Dr. Everette Freeman, Albany State University Prez: ‘Advanced Degrees Offer Passport to a Better Life’

Dr. Everette Freeman, Albany State University Prez: 'Advanced Degrees Offer Passport to a Better Life'
Dr. Freeman, president of Albany State University

Dr. Everette J. Freeman is the eighth president of Albany State University located in Albany, Georgia.

Dr. Freeman was named to the board of directors of Albany Tomorrow and the Albany/Dougherty Community Partnership for Education, and he was named a George Cadbury Scholar at Fircroft College in England.

Rolling Out spoke with Dr. Freeman recently about the opportunities that advanced degrees provide.

When did you decide to get your advanced degree?
I decided early on, I went from undergraduate degree to graduate degree and the reason why I did it was because I was a young father. I didn’t have the luxury of playing around and trying to discover myself. When you have a yapping baby there, you’ve got to take care of business as fast as you can because a baby doesn’t understand the subtleties of ‘daddy’s out there trying to discover himself.’

Would you recommend students to go from undergrad right into grad school as you did?

What I recommend for other people is, if they have the luxury, to take a year or two off for some ground-level experience and that will form their graduate degree in a way that I did not have the opportunity to form my graduate degree.
Although I had the benefit of going to an undergraduate school where you had to work a semester and study a semester, therefore I had a lot on my resume, so employers would look at it and know that I was the real deal.
Increasingly these young men and women ought to consider being the best in their class without their work experience that is, being at the top of the game, or getting that family work experience and then going back every year.

What roadblocks prevent some people from getting their advanced degree?
Lack of persistence, persistence, persistence. Oftentimes people get stuck on, ‘I’m not finishing next year, when I plan to finish,’ as [opposed to], ‘ I will have a life of increased revenue, and quality as far as excellence,’ and they focus on the end gain and the intermediate gain.
And what we try to do is get the students focused on the end gain; the end gain is to be competent to address the needs of industry and government in the private sector overall and in government in the way that these students will be able to add value.

If that takes another semester or another year due to financial struggle, let it happen; that’s the message that we give to our students, don’t be overly preoccupied, and concerned, and when you finish you’ll finish right on schedule.

How do you look beyond the financial concern a potential student may have?

That financial issue will go away because at that time to ask for a signing bonus, [with your new job], if you’ve got $50,000 in debt, and you’re the best in class, you just get a $50,000 signing bonus and don’t worry about it.

What is a good book that you’ve read recently?

I just finished 1861, it’s a book about the year 1861. I was attracted to the book because it was the year that the Civil War started. It talks about the polarization of the nation, the fact there were newspapers that were decidedly sectarian, in that it was for this candidate, or against that candidate, and there are a lot of parallels today.

Is it important to read books that are not directly related to your field?
Students must read well beyond their discipline because at that cocktail party, or at the dinner for a second job, when the employer says, ‘what have you read outside of your field?,’ and you say nothing, that may signify your depth or your breadth. Students must read all kinds of books.

What is unique about your school?

Our school is unique in that every freshman must have a passport, every freshman has to go abroad, we expect you to go abroad. That’s an evolving, acquired, taste because many of our students come from a background where leaving the state is a big deal.
We also have more than 108 years in existence and we are the leaders in education in Georgia.
If you are a teacher in Georgia, it’s a likelihood that you were a graduate of Albany State. If you are a principal in any school in Georgia, in any school system, two out of three principals will likely be Albany State grads.

We have a tradition of academic excellence at Albany State, our enrollment continues to grow, and we’ve built two new residences with all the new students in them on campus. There’s an Einstein Bros., there’s a Chik-Fil-A, there’s a Pizza Hut, Subway and traditional food.
The students say, ‘why do we have to leave campus when we have Shangri La here?’ And that’s what we want the students to experience, so the students can walk away 20 years from now and speak about the wonders of their Albany State University experience.

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