Pollard takes reins at Bowie State

Nathanael Pollard Jr., a mathematician and longtime academic administrator, was named yesterday to take over the presidency of Bowie State University July 1.

Dr. Pollard, 53, comes to the Prince George's County university from Virginia State University in Petersburg, Va., where he served as provost and vice president for academic affairs.


He has also held administrative or teaching posts at Atlanta University, the University of Alabama in Birmingham, Miles College in Birmingham and the University of Oklahoma.

Bowie State, a historically black school that is part of the 11-campus University of Maryland System, has roughly 3,200 undergraduates and 1,600 graduate students. Its budget, which has suffered through three years of state spending cuts, stands at about $34 million.


Dr. Pollard succeeds James E. Lyons Sr., who left Bowie last year to become president of Jackson State University in Mississippi.

Q: Bowie is a historically black institution, but it has attracted large numbers of white students for many years. Why is that?

A: High-quality programs will be bought by customers of any color. I think at the graduate level, the programs for the adult students, older students, are more attractive. Our counseling programs are very strong, as well as mathematics, science and computer technology. We have an excellent cadre of programs for teachers. I would think the training of teachers will be one of our strengths in the future.

Does the influx of white students threaten Bowie's identity as a primarily black institution?

I think what we do is provide learning both ways. We allow the non-African-American students to understand the African-American students and vice versa. I think that's useful and helpful. We are also being responsive to the people in the Central Maryland region, which is our sphere of influence. Bowie is a regional comprehensive university and we must be responsive to all individuals of any color in this region.

I think what we must now do at Bowie, however, is to translate this notion of being a historically black college or university into a real competitive advantage for Bowie. By that I mean we will become the teacher of African-American culture to all people who come to our campus. Also I think we'll be convincing and compelling that African-Americans can excel in all subjects we offer. That's important. The synergism we create by integrating the African-American students with other races is very positive in my view.

Q: Why are black institutions having such a surge in enrollment, particularly among black students?

A: I think the key thing is providing a supportive and nurturing environment. While the programs are quite rigorous, the supporting environment is not always there, except in historically black colleges. That's the key. What we know is that about 80 percent of all African-Americans are enrolled in nonhistorically black colleges.


In those groups, we see about a 15 percent graduation rate. In the historically black colleges and universities, we see about a 50 percent graduation rate.

Something is happening that causes African-Americans to graduate in larger numbers at the historically black colleges and universities. Again, I think it's the nurturing and supportive environment.

Q: This is your first college presidency. What do you expect to do in your first week on the job next month?

A: I need to get to know Bowie, try to absorb the history of Bowie and get to know the movers and shakers and the individuals who will be the idea people. I need a reservoir of ideas to pull from in the future and strengthen Bowie. Also, I think very clearly, I'm going to have to get into the community very early.

Q: Bowie, like the rest of the University of Maryland system, has been hit by a series of budget cuts, and this spring the school was told to cut out several programs. What is morale like and what will you do to improve it?

A: I think morale right now is up. I get a sense of pride and dedication and confidence. I think that certainly what I plan to do to improve morale is involve all faculty and students and staff in the governance of the university.


I also think that at some point, we're going to be able to invest more dollars in higher quality programs, giving more resources to our staff and faculty, as we look at eliminatinf even more programs.

We can not continue to offer programs that don't rank high in enrollment or other standards. I don't think we can offer a full spectrum of courses if we don't have that accommodating spectrum of resources. You have to have courses for which you can provide adequate resources.

Q: You're touted as a successful grant finder. Are there areas where Bowie can tap into more outside funding?

A: Primarily in the sciences in the short term. I also think we have an excellent counseling program.

I think one thing that's very interesting about Bowie is its strong graduate program.

What we must do now to increase grants is to increase the research being done by our faculty.


Q: How big do you want Bowie to become in the next several years?

A: With the current resources we're receiving from the state, 5,000 students is enough.

I don't think we need to grow until we get more resources. It's not quantity. It's not a bigger Bowie I want to see, it's a higher quality Bowie I want to see.