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Ask Anything: 10 questions with Saint Augustine's College president

Saint Augustine's College President Dianne Boardley Suber answers your questions about leading the school during tough economic times, updating the campus and much more.

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Dianne Boardley Suber, the 10th president of Saint Augustine's College in Raleigh
Hello, Dr. Suber. Hope that you are doing well. I kept up with you since you came to our great state. We were in a class together at Virginia Tech during a summer session while learning to write the dissertation. Question: During these tough economic times, what have you had to do differently as the head of the school? – Barry Wall, Southern Pines

I do remember. Seems like light years ago. Hope you are well.

As a youngster growing up, my parents practiced a lifestyle of fiscal conservatism, and even though they were both educators and comfortable by the standards of the time, they instilled in us the concept of “pay for it as you go.” I’m not sure I have always practiced that lesson in my personal life (smile), but as the CEO of an organization where the bottom line is one of the key determinant factors of success, I have committed to following the lesson of one of my most successful mentors, Dr. William R. Harvey, president of Hampton University, who “preached” the lesson his father taught him – “you can’t spend $1.25 if you don’t have but $1.00."

When you are building and expanding a college and are continuously compared to peer institutions, it is tempting to want to “buy now and pay later” in order to keep up. Fortunately, we have established and maintained a position here at the College based on the directive that you cannot, and should not, spend what you do not have. As such, we have paced ourselves in adopting new initiatives and programs and have maintained a position of fiscal conservatism throughout the last ten years.

We, like my peer counterparts, are making the adjustments necessary to insure the fiscal stability of the College through these economic times; but because of the practices that we have maintained over the last several years, the adjustments will not need to be drastic. We expect that the adjustments we make will not impact the quality or standards of the educational experiences provided for our students.

Are there any future plans for the campus to be remodeled or updated, especially the dorm rooms? – Madelyn Archibald, Raleigh

You may not know that we recently completed and opened four new residence halls on campus with over 300 beds. These halls are fully wired and, of course, air-conditioned. We now have only one occupied general population hall on campus that is not air-conditioned and our engineers are currently putting together plans and estimates to accomplish that.

We have begun construction on a world class track stadium with a regulation football field in the infield. This project is expected to expand to include facilities for other sports competition and we will build as funds are raised to insure steady progress. This expansive athletic complex is named for our legendary track coach, George “Pup” Williams. Over the last 10 years, we have completed extensive renovations to Emery Gymnasium and invested over $1.5 million in renovations and upgrades to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Dining Hall and Conference Center.

A former residence hall, Goold Hall, now houses the newly established Professional Development Center and additional renovations are in progress to “convert” Goold Hall into a Student Organizations and Activities Center. Other buildings that have undergone recent face lifts include: The Mosee Building and Delany Hall. The College purchased the old Boyer House two years ago and completely restored it to become the Lulu Robinson Manor House which serves as the hospitality and meeting facility for dignitaries and other guests to the campus. The Meadowbrook Golf Course at Saint Augustine’s College is being restored and will serve the campus and community as a recreational park.

What new steps are being made to promote continuing growth and development of alumni and to sustain interest in the welfare of Saint Augustine's College? – Carrolle Carter, Garner

We have seen a marked increase in the involvement of the Saint Augustine’s College alumni since bringing football back to the campus after a 37 year hiatus. Being able to host homecoming and class reunions in the fall around a football game has re-established the campus as “home” for many of our graduates.

During the period of time when the CIAA basketball tournament was hosted in Raleigh, we enjoyed an additional reason, of sorts, to bring our alumni “home.” We have seen a significant increase in alumni giving, as well. With the advantage of technology, we have been able to reach out in a very effective and continuous way to maintain contact with alumns from across the country. The College communicates campus news, faculty and student achievements, athletic schedules and other campus events via the weekly e-mail Falcon News as well as daily updates to the College’s Web site.

This year, the College strengthened its online presence with the addition of a Saint Augustine’s College page on the popular networking site, Facebook, and a Twitter account. The addition of Constant Contact also allows the College to provide e-mail updates to its constituent base. Our continuous challenge is to maintain accurate contact information for our alumni. If alumns are not receiving the kinds of information we’ve discussed here, we encourage them to contact the Office of Institutional Advancement and Development at the College and update their information and that of their classmates and friends.

My question is why isn’t there enough light on campus at night? Also, why aren’t there enough security personnel on the campus to ensure safety? – Eric Gillespie, Garner

The scope of campus security is reviewed monthly in conjuncture with standard operating procedures, coupled with any concerns expressed by students or any incident that may occur on campus that warrants an immediate review. Additionally, Campus Security is included in the planning of any special event on campus that might dictate additional oversight or adjustment to existing protocol.

Lighting bulbs are checked and replaced on a regular basis. There are 10 Blue Light Emergency polls that are placed strategically around the campus. The campus security force includes over 36 personnel which include a representative number of both sworn police officers and trained security personnel. Campus security is on duty 24/7 with select personnel assigned to residential halls during the late evening and early morning shifts.

