HOUSTON (KTRK) --It was an eventful year at Texas Southern University. The campus saw several shootings, the Take Back TSU student movement demanding major changes, and its long-time president, Dr. John Rudley, stepping down.
The university announced Dr. Austin Lane as its new president last week. We sat down with him for an in-depth look at what we can expect in this new era.
"I'm a servant leader. It's in my blood. I don't live in a castle. I'm approachable. I'll be reachable," Dr. Lane says.
Dr. Lane is like thousands of TSU students and alumni.
"I'm a first-generation college student. I struggled to pay for college," he said.
After seven years in upper administration at Lone Star College, he's walking into his dream job.
"I've always wanted to get back to a HBCU, particularly TSU," he tells us.
Student success is one of the areas he plans to attack aggressively from day one.
"From orientation to graduation, we need to focus on our support that we're providing our students outside the classroom. And inside the classroom, we've got to focus on the engagement that's happening with the faculty with the students," he explains.
Recruitment and retention, as well as building relationships with alumni and business partners, are also at the top of his list.
"I'm counting on those alums. I'm counting on those businesses they work for to give our students an opportunity whether it be through paid internships, or just internships alone; whether it be through mentoring of our students as soon s they get here. Not just their senior year," he said.
Last academic year there were several shootings on and near the campus that left some students concerned about safety. Dr. Lane plans to be hands on with what he calls a campus night walk.
"That's me walking with our students around our college campus to make sure the lighting is appropriate, to make sure they have the safety boxes and they work, to make sure we have cameras here and that they work," he shares.
The Take Back TSU student movement dominated headlines in the fall. Dr. Lane tells Eyewitness News he followed the movement as closely as he could.
"The common theme in there is that I was impressed with how passionate the students were. I was impressed about how vocal they were about things they wanted to see either enhanced or improved," he says. "That's what we want because that shows me these students care about this institution."
One of the biggest concerns those students told us they had was that the student body had lost sight of the history and culture of their great university. Dr. Lane says he heard them.
"One of the things I'd like to do is to set up something where all incoming students do some, whether it's through a course or an experience they get, that they understand the traditions and the history of our institution," Lane said.
He says there's going to be a new way of doing things on campus, and the bar will be raised for everyone. And it all starts with trust.
"How do you build a culture, and how do you change a culture? One person at a time," he said.
He will officially become the next president after next month's Board of Regents meeting.