Brittany D. McClure
The Valdosta Daily Times
To officially ring in Valdosta State University’s newest president Dr. William McKinney’s tenure, a week-long series of events is being held in his honor to recognize his official inauguration.
McKinney became VSU’s ninth president on July 1, 2012. As a nationally recognized teacher, scholar, and academic leader, McKinney has extensive experience in higher education leadership and has brought an enthusiasm to make VSU not only a state leader, but a national leader in higher education. It is this goal that surrounds his inaugural theme of engaged innovation.
“If you look at the structure of that week, it focuses on the students, the faculty and the community,” said McKinney.
Symbolically, an inauguration is the authority of VSU being given to McKinney by University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby.
“The inaugural is a jumping off-point,” said McKinney.
While McKinney is no longer “jumping off” — as April 1 will mark his ninth month as president — the inauguration marks for him something different.
“Some presidents have their inauguration in September and November,” said VSU first lady Dacia Charlesworth. “Bill said no, I want to have time to get to know the community.”
For McKinney and Charlesworth, this inauguration is a thank you to the community that has rallied behind them, but also, it’s a declaration of McKinney’s vision for VSU.
From day one, McKinney has been clear that he wants to help make VSU a national leader. That is why he has actively become a part of a conversation on higher education at a national level by being elected to boards such as the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the Presidents’ Trust for Liberal Education and America’s Promise, and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning.
With his participation in boards such as the Georgia Commerce’s Education and Workforce Development Committee, and the Georgia Council on Economic Education, McKinney has focused on VSU’s impact on the state and at the local level.
“What I see for VSU in terms of its place in higher education ... is VSU will be the university that prepares its students for the world of work,” said McKinney.
He believes higher education isn’t just about self-betterment, but the betterment of one’s community. He’s taken time to learn the community and now he is prepared to get involved in conversations concerning things such as poverty and even health care.
“Valdosta State must and will play a role to address those things,” said McKinney.
So while for most presidents an inauguration is a declaration of their intentions, for McKinney — whose intentions have been clear from the get-go — it’s about celebrating VSU’s present accomplishments and future ambitions.
“It’s not about just Bill,” said Charlesworth. “It’s about VSU’s past, present and future.”
Charlesworth diligently gathered a team to accomplish the vision.
The Inauguration Team, which began meeting in September, consists of 41 members who are broken into different sub-committees handling various components of the inauguration. Each event works to accomplish what McKinney feels a university should do: address the spiritual, physical and psychological aspects of its students, faculty and staff.
“This is to put the spotlight on the university,” said McKinney.
The costs associated with VSU’s inauguration activities are primarily being paid through corporate and individual sponsorships administered through the VSU Foundation.
“Currently, there has been $29,829.80 spent through the Showcase University Events account, which is an annual budget item established several years ago to cover expenses associated with high-profile university events,” said Thressea Boyd, VSU director of communications.
Boyd said VSU does not have a final budget for the week of activities. Many of the events, particularly for students, are free, while others are intended as fundraisers for the university and require advance purchase of tickets.
The week-long series of events are:
Monday, April 1
• Undergraduate Research Symposium at the VSU Student Union Ballroom and Theatre, all day and open to the public.
Explore the innovative research conducted by VSU students by attending panel presentations or poster sessions.
• Symposium: Highlighting Innovation in Our Scholarship at the Student Union Theatre, 12 p.m. and open to the public.
This hour-long presentation by Dr. David Williams focuses on his recent book “Bitterly Divided: The South’s Inner Civil War”. Light refreshments provided.
• Review of VSU Student Art Competition at the VSU Fine Art Gallery, 7 p.m. and open to the public.
Join VSU student artists as they explain the innovative features of their juried works. Reception immediately follows.
Tuesday, April 2
• Undergraduate Research Symposium at the VSU Student Union Ballroom and Theatre, all day and open to the public. Awards Reception in the Student Union at 6 p.m.
• Symposium: Highlighting Innovation in Our Classrooms at the VSU Student Union Theatre, 12 p.m. and open to the public.
This hour-long presentation features student and faculty research that highlights innovative approaches to teaching and learning. Light refreshments provided.
• Pippin Pre-Show Discussion and Performance at VSU’s Sawyer Theatre, 6:30 p.m. Registration required.
Join the President and First Lady for an overview of the performance and then witness the magic of the performance. Light refreshments provided.
Wednesday, April 3
• Day of Service at various locations on campus and in the community, all day. Pre-registration preferred.
VSU students, faculty, and staff will have the opportunity to work on projects in partnership with a variety of community organizations.
• Symposium: Highlighting Innovation in Our Community at VSU Student Union Theatre, 12 p.m. and open to the public.
This hour-long presentation features the innovative approaches local businesses use in their companies. Light refreshments provided.
• Student BBQ at the VSU PE Complex Lawn, 5:30 p.m. VSU students only.
Students are invited to meet and interact with President McKinney and Dr. Charlesworth for filling cuisine and conversation.
• VSU Battle of the Bands at the VSU PE Complex, 7 p.m. and open to the public.
This event highlights the many musical talents of VSU students and faculty and will identify the best of the best!
Thursday, April 4
• Symposium: Highlighting Innovation in Higher Education at the VSU Student Union Theatre, 12 p.m. and open to the public.
This hour-long presentation by Dr. George Mehaffy focuses on the role of innovation in higher education. Light refreshments provided.
• Mixing it Up with the President and First Lady at the VSU University Center, 6 p.m. Registration required.
Join President McKinney and Dr. Charlesworth as they teach you to mix up their favorite original cocktails. Specially selected hors d’oeuvres will be served alongside the libations. RSVP by March 18
• VSU Performing Arts Showcase at VSU’s Whitehead Auditorium, 8 p.m. Open to the public.
This showcase celebrates innovative artistic works from several genres performed by faculty and students. Reception immediately follows.
Friday, April 5
• Platform Party Continental Breakfast and Delegate Reception at VSU University Center, 8 a.m. Invitation only.
Members of the Platform Party, Institutional Delegates, and select guests are invited to gather before the Investiture Ceremony.
• Investiture Ceremony at VSU’s West Hall Front Lawn, 10 a.m. and open to the public.
Inaugural Message from Dr. George Mehaffy, Vice President for Academic Leadership and Change at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. Reception immediately follows.
• Inaugural Ball Benefiting Student Scholarships at VSU Student Union Ballroom, 7 p.m. Registration required.
RSVP no later than March 18 to be included in the Inaugural Ball Program as a Sponsor.
Saturday, April 6
• Zumba with the First Lady at VSU West Hall Front Lawn, 9:30 a.m. and open to the public.
Join Dr. Charlesworth as she leads a 45 minute workout that’s sure to rev up your appetite! Athletic shoes, towel, and water are recommended.
• Employee BBQ at VSU’s West Hall Front Lawn, 12 p.m., VSU employees only. Registration required.
Entertainment provided by Making Trax, President McKinney’s college band — the world’s most over-educated, under-rehearsed band!