President Akande Outlines Collaborative Vision for Westminster’s Future
BY COURTNEY GALLAGHER
President Benjamin Ola. Akande has big plans for Westminster, but he can’t accomplish them alone. That was Akande’s message to students during a forum in Coulter Science Center lecture hall last Monday.
In his second campus address since taking office in July, Akande shared his vision for the college, engaged with students, and addressed their concerns regarding technology, finances, faculty and student life, while also asking them for help.
Akande, who comes to Westminster after 15 years at Webster University in St. Louis, said that he wants to ensure Westminster’s education will lead students wherever they want to go and allow them to lead lives of significance.
“Take on the world and kick the world’s assets,” he said.
However, Akande does not plan on reaching his goal alone and asked students for their input. He said he wants to see 100 percent participation in the online survey emailed to students on Aug. 25.
“I want to hear about your frustrations,” Akande said. “Don’t hold back.”
Akande asked students to provide ideas he can take and implement and said he wants to create not just the best practices, but the “next” practices for the college.
While the survey results will give him ideas of what he can focus on as president, he said his top five priorities are students and their experiences, technology, faculty and staff, infrastructure, and diverse recruitment strategies.
Akande said he was most excited about getting to know the students.
“I want to hang out and stay in the dorms for a week,” he said. “I want to experience what you guys experience.”
When an attendee stated that a part of the student experience often includes problems with technology, Akande said he understood how critical it is for technology to be at the right level.
“[For] your generation, Wi-Fi is your oxygen,” he said. “You can’t breathe without that.”
During the forum, students also voiced their concerns about faculty pay and retirement benefits.
“Our heart and soul of this institution is our faculty,” Akande said in response. “We are going to take care of them,” he added, explaining that various options are being explored for the short term of the “very important issue.”
When asked what students can expect in the next 100 days, Akande shared one of his other short-term plans: travelling. He will be raising money and introducing himself to a lot of organizations. Akande’s travel plans also include visiting alumni to understand their passion for Westminster.
“That kind of commitment is something I’ve never seen before,” he said, referring to his experience of touring the campus with an alumnus. “I have never seen that much passion,” he added. “It’s a love-fest.”
Akande said visits with alumni are particularly important to him because he wants to use them as a basis for his diverse recruitment strategy. A native of Nigeria with expertise in global strategy, marketing and leadership, Akande plans to strengthen efforts to attract students from across the world, not just mid-Missouri.
Akande also emphasized the importance of making connections and encouraged students to meet someone new every day.
“Go out of your way to meet new people,” he said, adding, “Being scared is a prerequisite to being courageous.”
The president and father of three then gave his final piece of advice: “Whatever you do, call your mom, call your parents … or text.”
Akande will share more details about his plans for the future of Westminster on Sept. 4 at 3 p.m. in Coulter lecture hall.