Dr. Lesia L. Crumpton-Young, the new president of Texas Southern University (TSU), is entering into a space that isn’t unfamiliar territory. She is a long-time top official at multiple historically Black colleges and adds TSU on the list of career accomplishments.
Dr. Crumpton-Young rose though the ranks of academia, diversifying the science, technology, engineering and math industries and carries that same spirit into her new role as TSU’s thirteenth president.
The former Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Morgan State University joins TSU at a very critical time.
In her month on the job she has hit the ground running addressing past challenges around funding, admission scandals allegations, improving economic and community partnerships and enhancing the quality of education for under-served communities.
Dr. Crumption-Young spoke with the Defender about her presidential priorities, approach to tackling the issues of underfunding, and lessons she’s learned from her past leadership roles that she will implement at TSU.
What are the top priorities of the University and the community in general?
We are one of the 11 HBCUs in the nation that is classified as an R2 research institution. I think there’s an opportunity for us to become one of the first R1 research HBCUs in the nation. I’m sure you’ve heard over the years, many institutions describe their research focused on rural America. Our research is going to be focused on helping urban America. We’re going to address issues of public health, health disparities, climate, poverty, the wealth gap, housing situations, all of the social determinants of health and wellness. This leads into my third priority, which is strengthen our partnerships with the community. We’re going to lead economic and community development. We’re going to look at issues of being in a food desert, issues of having retail, restaurants and other types of housing and other types of services available. And then we’re going to have some fun. We’re going to be an institution that focuses on good school spirit, and all of the student satisfaction measures that are associated with being a strong HBCU.
You recently said that you will “focus on preparing students for current and future jobs— and will serve them in ways they’ve never been served.” What are the plans to strength job-readiness initiatives for incoming and alumni students?
One of the things I think is very important is to make sure our students have the internship opportunities, the externship opportunities and other experiential learning opportunities. We’re also going to work on what I’m calling distinguished professorship interaction opportunities. I had a conversation about having executives in residence, or corporate individuals on our campus interacting with our students, be it in person, which is what we hope. But if the pandemic doesn’t subside, or if the variant spreads they’ll be able to interact with them virtually as well. They’ll get an opportunity to hear about how others have put it in practice, and that will become part of their repertoire of knowledge. We’re also going to usher in some leadership development and professional development programs and other initiatives.
You recently said that you will focus on preparing students for current and future jobs. Talk about what interaction you have had with the students and some your plans for students.
The biggest concerns I’ve heard were about students who’ve been adversely affected by the pandemic and who may not financially be able to return to campus. I was told about students who have good grades, but they might not be able to afford coming back to campus. So, after meeting with them and listening to them, we decided to help clear some of the balances that some of our students may have that may be preventing them from returning to campus. They’ve also given me a list of the different programs and activities they’d like to do. I announced in a press conference that I was going to create something called the President’s Leadership Council. This is a group that will be comprised of the presidents of each of the student organizations, and I’m going to meet with them quarterly so that they can talk to me about what their specific needs and concerns are, but also the successes that they’re having and the wins that they’re having in their organizations so we can ensure that there’s an open line of communication between the presidents of the organizations and the president of the university.
TSU has dealt with an admission scandal, wild Board of Regents meeting and the alleged disbursement of $2 million of aid to unqualified students. How do you plan to rebuild the trust in the Black community?
This is my sixth institution of higher education. There is no institution of higher education that hasn’t had some challenges, some issues of what we will describe as scandals. The first is this issue with the board of regents. The composition of the board is significantly different. It has changed in terms of who serves on our board. I have seen a board of regents that is supportive, passionate, committed, hard-working, and most importantly, above reproach. There has been no inappropriate behavior. Individuals that were involved in the alleged admissions issue, they’re no longer part of Texas Southern. We’ve put in place a new compliance unit to make sure that we’re being proactive and identifying any instances where our processes, procedures or personnel may be out of compliance. Also, the board has put in place a president that has a significant amount of experience and knowledge in higher education, but who has not been part of anything, whose reputation and brand is beyond reproach.
Tell us one lesson you learned from each of the higher education institutions that you have worked at that you plan to implement at TSU?
At Morgan State University, I learned about the importance of seizing the moment to implement good academic programs. At Tennessee University, I learned the importance of strengthening good relations with the alumni. When I was at the National Science Foundation as a program officer, I learned about developing good research initiatives and writing competitive proposals. We started the idea of a student success center. At Texas A&M University, I learned how to implement good student support mechanisms. In fact, we’ve already identified the location for our new Student Success Center that we’ll be working on over the next few months. Prior to that I was at the University of Central Florida, working with undergraduate and graduate [engineer] students to innovate and create projects. We did things with NASA, Disney and Lay’s potato chips. At Mississippi State, there was a big feeling of family. We’re already a family at TSU. I’m planning to make sure that we’re incorporating good family values and we take a moment to care about the human and not just the task that needs to be done. Most importantly, we’ve going to have some good school spirit!
Laura Onyeneho is the Defender Network Education Reporter and a Report For America Corps member. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Top Priorities of Texas Southern University
- Prepare students for the competitive job market
- Student success programs and graduation rates
- Turn TSU into a top research institution focused on urban America
- Strengthen community partnerships
- Improve workforce needs for TSU corporate partners
- Improve student satisfaction and HBCU experience
TSU Students: Fantastic
TSU Alumni: Supportive
TSU Board of Regents: Passionate
Philosophy of Life: Carpe Diem (seize the day; enjoy life while you can)
Favorite Hobby: Conversation
Favorite Food: Lobster
Favorite Color: Pink and Green
Greatest Rapper(s) of All Times: Run DMC
Dislikes: Pigs Feet
What do you love? People