The College enjoys a collegial relationship with the Raleigh City Police and the Wake County Sheriff's Department. The services of both are utilized for certain special events. In an effort to be engaged in the security of the campus, one of the residence halls has established The Buddy Patrol. The Buddy Patrol will provide an escort across the campus to any student who requests assistance.

What are the future plans of the college to contribute to upgrading the Idlewild and College Park neighborhoods? With the safety of the students impacted and the shared history of your college and the neighborhood; I hope you will be a big part of the area's growth and direction. Thanks. – Pat Dixon, Raleigh

As a neighbor and a major stakeholder in the Idlewild and College Park neighborhoods, the College is very much committed to the future and the safety of its residents. I am pleased with the support we are getting from Raleigh Police Chief Harry Dolan in the increased presence and visibility of police officers in the community. Chief Dolan has met with me several times and we share the concern of insuring that our students and our neighbors feel safe in this community. Students and community residents are experiencing the results of that support from the Raleigh City Police Department.

The College has recently submitted a grant to the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), a component of the United States Department of Justice, for funding to increase its own security force. If selected, this grant will provide funding for five additional sworn officers who will be assigned to patrol both the campus and the properties adjunct to the campus.

We are pleased with the opportunities we have to continually work with the City and various agencies to “upgrade” the “neighborhoods.” You may be aware of the construction of new homes on Cook Street, just off of Oakwood Avenue. The Saint Augustine’s College Community Development Corporation built several reasonably priced homes as a part of that project. Additionally, in late March, the College was awarded a $2.1 million dollar Neighborhood Stabilization Grant from the North Carolina Department of Commerce to purchase and rehabilitate foreclosed homes in the 27610 zip code.

The College is in continuing dialogue with City agencies to continue to play a significant role in other projects designed to upgrade, stabilize and develop the College and its immediate neighborhoods. The plans to restore and expand the former Saint Agnes Hospital is ongoing and completion of that project and other initiatives will go a long way to enhancing the quality of the College Park and Idlewild neighborhoods.

I am a graduate of Saint Augustine's College Class of 1997. I recently applied for adjunct professor position for the Family and Diversity Focus class in the fall of 2009 under the Department of Education. However, I was turned down because of not enough experience. I have my Master's in Education and am looking for potential growth with my alma mater. How can I get the help I need to pursue my goals within the field of Education at Saint Augustine's College? I am highly interested in working at my alma mater and giving back. – Stacy Oliver, Raleigh

Congratulations on obtaining your Master’s degree in Education. I am truly delighted to hear that you want to give back to your alma mater. I make it a point to tell our graduating seniors at commencement each year that they should giver back to the institution that prepared them academically, socially and spiritually for leadership in this diverse world.

While you have obtained a master’s degree and meet the minimum qualifications for teaching on a baccalaureate level, the College has set a goal to increase the number of terminally degreed full-time and part-time faculty for the 2009-10 academic year and beyond. Additionally, Saint Augustine’s College is facing many of the same economic challenges that most colleges in this nation are facing.

We are having to make some difficult decisions pertaining to programs and personnel. One of the areas where we are proposing to make some adjustments is in the use of adjunct faculty. We are actually decreasing the number of adjunct faculty for the upcoming academic year. Regretfully, this decision adversely affects educators such as you. There is always a significant impact on students when they have the opportunity to interact on a professionally level with valued alumni such as yourself.

We will keep your credentials on file and should the circumstances change, I am sure we will revisit your request for consideration. Let me suggest that you periodically visit the College’s Web site to see if any positions in which you might be interested become available. You may also want to take advantage of the workshops and seminars designed for faculty and academic support staff offered through our Center for Teaching and Learning. We would welcome your attendance.

I attend college there in 1993-97. I did not complete my last semester due to my mom’s illness. I would like to complete my degree. Where do I start? I talked to someone at the St. Augustine’s building on New Bern, but they said it would be a two-year program. I really need the right information. Thanks. – Cheryl King, Wendell

In order to complete requirements for your degree, you will need to re-apply to the College. You may contact the Office of Admissions at 919-516-4012 or visit our Web site at www.st-aug.edu. Since you have not matriculated at the College since 1997, degree program requirements have changed. This may require you to take additional coursework. The Gateway Program located on New Bern Avenue is designed for the non-traditional student. Classes are held in the evenings and on weekends. The program length for those students entering the program with a minimum of 60 semester credit hours is 18-24 months. Since you left the College with only one semester remaining, the time to complete your degree requirements may be significantly less. Let me encourage you to follow up with your goal of completing your degree. It’s never too late to realize a dream.

