When Dr. Leslie Pollard took over in January of 2011 as Oakwood University’s eleventh president, he had big dreams. One year in, some of them are already coming true. With attendance at an all-time high of 2,000 and a goal of 3,000 by 2015, Oakwood has been granted the business and institutional achievement known as ISO 9001 status. It is the first university in the state to achieve this; the first of the historically black colleges and universities in the U.S. to achieve it.
Pollard’s vision for Oakwood is “the best provider of faith-based liberal arts education in the country,” according to the March-April 2012 issue of Message. His goals for reaching this dream include “revolutionizing the spiritual life” of the university, expanding facilities, maximizing historic strengths, entering the media market with an OU Satellite Network, expanding graduate programs, creating “an international consortium for faculty development, and exchanges with sister institutions in Africa and Latin America,” and (perhaps most ambitious of all) growing the scholarship endowment to the point that OU won’t have to be tuition-driven.
He honors the legacy of the ten presidents that have gone before him, but Pollard has tools they never had—an MBA and knowledge of ways that Oakwood could be more visible and successful in academic and business circles. He has also served as a successful pastor and is an accomplished theologian. He is rooted in the spiritual heritage of the university where he was a student. He told the Huntsville Times, "Ultimately, in a faith-based institution, that's the dimension they're paying for. I mean, you can go anywhere to learn geometry."
Oakwood was already the first of the historically black colleges and universities to be accepted into NASA’s mentoring program. The university is also a part of the mentoring program at Science Applications International Corporation, which is “dedicated to the delivery of quality scientific and technical products and services contributing to the security and well-being of our communities throughout the world,” according to the corporation website. “We believe high ethical standards are essential to the achievement of our individual and corporate goals.”
Pollard believes that high ethical standards lead to high business standards, and these high standards will help the university and its students enter the wider world in more effective, visible, and practical ways, reported the Huntsville Times. Pollard told the daily paper he is interested in becoming involved in green energy production in collaboration with the current goals of the Federal government.
The natural next step was ISO 9001 certification. It had been a goal since Oakwood got into the NASA program, according to Marcia Burnette, the university’s assistant vice president for development. "It makes us eligible to become a prime contractor for grants,” not just a sub-contractor, Burnette said. "We can actually go and bid ourselves." She said it also provides a known credential with major corporations, assures better documentation and is a proven program for constant improvement.
What is ISO 9001 certification? According to the iso.org website, “The ISO family of standards represents an international consensus on good quality management practices... ISO 9001:2008 is the standard that provides a set of standardized requirements for a quality management system, regardless of what the user organization does, its size, or whether it is in the private, or public sector. It is the only standard in the family against which organizations can be certified—although certification is not a compulsory requirement of the standard.”
Oakwood University has a uniquely central relationship in its constituency, the African American Seventh-day Adventist culture. Its new leader appears to be poised to lead the historic institution into a new era of growth, achievement and wider impact.
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