Central State University (CSU) is built on three pillars: service, protocol and civility. “These tenets shape the culture of our proud institution and they apply not only to students, but to faculty, alumni, administration and staff as well,” explains CSU President Dr Cynthia Jackson-Hammond.
“Service means how we use our experiences and education to better our communities; protocol means
understanding and following the rules and regulations of life; and civility means showing respect, integrity and a strong character in every interaction.”
Beginning her career in education as a high school English and Communications teacher in her home state of Louisiana, Cynthia says she never dreamed she would one day become president of the 2,100-student university in Wilberforce, Ohio.
“I always had a plan for my career and this role just happened to insert itself into that,” she recalls. “I love talking with the students and listening to their stories – because everyone has one. Each day, CSU students are adding new chapters to their life story and it’s our job as educators to facilitate the creation of those chapters. That’s the most important part of my job.”
In July 2012, Cynthia became the eighth president of CSU. She is the first female to be appointed to the role in the institution’s rich 131-year history.
Under her leadership, CSU has developed its Six Compelling Priorities that guide the university: provide a quality academic/collegiate experience for all students; focus on targeted student enrollment; improve retention rates; reduce time to degree completion; develop graduates with the knowledge, skills and dispositions for advanced studies and professional careers; and increase efficient and effective institutional operations.
“To ensure program quality, we have achieved four new accreditations across the respective colleges; we have gathered valuable state and national partners to support the University; and we’ve kept the cost of attendance affordable to provide greater access to students seeking a college degree,” Cynthia notes.
In 2017, CSU was named the Historically Black College and University of the Year by HBCU Digest. More recently, in 2018, HBCU Digest also named CSU’s College of Business Summer Banking Institute the Academic Program of the Year.
CSU fosters academic excellence within a nurturing environment and provides a strong liberal arts foundation, as well as science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), and agriculture curriculum. This leads to professional careers and advanced studies globally.
“Our short- and long-term goals are the same: to give deserving students the best academic collegiate experience every day so they can complete their degree and fulfill their future,” Cynthia explains.
In 2014, CSU was designated an 1890 Land-Grant University, charged with impacting critical teaching and learning, conducting research, and providing extension services to local farmers and neighboring Ohio counties. Since this designation, the College of Education’s School of Agricultural Education and Food Science was named Post-Secondary Program of 2018 by the Ohio Association of Agricultural Educators.
“While the forecast for growth is constantly changing, STEM and agriculture remain the driving factors of national growth and workforce demand, meaning they hold the greatest prospects for career advancement,” Cynthia explains.
“While the forecast for growth is constantly changing, STEM and agriculture remain the driving factors of national growth.”
“We are a small university located in a very small community, so commanding a presence on the higher education stage alongside larger, more well-known institutions will always be a hurdle for us. Nevertheless, it is our mission to make higher education available to everyone who wants it.”
To provide new research opportunities for the growing number of agriculture students, in 2017 CSU commenced the construction of its new Demonstration and Agricultural Experiment Station, which includes an aquaponics facility and agricultural research buildings. Also, underway is a new botanical garden where faculty, staff, students and the community can grow fruits and vegetables.
Catering to its flourishing student population, last year CSU broke ground on a new 250-bed apartment-style residential hall to provide students with one-, two-, and four-bedroom housing options. As CSU’s largest on-campus residence hall, the US$24 million complex will also house a state-of-the-art Wellness Center and provide hands-on space for the university’s Exercise Science academic program.
In Summer 2018, Cynthia was named on the national board of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the nation’s largest organization exclusively representing public HBCUs – of which CSU is a member-school.
“We must remember that quality leadership is the same regardless of race and gender. I would advise aspiring female leaders not to use gender as a crutch because we don’t need it. We are capable, we don’t judge ourselves against another gender or our counterparts, and we do what is necessary to be successful for our universities.”
In October 2018, NBA legend and business mogul Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson showed dedication to improving the educational opportunities for today’s youth with a US$1 million donation to Central State University.
“It is so important for our young people to move on and get a degree from a quality institution. I love making sure that they receive a quality education and go on to become successful,” he told guests at CSU’s Athletic Hall of Fame Luncheon.
Johnson has a history of supporting and promoting CSU. In 2008, he served as a guest speaker at CSU’s Leadership Speakers Series, and in 2015 he attended the official opening of CSU’s University Student Center.