COLUMBUS, Miss.—In a ceremony that included remarks from Gov. Phil Bryant, IHL President Ed Blakeslee, and former University of Southern Mississippi President Aubrey Lucas, James B. Borsig was formally inaugurated today [Feb. 15] as the 14th president of Mississippi University for Women.
Bryant said, “Jim Borsig is a leader. How fortunate you are to have this man at this time as your leader.”
Speaking to the university’s 40-year history of nursing education and the fact that Mississippi is one of the most medically underserved states in America, Bryant said, “We’ll put more students in your nursing school. We’ll put more blue collar kids like Phil Bryant into college.”
The ceremony in historic Whitfield Hall—named for the eighth president of MUW and the 41st governor of Mississippi–included representatives from state and local government, the Institutions of Higher Learning, faculty, staff, students, and alumni.
Established in 1884, The W is the first publicly chartered college for women in the United States, a fact Borsig said has shaped its past and will shape its future.
“The W’s 1884 women’s mission—opportunity and access—remains central to who we are,” he said, noting that as times change, the institution adapts and responds. “Today our student body mirrors the state of Mississippi. Many first-generation students enroll and graduate here, 25 percent of our students are over the age of 25, and last year 43 percent of semester credit hours recorded were taught in classes where at least 50 percent of the content was online,” he said.
That, he told The W community, is the university of today. “We remain true to our founding principles. We embrace, encourage, and celebrate the unique gifts of each individual. Many students will succeed on this campus who will not find success on other campuses.”
Laying out a vision for the future, Borsig said that The W is proud of its success as a teaching institution, and he called for a broadening of that vision, increased collaboration with community colleges and universities in the IHL system, and a commitment to service from the university community.
“This semester I will call together appropriate faculty and staff to design a new approach to volunteerism for our entire university family; and, in particular, to place special emphasis on efforts to strengthen public schools, not only near the gates of this campus, but wherever you find members of The Long Blue Line,” he said.
Long known for activities such as the Hearin Leadership Program, The W will place additional emphasis on broadening leadership development for all students, he said. “We will work to intentionally weave leadership and development throughout our co-curricular activities, and I ask our faculty to review leadership offerings within the curriculum to ensure we are adequately preparing our students.”
This summer will see the launch of one such effort, NEW Leadership, in partnership with Starkville-based John C. Stennis Center for Public Service. Some 30 undergraduate women, selected through a competitive process, will be immersed in public service opportunities and skills, led by national and regional faculty leaders.
Borsig said The W will continue to build on its success in innovative delivery of courses for non-traditional students, using emerging technologies. He cited the W’s highly successful RN to BSN Advanced Placement Option, which offers working nurses both an intensive classroom focus as well as the flexibility of online learning to accommodate work and family demands.
At the same time, he said, the university will put additional focus on enhancing the on-campus student life experience, including a consideration of a return to athletics, building and supporting learning communities, and revitalizing residence halls—some of which are on The National Register of Historic Places.
“Many of these aspirations we can accomplish through the wise use of our existing resources, but not all,” he said. “To achieve our dreams will require substantial private giving by our graduates and friends and supporters.”
Noting that the university community “doesn’t fear change and isn’t afraid of our future,” Borsig pointed out that the co-educational mission of The W today should not be interpreted as a conflict with its historic women’s mission.
“Embracing both will grow our enrollment and strengthen this university,” he said. “Our traditions are not at odds with each other; these are the ways we are bound together.
“We celebrate the promise of each individual. We dare to doubt, dare to question and challenge, subscribing not to conformity but to Eudora Welty’s premise that ‘all serious daring starts from within.’”