Alcorn eyeing Natchez, Vicksburg for expansion

LORMAN — Alcorn State University president M. Christopher Brown II said he is paying close attention to ASU’s campuses in Natchez and Vicksburg as prime locations for additional programs and course offerings as enrollment continues to grow.

“It may be the case that the growth model for the university is not in the Lorman location, but in our Natchez and Vicksburg locations,” Brown said. “And that’s something we’re really excited about.”

Part of the university’s plan to grow its other campuses includes offering students more opportunities to continue their education.

“The Natchez campus is something we’ll spend a lot more time rethinking,” Brown said. “If all we’ve done is offer business and nursing courses and you still have to come to the main campus for everything else, then we’ve not provided the proper delivery of service.

“I think you’ll see a lot more courses and academic majors being offered in the Natchez campus in the future.”

Some of the additional courses, Brown said, that might be offered at the Natchez campus include criminal justice, social work and education majors.

“Those are courses we believe our faculty can deliver in a number of spaces we have not just on our main campus,” Brown said. “The second area would be new opportunities such as health records management, which is actually a blend of health and business professions and something we’re looking at because of the health care reform.

“There’s also some possibility for advanced graduate programs and supply chain logistics.”

Other changes include revamping some of the university’s current programs such as nursing, which Brown said is currently being remodeled.

“It’s a staple program, but every living room in the a house no matter how pretty it is, you need to refresh it from time to time by painting the walls or changing the rugs and that’s what we’re doing in nursing,” Brown said. “We have an interim dean who is a Natchez native, we have hired at least five to six new faculty members this summer, and we have a national search to bring a new dean to the school of nursing in Natchez to bring a national if not international reputation to our program.

“We really want to take that program from historic excellence to future greatness.”

Other expansions for the university include a new Vicksburg location which was inaugurated Friday. The new location will include four classrooms, a technology center and administrative offices.

Brown said the expansion is part of the university’s plan to continue providing educational opportunities for those who cannot commute to the main campus and also to help divert the increased number of students enrolling off the main campus.

“‘We’re very concerned about housing capacity, which is why this year one of our key themes is enrollment management,” Brown said. “That theme is fundamentally important for the growth and master plans we have in place.”

In the past five years, student enrollment figures at Alcorn have steadily climbed from 3,252 in 2008 to 3,950 in 2012. The university saw its highest numbers in 2011 with 4,018 students.

“There are only 2,000 beds on the main campus, so when you’re talking about 3,900 to 4,000 students that’s a huge space problem,” Brown said. “Lorman is different than Natchez or Vicksburg because there is no off campus housing, so that had an impact on how we wanted to look at enrollment management.”

Alcorn recently hired Carl Cunningham to serve as vice president for student success and enrollment management.

Brown said he hopes Cunningham, who previously served as the director of the office of multicultural student affairs at the University of Alabama, can help manage student enrollment trends and rethink how all the university’s campuses can work together.

With a new campus in Vicksburg and program changes planned for the Natchez campus, Brown said he’s looking forward to continuing to move the university forward.

“At Alcorn, we value our students,” Brown said. “We will ensure the success of our students every step of the way.”

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