ELIZABETH CITY, NC.- Elizabeth City State University Chancellor Thomas E.H. Conway Jr., stood before an auditorium full of faculty members and educators delivering a State of University speech that at its core extolled the virtues of excellence. The speech was delivered on Wednesday, August 10, 2016, during the Faculty Institute on the ECSU campus.
Conway Jr., succeeded Stacey Franklin Jones, who stepped down from her post as Chancellor on December 31, 2015. He has served as interim chancellor since January 1 and was elected to the position on a permanent basis by the Board of Governors on January 26. He previously served as vice chancellor and chief of staff at Fayetteville State University.
“We will not accept anything less than the best of service,” said Chancellor Conway during his speech. “It is important that we adopt the attitude that we bring value.”
Chancellor Conway posed the questions: Why are we here? Where are we going?
Back in 2014, ECSU was set for possible closure as a purposed provision was given that would have allowed UNC Board of Governors to study closing any institution with a 20 percent decline in enrollment between July 1, 2010, and June 30, 2013. ECSU has seen a precipitous drop in admissions, losing nearly 900 student from 2011-2014.
He spoke of the missions of various University of North Carolina constituent institutions. When ECSU was founded in 1891, the mission was to provide opportunity for the economic development of the African-American citizens of northeast North Carolina.
but missions evolve, and so has that of ECSU. While ECSU is a historically black university, and as a HBCU that “mission is not complete yet,” Chancellor Conway said today one-in-four students are not African-American. That means that ECSU is an “access institution” and its mission is that of a regional university.
While providing access to any many individuals as possible is at the core of the institution, Chancellor Conway also said ECSU is taking on a new identity as it becomes one-of-three schools in the N.C. Promise program. Prompted by Senate Bill 873, N.C. Promise includes ECSU, UNC-Pembroke, and Western Carolina University. Each campus will offer 500 per semester tuition for in-state student and $2,500 per semester tuition for out-of-state students beginning in the fall of 2018.
As ECSU moves into the future, said Chancellor Conway, the university must acknowledge that the faces of university students are changing. While there are traditional students enrolling, increasingly there are transfer students coming in from community colleges and other campuses. And the non-traditional, older students is also becoming more frequent on campuses.
“College students are getting older,” he said. “In today’s classes the range of ages is not what it used to be.”
“And they are coming to ECSU and other campuses across the state for a variety of reason,” he said.
“This is also a very active effort to being member of the military on campus, with an emphasis on the Coast Guard. That effort will include online degree programs that would allow those students to continue their ECSU education after they have been transferred to a new duty station,” he said.
“Ultimately, it is up to faculty and staff to lead the way into the future. The perceptions these students hold, the attitudes they posses, are in large part a product of the value and excellence projected by the people of ECSU,” he said.