LANGSTON — Although it may not have been the case in the past, Langston University must now compete for students with every institution in the country, Langston President Kent Smith said Thursday.
Smith, who became president of the university last year, was formally installed to the post at a ceremony Thursday. During the ceremony, Smith said the university can't only focus on recruiting students who have traditionally chosen historically black colleges and universities.
“We are competing ... with all universities, regardless of what people believe,” he said.
Smith came to Langston from Ohio University, where he served as vice president for student affairs. He replaced former Langston President JoAnn Haysbert, who left the university last year to return to Hampton University in Virginia to serve as executive vice president. Haysbert worked in various administrative and academic roles at Hampton for 25 years before coming to Langston in 2005.
Smith holds a bachelor's degree in secondary education and a master's degree in administration and supervision from Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, La., and a doctorate in education and human resources from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo.
Smith outlined a number of areas in which the university needs improvement, including better customer service. The university may not be a business in the strictest sense of the term, he said, but if all of its students left, it wouldn't be able to pay its bills.
If the university's students are its customers, he said, it's important that Langston does a better job of meeting their needs.
“No one wants to patronize a business where they are treated poorly,” he said. “If we don't treat our students better and in a dynamic way, they will find places that will.”
During the ceremony, Ohio University President Roderick McDavis said it's critical that the university think of itself within the context of the national higher education landscape at large, not just as a member of the historically black college and university community.
“Institutions of higher education are institutions of higher education,” McDavis said. “The same things need to be done at Langston University as need to be done at Ohio University.”
McDavis was Ohio University's president while Smith was serving as vice president for student affairs. Colleges and universities, regardless of their size, location and student base, need to continue to adapt to new technology. University officials must be comfortable with change rather than bound by tradition and inertia, he said.
McDavis said he expects Smith will embrace progress as Langston's president. Smith didn't shy away from change during his time at Ohio University, McDavis said, and he expects him to lead Langston in a similar fashion.
“I know he will succeed because he is open to change,” McDavis said. “I'm sure that President Smith has big plans for Langston University based on his experience.”