With a little less than 60 days on the job, new Texas Southern University (TSU) President Dr. Austin A. Lane has identified several key areas of importance to him, but has already drawn a non-negotiable line in the sand about what is most important to him above all – TSU students.
As the 12th president of the historic university, Dr. Lane came on the scene at TSU, not only having to fill some very big shoes after Dr. John M. Rudley, who served as TSU president since 2008, decided to retire, but having to also deal with some extremely serious issues and challenges that needed to be addressed at the university almost immediately.
In a private meeting with the Forward Times, one of the primary things Dr. Lane expressed he wanted to establish immediately was a culture at TSU that made existing and future students feel valued and let them know they are important to the overall success of the university.
“Nobody is more important to me than the students,” said Dr. Lane. “Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate and want the support of all the alumni, faculty, staff, community and our partners, but I serve to make sure our students at Texas Southern University receive the best quality education and experience imaginable.”
It is clear that Dr. Lane is committed to establishing that culture at TSU, in that he has a strong academic and relational connection as it relates to the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) experience, having received his undergraduate degree from Langston University – the only HBCU in the state of Oklahoma.
“I was an average student in school,” said Dr. Lane. “However, while I was in the school I happened to watch the show, A Different World, which is honestly what made me want to attend an HBCU. That show made going to school seem cool and exciting. That’s what we want to do with TSU.”
Dr. Lane has made it clear that making TSU the educational destination hotspot of choice is where his heart and passion lies. He has laid out a bold vision to return TSU to its storied past, while placing more of an emphasis on strengthening student recruitment and enrollment by attracting more students from high schools in the Greater Houston area and from across Texas.
“One of the things I’d like to do is to set up something where all incoming students, whether it’s through a course or an experience they get, understand the traditions and the history of our institution,” said Dr. Lane. “Attending an HBCU is a unique experience that is second to none, and that’s what I want to offer students who attend TSU, along with receiving the best education they could ever imagine.”
Dr. Lane also plans to focus on retaining existing TSU students through a four-year graduation plan, while also recruiting from community colleges in the Greater Houston area and from across the state of Texas. Dr. Lane plans to maintain his passion for student academic productivity and growth, and wants to produce graduates who will be prepared for the global workplace at the point of graduation. Another major priority of Dr. Lane is keeping TSU strong and independent, and maintaining its stature as a premier HBCU.
“We want to make TSU the university that everybody wants to attend, especially those students from the state of Texas,” said Dr. Lane.
Dr. Lane is in the midst of a TSU Alumni Listen and Learn tour, and has also been meeting with faculty, staff, members of the Black media, community stakeholders, clubs, associations and the business community, in order to gain input about how to make the university better, and to share his top six priorities for Texas Southern, which are:
- Student Success
- Academic Quality
- Research and Development
“Texas Southern University is set to enter the next phase of its existence and become a premier institution in the academic realm,” said Dr. Lane. “TSU is poised to position itself as a destination HBCU for people from across the nation and around the globe who are looking for an excellent education at a reasonable cost. As companies are looking to establish a diverse workforce, we stand positioned to provide them with students who are prepared to enter the workforce upon graduation.”
Lane said he is a numbers guy and will demand accountability from faculty and staff based on the numbers and stats he is given from his established team of researchers and staff.
“I have assembled a very good team of researchers and numbers people,” said Dr. Lane. “So nobody will be able to just throw out numbers to me, without me having already received and looked at the data beforehand myself. At the end of the day, everything we do at Texas Southern has to be tied back to our overall student’s success.”
In his new role as TSU president, Dr. Lane will provide overall leadership and strategic direction to the institution, while maintaining excellence in academic programs, oversight of athletics programs and cultivating relationships that benefit TSU and enhance its visibility and brand.
In seeking to cultivate new and meaningful relationships, the Forward Times reported in June that Pappas Restaurants presented a check to Dr. Lane in the amount of $540,000 that will go towards TSU in support of its student housing initiative.
Dr. Lane has already indicated he wants all TSU alumni to “come back home” and participate in all TSU Homecoming events and festivities, along with current TSU students. There is already a myriad of events scheduled for the 2016 TSU Homecoming, taking place from Sunday, October 16 through Saturday, October 22, including a Homecoming Worship Service; Brunch with President Lane; Homecoming Gospel Celebration; The Melting Pot – Student Showcase; 2nd Annual Breakfast After Dark with President Lee; Celebrity Basketball Game; TSU’s Wild and Out; Student Appreciation Day; Miss TSU Coronation; TSU Live!; RSVP Tent Party; Homecoming Yard Fest; BBQ Festival; Homecoming Concert and Greek Show; Ultimate Tailgating; Homecoming Parade; and the annual Homecoming Football Game featuring the TSU Tigers vs. the Jackson State Tigers. The theme of the 2016 Homecoming is “Remember the Times,” which is something Dr. Lane is hoping everyone does.
Although he is a native of New Jersey, Dr. Lane has local ties to TSU because his father-in-law and late mother-in-law both attended Texas Southern. Dr. Lane’s father-in-law, Larry Williams, attended TSU with late Texas congressman Mickey Leland, and also served as the best man in Leland’s wedding. Dr. Lane comes to TSU after having served as the Executive Vice Chancellor of Lone Star College since January 2015. In his role, Dr. Lane oversaw Academic Affairs, Student Services, Workforce Education, Corporate College, Office of Completion, Honors College, International Programs, LSC-Online, Strategic Planning and Assessment, Texas Completes, and University Centers (The Woodlands and University Park). Prior to being appointed as Executive Vice Chancellor, Dr. Lane served as the third president of Lone Star College-Montgomery from July 2009 to January 2015, where he led one of the fastest growing institutions in the State of Texas and the nation.
Dr. Lane appears to have a bold vision and solid plan to help move Texas Southern forward.
The Forward Times will continue to highlight the progress that Dr. Lane is making at Texas Southern. Keep an eye out to see how lawmakers plan to treat the storied institution, as it relates to funding and support during the next legislative session.