LaForge listens to student concerns
by Rory Doyle
Apr 17, 2013 | 2381 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Delta State University's new president, William LaForge, talks to students in an open forum Tuesday at the H.L. Nowell Student Union.
Delta State University's new president, William LaForge, talks to students in an open forum Tuesday at the H.L. Nowell Student Union.
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The Delta State University Fighting Okra mascot rappelled from the top of the H.L. Nowell Student Union on the campus, entered the awed crowd on the second floor, music started and the students got up and danced in recognition of new president William LaForge.

LaForge, who officially took the reigns Monday, got up and danced too.

Not a typical second day on the job for a new university president.

"I came through Delta State as a Statesmen," said LaForge. "It was kind of interesting to have (the Fighting Okra) come along.

"Yes I'm a Statesmen, but I'm now an Okra."

Students were pleased to hear the commitment from LaForge at Tuesday's open forum as he listened to student body concerns and provided a brief outlook into his transition.

"I want to hear what you have to say — I want to hear your perspectives," said LaForge. "This is your campus.

"You are the most important reasons we are here."

Students came prepared with questions about a number of topics — ranging from campus parking and security, what changes should be expected, budget questions, campus construction, library hours, international and exchange students and how to increase programs and enrollment.

"The goal is to make this a seamless transition," said LaForge. "This starts with me accepting all members of Dr. Hilpert's cabinet."

LaForge praised John Hilpert for his 10 years as president and said it would be an honor to follow in his place.

LaForge provided concise bullet-point initiatives, saying he would focus on increasing the size of the student body, improve financial and business aspects and work to bring more speakers and conferences to campus.

Only just beginning his new role, he said upcoming budget meetings would provide him with a better understanding of where funding could be best put to use.

Above all, delivering quality education will remain a priority.

"This is not just a place, but a concept of providing an opportunity for you to learn and have fun," said LaForge.

"We are serious about your education here."

Increasing visibility will also be a focus, through education and athletics, but also through partnerships with local businesses, donors, media and governments.

LaForge also mentioned plans to create an international Blues conference on campus, claiming the university is the academic center-point for the birthplace of American music.

Lastly, he discussed bringing civil right leaders to DSU because it's "important to celebrate the diversity we all enjoy."

Student Government Association president Alanna Ferguson, one of the event organizers, was pleased with the turnout and LaForge's answers.

"This was a really good opportunity for the students to sit down and have a normal discussion to voice their opinions," said Ferguson. "He's not going to be able to fix every problem right away, but it's good that he's aware of them."

Sports management graduate student Chad Steen, deeply involved with recreation activities at DSU, said he's looking forward to LaForge's dedication to health and fitness.

LaForge is a longtime runner who said advocating for a healthy campus would also be a focal point.

"I think it's exciting for the university," said Steen. "I hope that he commits to our health, physical education and recreation programs and leads by example."

The changeover is underway and LaForge said he expects a thrilling ride ahead.

"My door is always open to you," LaForge said to the students. "Know that it's a two-way street."