A Day in the Life: DSU President Bill LaForge
by Courtney Warren
The Bolivar Commercial
A handwritten letter sat on the desk of Delta State President Bill LaForge from a family whose daughter had recently chosen to attend DSU.
The parents were DSU graduates and their daughter was trying to decide between the Delta and Ole Miss, however after a visit to the campus and a meeting with the president himself, she decided the green and white should be her home for the next four years.
The letter was one of thanks to the president for his personal efforts in helping the young girl make her decision.
LaForge’s office is large and comfortable, with a long bookcase covering the back wall. That bookcase is lined with trophies, which are covered in medals from the many marathons, including several from the Boston Marathon, in which LaForge has participated.
The desk that sits in front of large windows facing the campus is also covered but it’s covered in documents, schedules, letters and forms all waiting to be chosen from the pile and read.
Rather than sit at a table and chairs in front of the bookcase, LaForge prefers his desk chair or two cushioned chairs, and invites others to sit in those for visits.
LaForge’s morning was filled with meetings and conference calls and now it was time to prepare for the weekly cabinet meeting.
“We are cranking up for the New Year and now the university is fully up and running with students back on campus. All of our top officials will meet to discuss plans, issues, concerns, and priorities.
“We really use the cabinet as a think tank and one of our hot topics will be retention,” said LaForge.
He went on to explain retention was a major struggle for the university. “It’s steady downhill and I’m totally admitting of that.”
One of his main goals is to get the student body numbers back up because it is the main problem DSU currently faces.
“I have an open door policy and I believe in transparency. We can’t do intermediate things until we get a handle on the big things,” he said.
“If we can get the student body up the budget will go up as well,” he added.
LaForge mentioned his love for Delta State before the meeting even began.
“I know that I’m now the voice and the face of the university and I have a responsibility to the Delta. So does the university. It’s personal.”
LaForge is a president that not only gets the job done in Kent Wyatt Hall, but he’s also a president that is seen on the other side of Miss. Highway 8, visiting with students and making sure each voice is heard.
He explained this was the exact purpose of the cabinet meeting, so that each group making up the university has representation.
The cabinet members congregated at 1:15 p.m. to prepare for what they knew would be a long meeting discussing retention.
Members greet the president like an admirable friend creating a calm and welcoming atmosphere — a group of confident and passionate people surrounded a confidant and passionate person.
LaForge sat at the head of the table dressed in a white, pressed and crisp shirt with a green tie — his Delta State uniform.
As the meeting began and LaForge made announcements about issues and upcoming projects, members of the cabinet sat attentively, listening to their president and prepared to do whatever it takes to improve Delta State.
As discussions continued on different grants and access to certain funding, LaForge became more and more excited, emphasizing that the group needed to do whatever they could to secure funding for the university.
“This is money on the table and we can’t leave 0it,” he said about a potential grant.
As Suzanne Simpson presented a report on retention rates, LaForge leaned back in his chair and listening quietly and attentively.
Slide after slide showed how Simpson and others had created graphs and charts to show what types of students were leaving Delta State and how test scores correlated with the amount of students retained.
As the new provost Charles McAdams pointed out that students’ progress when they are engaged and have the skill set to academically succeed, LaForge took notes with a green pen and at the end told the group it seemed like, “we just don’t hold on to our students. We need to do whatever it takes.”
His attention never waivered.
His persistence in fixing the issue at hand never faltered.
And despite the cabinet meeting lasting almost three hours, LaForge stay energetic about bettering the green and white and welcoming to suggestions and comments from around the table.
Before adjourning, his eyes were set and determined as he told the group they would continue to seek a reason for the loss of students and at the same time would continue to implement new programs and new structures throughout the campus to cultivate the student body and the university as a whole.