Meet the new president of Alabama A&M

Etowah County officially met with the new president of Alabama A&M University on Thursday, as Dr. Daniel Wims spoke with the Gadsden-Etowah alumni chapter at their regular meeting.

He outlined his priorities for the university, in terms of a focus on science, technology, engineering and math, infrastructure improvements and student recruitment.

In an interview, Wims said he had met alumni at social events while at college, but felt the need to meet other people and “hear” them.

“I wanted to know Gadsden. It’s a very beautiful city,” he said. “I’ve only been here a few times, but hope to be able to come and visit at least twice a year from now on.”

Wims was hired by university administrators in October and began his presidency Jan. 1, but his career at Alabama A&M really began 12 years ago when he was hired as provost and vice president of business. academics. Later, he also became vice president of research and also served as a professor of agricultural science.

He hopes to emphasize STEM projects, especially those involving IT, after seeing such efforts begin during his time as provost.

“We have made every effort to recruit qualified professors with some expertise in cybersecurity. They also teach artificial intelligence courses,” he said. “We’ve also established a coding concentration so students can get additional coding credentials.”

He said the university has added several other concentrations in computer science, along with two master’s programs in mechanical and electrical engineering.

“We’re heavily invested in STEM, but it goes beyond engineering and IT,” Wims said. “We also focus on our natural sciences and our physical sciences, like our Ph.D. program in physics, and other programs we offer.

Wims said another goal is to “improve and improve” infrastructure on campus.

“We are a very old campus, having been here almost 150 years, so some of our buildings are very old fashioned. They need major renovations and repairs,” he said. “Some of our buildings are unused, so we want to bring them back to some kind of functionality.”

Winn wants to see the university take its “local and Alabama brand” and expand it from Alabama to a “regional, national, or even global level.”

He added: “This is going to require us to do a major marketing and branding campaign leading up to our 150th year. We’re also going to have to increase our fundraising campaign in conjunction with this in hopes of (getting) more corporate support as well as increasing alumni support.

Wims wants to emphasize the curriculum by recruiting “more and younger faculty” who will be at the university for many years to come.

“About 30% of our teachers could decide to leave and retire tomorrow,” he said. “As they retire, we need more and younger teachers to replace them.

He said the university was struggling to make such hires due to ongoing labor shortages.

“COVID-19 has affected our ability to recruit faculty and staff as on-campus research processes are harder to come by,” Wims said. “We have a real challenge retaining employees, much like in other industries, which is why we’re behind on some of our projects because there aren’t enough employees to participate.

Wims also wants to continue recruiting more students, citing the university’s hope to “grow gradually” each year.

“It’s going to force us not just to recruit, but to retain and interest those we already have,” he said. “Increasing this rate is a major priority.”

Wims reported a “5% increase” in registration rates in the spring compared to last year, giving him hope that this will continue into the fall.

However, he said COVID-19 has also been a challenge for recruitment and retention, citing the difficulty of virtual recruitment due to the closure of shared spaces.

“We haven’t seen a significant increase or decrease in any direction with regards to enrollments,” he said. “Right now we’re kind of flat.”

Wims said most of Alabama A&M’s “priority areas” haven’t been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has challenged the university’s “ability to improve or improve outcomes.” student learning”.

“Our students need hands-on approaches and we need them in the classrooms and labs to interact with faculty and graduate students. That hasn’t been the case for two years,” he said. “We try to be normal, but there hasn’t really been any normality.”

Wims said he had a “genuine fear” that navigating the COVID-19 landscape will remain an issue. “I fear that COVID, in different shapes and forms, will be with us for another five years or more,” he said. “My presidency could be where we have to deal with COVID and with the different variations it will be made difficult because we will be affected differently.” It’s something he thinks he may have to continue to “struggle” with.

Still, Wims plans to keep the university on track with its master plan, and its views on program accreditations that are about to be renewed. “We will remain focused on those priorities and goals,” he said. declared.

Wims hopes the community will continue to “invite” the university and get to know them, and let the university “get to know you”.

“We need resources for our Alabama students, not only for help, but also to get internships and learning opportunities in the state,” he said. “Even the Gadsden area, with its economic development and infrastructure, can help our students.

“It’s been a great experience for him to want to come and visit us,” Gadsden-Etowah Alumni Section President Eloise Turk said of Wims. “We felt so thrilled for him to feel he needed to personally meet every chapter that wanted him to come.”

Turk said the local chapter is very active, aiming to support the university in any way possible.

“We are the arm of the university. We try to get students who have graduated from high school to consider A&M, and we try to get the best students we can,” she said. “So our mission is to stay as active as possible so that they get to know us and encourage them with scholarships. .”

Gadsden’s Dr. Wayne Watts is a member of the Alabama A&M board of directors and, according to Watts, plans to serve his second six-year term.

“He’s our vice chair on our board,” Wims said, “We also have donors here in the region that we wanted to meet and thank for their contributions.”

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