Atlanta University Center Executive Director Reflects on Consortium’s Critical Impact on the Westside’s Present, Future

The Atlanta University Center Consortium is looking at its own role on the Westside, and believes it will be important for the area’s economic development, said Todd Greene, Executive Director of the AUCC at  last week’s Transform Westside Summit.

Established in 1920, AUCC has close to 9,000 students across its four institutions. Each college has something different to offer, from comprehensive research to liberal arts and medical science. Greene said, “Our students are leaders. They are successful in whatever they do – whether it’s the performing arts, science and technology, or as mayors of cities.”

As for AUCC’s opportunities, Greene shared how “(AUCC) should be the locust of thought leadership in black America. We should be providing amazing educational experiences for our students, which we do. But how are we thinking about our research? There are unique opportunities that impact the African American experience, which we are laser focused on.”

According to Greene, many AUCC students are from low-income families and are first-generation college students. With so many profession options available to them, AUCC works to expose students to all available opportunities. As Greene said, “What are our opportunities and how do we provide our students those experiences?” AUCC also focuses on financial literacy so students are empowered both during and after their college experiences.

As AUCC looks to the future, it is focusing on data literacy and science in its programs. “We see (data) showing up in everything we do – whether it’s in retail or a government occupation. This is where the jobs are growing,” Greene said. “There will be over 2.7 million jobs by 2020 that will relate to data science and data analysis. And when we look at Atlanta, all of these companies – Home Depot, The Coca-Cola Company and more – are all looking for workers who have this type of skill set. This is an important field for us to be working in … This is where the jobs of the future are.”

He went on to share how AUCC’s leaders are thinking about its facilities and footprint across the Westside; how they can design its campuses in a way that benefits students and the Westside community. “Our environment is unique. Our community is unique, so we’re thinking about that. We want to create a place of discovery.” With this being the vision for AUCC, Greene said they are exploring all possible options for the campus, from potentially creating a new meeting and conference center to having more common spaces where people can come together. “We want to honor and connect our communities in ways they weren’t before,” he said.

Greene then opened the floor to questions from attendees. One Summit attendee asked if AUCC recruits students through its athletic programs as well as through coordinated summer outreach. Greene answered that AUCC does use its existing athletic programs to recruit and is “laser focused on making sure the athletic programs are great.” He also said a number of existing summer recruiting programs are underway.

When asked about AUCC’s role in the Westside redevelopment efforts, Green shared that AUCC is tuition dependent so it must rely on innovative partnerships in order to play a role in redevelopment. And he noted it’s an important role to play, because “our students deserve excellence.”

Asked by another attendee how AUCC distinguishes ideologies across its four different member schools, Green responded that each member institution has its own traditional identities as to what it offers, and that together they have the opportunity to move forward collectively without compromising each identity.

When an attendee questioned Atlanta Technical College’s role in AUCC, Greene clarified that while the college is not an AUCC member institution, the institution “is at the table and part of thinking and planning” for the AUCC.

The last question addressed whether AUCC is pursuing any partnerships to address youth literacy, and Greene answered that while AUCC is focused on higher education, it understands literacy is a barrier for many to seek higher education. “There must be a partnership for us to figure this out,” he said.

Devotion with Sharmen Gowens

Sharmen Gowens, CEO of the YWCA of Greater Atlanta, opened the Summit with a devotion message about the power of community and relationships. She shared how her community helped her through her cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment a few years ago. Now, she is passionate about lifting others up. As she said, “It is my duty to lift others up. It’s my joy, my mission.” Gowens also shared how this benefits her as CEO for the YWCA of Greater Atlanta, which works to eliminate racism and empower women.

Source: West Side Future Fund

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