About President McKinney
President William J. McKinney, Valdosta State University's 9th President
A nationally recognized teacher, scholar, and academic leader, Dr. William J. McKinney became Valdosta State University’s ninth president on July 1, 2012.
Since joining VSU, President McKinney has established the clear vision that Valdosta State will be the premier university in the United States that educates its students equally well for the world of work and the responsibilities of citizenship. Committed to the belief that America’s public universities serve as sources of opportunity, centers for economic development, and agents of transformational change, McKinney’s vision for Valdosta State will be accomplished through what he has called “Engaged Innovation” – a means by which the creative power of the university serves both individuals and communities.
Under McKinney's leadership, Valdosta State launched its first-ever capital campaign in July, 2014. Recognizing that student success, innovation, and engagement require a significant financial investment, and that such investment must come from private sources, the $43 million "Invest. Ignite. Inspire." campaign is off to a great start. In only its first six months, the campaign has raised a total of $30 million for student scholarships and major university projects. In December 2014, the Valdosta State University Foundation raised the 5 year campaign goal to $53 million.
Under McKinney’s leadership, Valdosta State opened its 145,000 square foot Health Sciences and Business Administration Building in 2014. Located in the Steele North Campus across from South Georgia Medical Center, this facility serves as South Georgia’s premier center for health care and business education and research. Thanks to a $1 million gift from Martin and Laura Lynn Miller, the building is also home to the Martin and Laura Lynn Miller Family Clinic, one of many model examples of VSU's commitment to engagement and innovation.
Thanks to a $1.9 million dollar state appropriation, the university has begun construction of a new Center for STEM Education designed to improve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education throughout our region.
Under McKinney's leadership, Valdosta State has become a national leader in the innovative use of business intelligence in the areas of student recruitment and retention. Student retention and graduation rates have increased each year under McKinney's leadership, as has the academic quality of VSU's entering class. In 2014, VSU welcomed its first class of Jennett Scholars. Thanks to a $1 million gift from Jerry and Kay Jennett, The Jennett Scholars program is the most highly selective and competitive scholarship package offered by VSU.
Ever-committed to student success, Valdosta State will soon begin a $1.9 million renovation of its University Center. This renovation will house a new Student Success Center, a "one-stop shop" that will place Centralized Advising, the Bursary, Financial Aid, and the Office of the Registrar under one roof. In order to carry innovation in to the classroom, VSU opened its I.D.E.A. Center, (Innovative Designs to Enhance the Academy) in 2013, a faculty-run research and development center dedicated to classroom innovation.
In addition to his leadership on campus, Dr. McKinney has been asked by University System Chancellor Hank Huckaby to serve on the eight member Executive Council for oneUSG, an initiative of the University System of Georgia. The overarching goal of this initiative is to examine the system’s shared services and move towards standardization of administrative systems, practices and procedures.
President McKinney remains active nationally. He serves on the President’s Trust of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the Workforce and Economic Development Committee of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Trustees of the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), the Southern Georgia Regional Commission, and the Economic and Workforce Development Committee of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. The President has also been appointed to serve on a peer review committee for The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Prior to arriving at VSU, Dr. McKinney served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Professor of Philosophy at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). During his tenure at IPFW, Dr. McKinney led the successful regional reaccreditation by the North Central Association’s Higher Learning Commission as well as the process that lead to IPFW’s “Engaged University” designation by the Carnegie Foundation. In his four years at IPFW, sponsored research, grants, and contracts increased by 33 percent. Under his leadership, IPFW also had significant increases in full-time tenure track faculty, and the percentage of female and minority faculty.
In 2010, Dr. McKinney was selected as one of the first 25 chief academic officers to spearhead the “Red Balloon Project.” This project, begun by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), seeks nothing less than to fundamentally re-imagine the role, function, and operation of higher education in the wake of post-2008 budgetary challenges. The Red Balloon Project served as McKinney’s inspiration for the development and implementation of the “Re-imagining IPFW’s Academic Future” initiative, an innovative experiment in shared governance where faculty and academic administrators worked collaboratively on strategic priorities ranging from enrollment management to the use of mobile technology.
A firm believer of the value of a liberal education, Dr. McKinney has been actively involved with the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) since 1994. In 2011, he represented the State of Indiana in the AAC&U’s Quality Collaboratives Project. This collaborative, funded by the Lumina Foundation, seeks to refocus the national higher education dialogue on matters of quality and student learning outcomes by reemphasizing the centrality of faculty and liberal learning.
McKinney has been active in the work of the Honor Society Phi Kappa Phi, serving on its board of directors from 2010-2012, and in various volunteer roles since 2005. He also has been a member of and held leadership positions in a range of local, state, and national organizations, including Northeast Indiana Public Radio, Northeast Indiana Aging and In-Home Services, and the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce.
McKinney served as the founding Dean of the College of Humanities, Fine and Performing Arts at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania from 2001-08, and as the Chairperson of Philosophy and Religion at Southeast Missouri State from 1997-2001. He received his Ph.D. in Philosophy of Science in 1992 and his M.A. in the History and Philosophy of Science in 1989 from Indiana University-Bloomington. He received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering and his B.A. in History from Bucknell University in 1986. He has published or presented well over 100 papers, book chapters or reviews in such diverse topics as the philosophical nature of scientific experiments, environmental ethics, liberal education, and civic engagement.
He is married to Dr. Dacia Charlesworth. A noted teacher and scholar, Charlesworth previously served as associate professor of Communication at IPFW, associate professor and University Honors Program Director at Robert Morris University, and the Oral Communication Across the Curriculum Program Director at Southeast Missouri State University. Her research topics include rhetorical and performative intersections of gender, ethnicity and class, communication across the curriculum, and outcomes assessment. She has authored more than 80 articles, book chapters, conference papers, and performances. Her work has been published in Women’s Studies in Communication, Women & Language, Communication Teacher, Feminist Media Studies, and Vital Speeches of the Day.
Dr. Charlesworth has received numerous awards for her teaching, including the Robert Morris University Student Government Association’s Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award and Engagement with Students Award as well as the Central States Communication Association’s Outstanding New Teacher of the Year Award.