FAMU President Revising Strategy, Mending Fences

Sep 10, 2015

L-R: Larry Robinson, Elmira Mangum
Credit Nick Evans

Florida A&M University is moving to revise its ten year strategic plan after missing out on additional funding because the school failed to meet performance benchmarks.  President Elmira Mangum says even if the strategy changes, the school’s mission won’t.

Under Florida’s performance funding model, the state’s 12 public universities pony up $250 million.  The state puts in an addition $150 million and then the university system’s Board of Governors divvies up the $400 million pot. 

In 2015, Florida A&M didn’t receive any of that additional money because of a number of academic shortcomings.  Now university President Elmira Mangum is taking the unusual step of revising the school’s strategic plan—a ten year roadmap that was supposed to serve until 2020.  Thursday Mangum introduced the task force she’s appointing to rework the plan, but she was quick to point out the school’s mission of educating underserved communities remains.

“128 years of success suggests that we shouldn’t change our mission or there’s no need to change our mission because we know that there is a still a need for the work that we do—for the educational opportunities that we provide,” Mangum says.  “And that is our base, that is our core that is our foundation, and we’re going to continue to build on it.  What we do in an environment such as this is we develop new strategies to reach our goals.”

Extending those educational opportunities has hurt the school’s six year graduation rate, leading the university system’s governing board to push for more selective admissions. 

Mangum has tapped former FAMU interim President Larry Robinson to lead the group.  He says the key for success is defining measurable expectations.

“So we’ll say we want to be good in research—in some area of research, but then we’ll talk about what those areas are, who are the people that need to be involved in those and what type of resources do we need to bring to bear for them to be successful,” Robinson says.  “So there is a very detailed roadmap, it’s not just a wishlist of things we’d like to do.”

But as much as Mangum is working to pivot in response to performance funding, it seems she’s also trying to mend fences with the university’s board of trustees and alumni community.  In recent months Mangum has received a fair of criticism, and some of those voices have found their way onto the new strategic planning task force.