A new course has been chartered for Lincoln University.
Robert R. Jennings, who was recently inaugurated as Lincoln’s 13th president, has set an ambitious vision for the institution’s future.
“I’m at a point where I’m trying to make sure that all of the programs that we offer are of the highest quality possible, that they are setting the tone for where institutions of higher learning ought to go today,” says Jennings, who comes to Lincoln after having served in key leadership roles at Alabama A&M, Wake Forest University and North Carolina AT&T.
“I’m trying to make sure that all of our programs have a global perspective, because we live in a global society. In other words, when you get a degree from Lincoln University, you ought to be able to operate not only in this country but you should be able to use those same skills sets in any other country.”
With that in mind, Jennings says the university — which offers five foreign languages — is emphasizing the importance of being bilingual to its students.
Under Jennings’ direction, Lincoln is focusing on offering programs that meet the demands of the marketplace.
Next January, Lincoln will roll out a new master’s degree in chemistry with an emphasis on environmental studies and green initiatives.
The university has resurrected its bachelor’s in nursing program to help meet the nationwide demand for nurses. Plans are in the works to open a facility in Coatesville, which will be used for Lincoln’s nursing program and should be up and running by January.
With the assistance of the University of Delaware, Lincoln will be launching a new hotel, restaurant and hospitality management program University officials are exploring the possibility of constructing a hotel conference center near the main campus, which would be a training ground for students.
One of Jennings most pressing concerns is raising critical scholarship dollars to be able to recruit and retain talented students at Lincoln. His administration plans to conduct a feasibility study for a capital campaign with a projected goal of $40 to $50 million raised over a four-year period with a major emphasis on building the university’s endowment. The university seeks to increase alumni giving to 11 percent annually.
The push to obtain more scholarship funding comes at a time when 97 percent of Lincoln students receive financial aid, and 64 percent of its students are the first in their family to ever go to college.
“We still continue to attract a cadre of young people at the undergraduate level in particular who are the first and understand that in order to maneuver this global society that they are going to have to have a degree because the research is clear. Those with a degree make one and half times more than those who do not have one,” Jennings pointed out.
To increase student enrollment, Jennings has signed articulation agreements with nine community colleges. In the next five years, he projects the construction of at least one suite-style dormitory and an additional 1,000 students through the use of online learning and distance learning technology and partnerships.
In keeping with Lincoln’s focus on maintaining a global presence, Jennings says the university seeks to have 10 to 15 percent of its student body study abroad and will be starting faculty exchange programs with South Africa, India and Asia. He will be traveling to South Africa later this month to sign agreements for students to have study-abroad experiences.
“If we talking about producing a global minded student which is part of our mission, then we certainly have got be in position to do global minded things,” Jennings said.
In an effort to make the university more accessible to the public, a new series titled “Culture at Lincoln” will be launched on campus that enables community residents to view free plays and musical performances at the university.
Jennings says that making the university more accessible to the Chester County community will better position Lincoln to recruit students from the area and approach the surrounding area for scholarship support.
Jennings shared his goals for the university before a crowd of administrators, faculty, students, alumni, politicians and officials from area colleges and universities during a formal inauguration ceremony on September 22.
“This is a president of vast talent and admirable life experience,” Gov. Tom Corbett said during the ceremony.
“He could have worked anywhere, but he chose Lincoln University — a place that has taught all of us to believe in excellence.”
Jennings comes to Lincoln from Gems, Inc., in Union City, Ga., where he served as an administrator. Gems is a licensed learning academy operating in two states which serves children 6 weeks to 12 years and personal care homes serving adults including seniors with special needs. Under this position Jennings managed day to day operations of both agencies including staff development training, marketing, and quality control.
He brings an extensive background in higher education and the government arena to his role at Lincoln’s helm. He served as president/CEO of Alabama A&M in Normal, Ala., from 2005 to 2008. While at AAMU he raised $4 million for a scholarship endowment program which was the first time this had every occurred in the history of AAMU. He secured the largest legislative increase in the 132-year school history by 12 percent.
Prior to becoming the president of AAMU, Jennings was the executive vice president/chief operating officer for Future Focus 2020, Babcock Graduate School of Management at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., and vice chancellor for Development and University Relations at North Carolina A&T in Greensboro, N.C.
In his government related experience, he served as the U.S. State Department’s chief consultant for the U.S. Information Agency to the University of Niamey in Niger, Africa. He has served in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of the Administrator in Washington, D.C., and as a loaned executive to the Reagan administration.
Jennings holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Morehouse College, a master’s in education psychology/elementary education and a doctorate in higher education administration and policy studies from Atlanta University. He also received an education specialist degree in interrelated/special education from Atlanta University.