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Back to School 2021: GSU president sets high goals for the second year of her tenure

Dr. Cheryl Green, president of Governors State University, is looking forward to this fall’s term and seeing students, faculty and staff on campus – a big step forward after her initial year at the school’s helm which was marked by remote learning and other COVID-imposed conditions.

In a statement, Green said she was “anticipating another challenging and rewarding academic year at GSU. Last year, we continued to thrive and serve our students and our community in spite of the obstacles imposed by the pandemic … We have strong connections with one another, and our relationships are strengthened when we can gather safely.” 

Editor’s note: This is an updated version of an article that first appeared in The Phoenix, the Governors State University newspaper. It was reported and written by Gaston Beltran, Maria Murillo and Sedona Smith. It appeared in the Back to School special section in the Chronicle’s August print edition.
 
Dr. Cheryl Green, president of Governors State University, is looking forward to this fall’s term and seeing students, faculty and staff on campus – a big step forward after her initial year at the school’s helm which was marked by remote learning and other COVID-imposed conditions.

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In a statement, Green said she was “anticipating another challenging and rewarding academic year at GSU. Last year, we continued to thrive and serve our students and our community in spite of the obstacles imposed by the pandemic … We have strong connections with one another, and our relationships are strengthened when we can gather safely.” 

In an earlier interview, the president had said one of her primary objectives was a “listening tour … to meet with as many different constituents, on and off campus, as possible.” COVID-19 stopped her efforts in their tracks. Without minimizing the struggles of GSU students during the pandemic, she pointed out that her experience was unique in comparison. 

“[The students’] transition because of COVID meant that [they] could not reconnect. But for me, being new to the campus, it meant that I couldn’t establish the connection,” she said. “So, it was a very different challenge for me. My challenge was not to sustain a relationship. My challenge was to create the connections that facilitated a relationship.” 

Establishing prominence, building up academic excellence and creating more opportunities for student engagement remain at the forefront of Green’s vision for the university. 

In five years, Green envisions Governors State University “in its rightful place as the jewel of the Southland, with a regional and an international presence.” She celebrated the value and promise she sees in the programs at GSU, as well as the tradition of excellence at the university. Green declared that “This region needs us,” and she is prepared to make the changes necessary to accommodate for it. 

Green said she could talk all day about the value of GSU’s programs and its presence in the community, but she notes that the most important aspects to a functioning and flourishing university is the students. “That should be at the heart of everything we do at a university.”  

Green remains dedicated to three goals she set for herself when she accepted the position – elevate GSU’s reputation as a university, increase academic excellence and improve the student experience. 
To achieve the first goal, she wants to change the perception of GSU. She expressed a deep distaste for GSU’s nickname as the “hidden gem of the Southland.”

“Who wants to be hidden?” she asked. “Nothing about me wants to be hidden, [and] I did not want GSU to be hidden. I want it to, in my words, take its prominent place as the ‘Jewel of the Southland.’ We need to be more prominently visible.” 

One way to achieve a higher level of academic excellence, she said, is to establish high impact practices. For Green these are practices and activities that “promote student engagement and student achievement.” These activities might include research with faculty members, tutoring, mentoring and participating in “globalized experiences.” 

Green has begun to expand academic programs. For example, in spring 2021 GSU received approval from the Higher Learning Commission to offer a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision.  
She hopes for expanded global opportunities for students and has begun to identify possible “sister universities,” which are colleges in other countries that will “easily accept our students, our curriculum, and our faculty” and vice versa. 
Progress toward this goal was a victim of COVID because Green was unable to travel and work with other universities. 

Green’s initial search for sister universities will begin with colleges GSU already has study abroad connections with and those that will send “[GSU] the highest number of graduate international students.” 

Green’s third goal is to improve the Governors State student experience, an especially ambitious goal considering the unique nature of GSU’s campus community. The average student is 29 years old with more responsibilities than typical younger college students, particularly in terms of full-time work or child-rearing.  

Green wants to develop more creative and adaptable solutions to increase student engagement across campus, particularly by providing opportunities for these students. 

The student experience has been a growing push on campus. GSU opened its doors in 2014 to freshmen and sophomores, many of whom live on campus. Although Green acknowledged that a small group of people want GSU to return to its roots as an upper division university, she believes in the power of an expanded university.   

Improved student experiences have the potential to increase enrollment, which is so vital to keeping the university competitive, innovative and with a steady revenue, Green noted.  
“Enrollment is where we have to grow,” she said. “We have to diversify who we serve.” 

One of her suggestions for diversifying the student base is establishing a three-year bachelor’s degree program that would target students who excel academically. Green also suggested increasing on-campus employment opportunities for students.

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