A highly-heralded HBCU president will soon historically hold one of Mississippi’s top-ranking higher education positions where all major public universities – black and white – will be put under his watchful eye.
The Mississippi Board of Trustees of the State’s Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) appointed Alfred Rankins Jr. as the incoming new commissioner of higher learning on March 23.
Rankins becomes the first-ever African-American named by IHL to oversee Mississippi’s eight public universities. He officially takes over the position on July 1, replacing Glenn Boyce who announced his retirement in February.
Rankins is currently the much-respected president of Alcorn State University, appointed in March 2014.
“Dr. Rankins has experience at both the system level and as a university president,” IHL Board President C.D. Smith said in a press release. “In addition, he understands the important role higher education plays in our state and the lives of our students and their families. He also understands the challenges our universities face in today’s higher-education landscape. He will provide excellent leadership to the university system.”
Rankins previously served as deputy commissioner for Academic and Student Affairs for the IHL Board as well as acting president of Mississippi Valley State University. He was also a faculty member at Mississippi State University previously, where he was a tenured associate professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and extension specialist with the MSU Extension Service and also where he received his master’s and doctoral degrees.
“My experiences at Alcorn will inform my decisions as commissioner, which will help me to serve all eight public universities in Mississippi as we work together to advance the system and the state,” Rankins said in the press release.
Rankins has advised the Board of Trustees and the previous Commissioners of Higher Education on all matters pertaining to academic programs, policy and planning; student access, readiness and success; and faculty affairs. He has also been credited with providing leadership and direction to the chief academic officers and chief student affairs officers at the universities. He has administrative oversight for the Academic Affairs, America Reads Mississippi, College Knowledge, Gear Up Mississippi, Nursing Education, P-20 Initiatives, Strategic Data Management, and Student Affairs units.
Rankins served as Acting President for Mississippi Valley State University for one year, beginning in November 2012. In this role, Dr. Rankins was responsible for serving students, managing the university’s operational budget, leading more than 500 employees, managing 114 buildings totaling 2,110,320 square feet, with a total asset value of $186 million. He focused on student recruitment and retention, which resulted in a 30 percent increase in the first-time freshman over the previous year, and streamlined processes in many facets of the university, including student support services, business operations, alumni engagement and planned giving.
A native of Greenville, Miss., Dr. Rankins holds an undergraduate degree in agricultural economics from Alcorn State University and a master’s degree in weed science and his doctorate in weed science, both from Mississippi State University. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Mississippi Authority for Educational Television and University Press of Mississippi. He also serves on the Mississippi Commission for College Accreditation and as Secretary-Treasurer for the Mississippi Association of Colleges.
Rankins also holds distinguished memberships in a number of other professional and honorary societies, including Weed Science Society of America, Gamma Sigma Delta Honor Society of Agriculture, and the Southern Weed Science Society. He is also a member of the Metro-Jackson Alcorn State University Alumni Association, the Alcorn State University National Alumni Association, and the Mississippi State University Central Mississippi Alumni Association.
Dr. Rankins and his wife, Juandalyn, have two children, Aftyn and Alfred.