Deans’ Councils, which I attend regularly.

I am always invited to participate in the President’s activities.  Unfortunately, President Hughes’ schedule is unbelievably busy, but fortunately, I never have to “invite myself to the party.”  I am always invited.

One of the most important lessons I can take away from my experience so far is that leadership is not just from the top, but includes everyone on the team.  In transforming the New Dillard through the President’s leadership, members of the University community are also experiencing personal transformation.  For many faculty staff and students, it is the first time that they have felt that their contributions are worthwhile and appreciated.  From my observations, members of the campus community are enthusiastic and feel empowered.    

Through my experiences at Dillard University, I have begun to examine my own style of leadership.  I better understand the many styles of leadership and that a good leader must choose the style that is appropriate for the situation.  There are vast differences in being a leader and being a boss.  I have also observed that a good leader, such as my mentor, is highly visible, communicates effectively, continuously motivates and empowers members of the team.    

This report has been read and discussed with my mentor, President, Marvalene Hughes.


Muriel A. Hawkins, 2007-08 ACE Fellow

Marvalene Hughes, Ph.D., Mentor



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