Why would your school levy a student’s tax refund check for book fees THREE MONTHS into the semester without notifying the student that there was a balance due? I do not know of a school that would allow a student to attend with an unpaid balance longer than two weeks, let alone not notify the student or the parents of the student. Placing a levy against someone's taxes refund is serious and I cannot understand why an institution would do this to a student who is just starting out on life. Could you please explain this practice? Thank you. – Joseph Rollins, Raleigh

Saint Augustine’s College is a private, not a state, institution and therefore, the College does not have unlimited ability to levy or seize a person’s tax return. Currently, we do not even use the limited methods we do have via the court system. One of the reasons we have been so successful in lowering our loan default rate as well as consistently receiving outstanding A-133 audits (the annual report that reviews the management of the Federal Financial Aid Program) is because of the sound financial practices that have been in place for a number of years relative to student accounts and payments.

Students are required to pay all back balances before being cleared for registration each semester. The Office of Business Affairs and Finance works with students in insuring that this policy is enforced. We do not charge book fees although we do provide book vouchers for eligible students who may be experiencing “cash flow” challenges at the beginning of a semester and who request this service.

All students are mailed monthly bills which provide a running record of their charges and payments. Students have access to their accounts via the Internet at all times. All students are informed at registration of any outstanding balances and are provided financial aid counseling relative to state, federal, institutional and scholarship options; and available payment plans. I am thinking that you may have us confused with another institution.

Congratulations Mrs. Suber on being the first female President of St Aug. My question for you is does St. Aug still offer the adult degree program that used to be on New Bern Avenue? If so, how can I get more information about it? – Mrs. Kail, Cary

Thank you. Being the FIRST certainly has both challenges and perks! (smile)

Saint Augustine’s College still offers degree programs through the Gateway Adult Learners degree completion program on New Bern Avenue in Raleigh. In addition, the College has two additional sites – one in Rocky Mount and the newest center which opened this year in Henderson. We offer two degree completion programs in the areas of Organizational Management and Criminal Justice. Future plans are in place to expand the offerings to include Teacher Education.

Hello, my name is Glenda. I have a daughter that will be graduating next year in 2010. I wanted to know how she could go about planning for her future at St. Augustine's. I DON'T HAVE ANY money and I want her to have a better education than me. Is there a scholarship that she can apply for that helps single mothers? – Glenda Wade, Cedar Grove

Since your daughter is a high school junior, she has an opportunity to assist you in the process of securing funding for her post-secondary education. First, of course, she should work at completing her high school transcript with a strong cumulative grade point average. There are tremendous opportunities for young people with strong academic profiles.

Saint Augustine’s College offers a Presidential Scholarship to students who are accepted with a 3.7 cumulative grade point average on a 4.0 grading system with an 1100 SAT score or a 24 ACT score. This scholarship provides financial support for tuition, room and board. Meritorious Scholarships are available to students with a 3.3 GPA on a 4.0 grading system and a strong standardized test score.

Your daughter may also qualify for a Diversity Merit Scholarship, which is awarded to students who have maintained a high school grade point average of 2.8 on a 4.0 grading systems with a strong standardized test score and who represent a population of underrepresented students from culturally, ethnically or racially diverse backgrounds. Many of our international students qualify for this scholarship.

She may also qualify for an Athletic Scholarship, Choral, or Band Scholarship if she has excellent athletic talent or is musically gifted. We also provide some scholarship support for students who excel in the areas of Visual and Performing Arts. Saint Augustine’s College competes in NCAA Division II sports.

Additionally, you may qualify for grants (monies that don’t have to be repaid) such as the Federal Pell Grant, Federal SEOG, the North Carolina Legislative Tuition Grant, the North Carolina State Contractual Grant or the North Carolina Incentive Grant. There is also the Federal Work Study Program for which your daughter may qualify.

The federal government provides a loan program for which you and your daughter may qualify. Federal loans must be repaid once she has graduated from college. These are the Federal Direct Subsidized Stafford Loan, the Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loan, The Federal Parent Plus Loan, and the Perkins Loan.

Additionally, there are numerous scholarships provided by the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), the NAACP, the Urban League, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the North Carolina Council of Independent Colleges, and other agencies. The College has a full-time Scholarship Coordinator on staff to assist students in identifying and applying for various scholarship opportunities.

If you and your daughter are serious about moving her educational quest to the next level, and I certainly hope you are, please don’t let limited financial resources deter you from taking the next step. Visit colleges and universities that you feel might be a good fit and make sure the scholarship and financial aid offices are on your schedule of stops on the campus. Gather as much information as you can on institutional scholarships and grants that might be available. Talk to the high school guidance counselor about resources that might be available through area churches and organizations. Apply for the small scholarships.

I know students who are attending Saint Augustine’s College on “full” scholarship made up of 10 or 20 small scholarships from different agencies, organizations and other sources. APPLY EARLY TO THE COLLEGE OF YOUR CHOICE. BE AWARE OF SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATION DEADLINES AND GIVE YOURSELF PLENTY OF TIME TO FILE. Generally speaking, competition is steep for all scholarship programs and with the economy as it is, that competition promises to be fiercer than ever. Good luck. Please be sure to consider Saint Augustine’s College in your search. We’d love to have you!!!

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