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Meyers Paving Way as First Female President of Jackson State University

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By Othor Cain, Special to the NNPA from The Mississippi Link –

After 133 years of academic excellence, Jackson State University for the first time has a female as its chief executive officer.

The state College Board voted unanimously in favor of hiring Dr. Carolyn Meyers, 64, as JSU’s 10th president, ending the stronghold of male leadership.

“I’ve had a history of being the first in a lot of situations; either the first Black this or the first woman that so I don’t feel any particular pressure to succeed in what is considered a male dominated field,” Meyers recently shared with The Mississippi Link.

Meyers, who describes herself as a “researcher,” a “collaborative leader” and a “thinker,” replaced interim president Leslie McLemore, a political science professor appointed when Ronald Mason left in June 2010 to lead the Southern University System based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Meyers began her tenure at JSU in January. She has more than 30 years of experience in higher education, most recently serving as president of Norfolk State University.

Prior to working at Norfolk State, Meyers was provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at North Carolina A&T.

Meyers has been praised for her spirited personality, sometimes bragging about students as though they were her own children. She is also known to be data driven, which brought criticism from those who thought she moved too slowly but accolades from those who appreciated her analytical view.

Her hiring at Norfolk State in 2006 was seen as a coup: a female scientist with degrees in mechanical and chemical engineering who completed postdoctoral work at Harvard University.

Meyers is ready to ensure the masses know about JSU. She plans to start in an unlikely place…Mississippi. “I want to take Jackson State to the people, create listening tours and forge new and build upon old relationships,” she said. “We must get a buy in from everyone across this state and I’m excited about getting out and meeting the great people of Mississippi.”

Community members and staffers alike are excited to have Meyers at the helm of JSU.

Dr. Donna Antoine LaVigne, associate director of the JSU Heart Study Program recently told members of the media that Meyers “seemed like she was a big force in a tiny package. Not only being a scientist and being able to look at evidence based on data but also to have compassion for knowing the university must have a role in the community is very positive.”

Meyers said she’s excited to be at JSU because it is a benchmark school. “As a leader among HBCUs, Jackson State was one of the institutions against which other institutions benchmark,” she said. “The growth, scholarly productivity, and solid reputation made Jackson State University attractive to me.

Meyers made it clear that together, students, alumni, faculty, staff, and the community would shape the vision for JSU. “This is not Meyers State University, this is Jackson State University and together we win,” she said.

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