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  • Selected Presidential Perspective
  • Institution in Transition
    Allen Sessoms
    University of the District of Columbia
    May, 2011
  • The University of the District of Columbia is an institution in transition. A 160-year-old public land-grant university, UDC continues to be the only public university in our nation’s capital. It has a broad mission of academics, research and community outreach. We are physically rebuilding the university in its various locations across the District, and we are overhauling and rejuvenating our academic offerings to support the professional needs of our students for the 21st century. We want to apply the best possible examples of our experience through our new Center for Urban Education and become a leader among urban educators.

    To reenergize our land-grant role we have established the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences. Using the University's 143 acre farm in Beltsville, MD as one focus and applying our faculty's expertise in agriculture, water resource management, architectural restoration and renewable energy among other disciplines, we hope to redefine the urban, land-grant agenda by using our nation's capitol as our research base.

    The university, with the support of the mayor and city council, opened a community college in the 2009 - 2010 academic year. In its second year, enrollment increased more than 50%, clearly illustrating a regional demand for Associate’s Degrees, Certificate Programs and workforce development in various trades. Our community college continues to bridge that educational gap between high school and college for many urban students. And it has allowed up to focus on an educational core centering not on K-12, as has been the focus in the past, but K-age 24, to include higher education. In Washington, the job market requires education to at least a Bachelor’s Degree, with most professional jobs requiring a Master’s Degree. With the creation of the community college with open enrollment, our flagship university has been able to establish admission standards to allow it to begin the transition to a truly great state university.

    In 2010, the university system was recognized by both the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the District of Columbia Chamber of Commerce as a leader in progressive and creative business practices. By creating a system approach to service delivery, we have been able to reduce the cost of doing business through shared functions between schools and economies of scale. It’s how successful business in our industry is being done now and must be done in the future.

    We want to create the best possible college experience for our students. That’s why an historic renovation of the university is under way, focusing on ‘green’ initiatives and urban sustainability. In fact, the renovation of UDC’s main campus in Van Ness is the largest ‘green roof’ project underway currently in the District of Columbia. We are setting the standard with a ‘leed platinum’ building for our new student center, the highest standard in ecologically friendly construction. We will break ground on the $40 million center this year. It will be the gateway to upper northwest Washington, DC. It will be the new face of our university, welcoming the city, region and the world to America’s Urban Land Grant University.

    In athletics, the UDC Firebirds are proud new members of the NCAA’s East Coast Conference. And we have set our sights high. We want to create an athletics program that will include not only our tremendous basketball and tennis programs but also football and lacrosse.

    Change is good. In our current circumstances of diminishing budgets and the need to be ever more frugal with our resources, change is essential. The future needs of our students is what drives us to continually improve what we do and how we do it.

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