The president of Savannah State University (SSU) announced Friday she will retire at the end of June.
President Cheryl Davenport Dozier took office in 2011. She is set to retire as president on June 30 of this year. “I never set out to be a President, I had the awesome opportunity, to be invited to come here and to lead for one year and I’ve been appointed for the remaining 7,” Dozier said.
She announced her retirement less than two weeks before students return to class. She said her retirement doesn’t mean she’s stepping away from higher education.
Dozier says she’s had many accomplishments in pushing the university forward– like the transformation and growth campaign, closing the gap fund, campus renovations and additions, international education, and increased security.
“We’ve had success. Challenges every institution has challenges and we’ve been able to address those challenges,” she said.
Some of those challenges include a decline in enrollment. That decline led to layoffs that happened in Fall 2018 and she says more is expected 60 days before the fiscal year begins July 1.
In the last year, President Dozier received numerous complaints regarding her leadership at the university. Students, faculty, alumni and local ministers voiced concerns on various topics, from university finances and graduation rates to crime on campus.
“I have not seen a letter signed by any of these organized, officially organized alumni groups. there will always be disgruntled individuals. But right now I’m willing to always sit down as I do,” Dozier says.
She says she doesn’t believe she is under any scrutiny, nor does she believe her re-appointment was in jeopardy. Though heavily criticized, Dozier says she is proud of what she’s managed to accomplish as president and is hopeful for Savannah State’s future.
“There is no job more rewarding or demanding than being a president of a public state university,” Dozier says.
According to SSU, a national search for her replacement will launch at a later date. Kimberly Ballard-Washington, who currently serves as associate vice chancellor of legal affairs at the University System of Georgia, will serve as interim president, effective July 1. Ballard-Washington was appointed by Chancellor Steve Wrigley.
“President Dozier’s commitment to students and dedicated public service is evident by her long and distinguished career in higher education,” said Chancellor Wrigley in a press release. “SSU plays a critical role in our state and the Savannah community, and will continue to do so long into the future.”
Dozier tells News 3 the one thing she wishes she could’ve done is to raise more need-based dollars.
She says her goal over the next 6 months is to continue working closely with faculty, staff, and administrators so that students can achieve success at their home by the sea.
“I look forward to the coming months, the next six months to implement the priorities that we have for this campus,” President Dozier said Friday. “As we move towards accreditation in a number of our academic areas, as we look at reducing significantly some of our expenses in order to address the issue of enrollment decline that is facing not just our institutions, but a number of institutions in our system, our state, and our region.”