Dr. Walter Kimbrough Encouraged Salus Family to Build A New Culture Upon Merger
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Dr. Walter Kimbrough Encouraged Salus Family to Build A New Culture Upon Merger

walter kimbrough pic1

Walter Kimbrough, PhD believes Salus University’s upcoming merger with Drexel University presents a unique opportunity: That administration, faculty, staff, students, and alumni bring to the table the chance to broaden the culture of both institutions.

That was just one of the messages Dr. Kimbrough passed along during his presentation titled “Continuing to Work the Mission in a Time of Transition” to the Salus community during the University’s Development Day on Aug. 25, 2023, at The Eye Institute.

“No matter what your job is, there are things you can do in terms of how you speak to people and how you engage people,” said Dr. Kimbrough. “That should be a part of the conversation: How do we build this new culture, this experience, and make people feel like they’re part of it?”

Admittedly, there are a lot of mergers happening in higher education now, and Dr. Kimbrough reassured Salus employees that some fear and trepidation is common with mergers.

walter kimbrough headshot1“Some (mergers) are tougher than others, but I think this could be one of the easier ones because I think the pieces fit, based on the examples I’ve seen. The pieces fit pretty well,” he said.

As a comparison, Dr. Kimbrough pointed to the 1988 merger of Atlanta University (founded in 1865) and Clark College (established in 1869) to become Clark Atlanta University, a private, Methodist historically black research university in Atlanta.

"It’s been wildly successful. When I thought about it, you guys can be the Philadelphia version of Clark Atlanta University. You don’t have a lot of overlap with programs with Drexel. There should be some hope that you can make this thing happen,” said Dr. Kimbrough.

He stresses, however, that to make it happen, it has to involve everybody, that there has to be attention to detail and attention to how the people in each institution treat each other while developing new relationships.

“You’re going to meet new people that you haven’t interacted with before,” he said. “A lot of times when we have these conversations, we think it’s only on the faculty level, but this goes throughout the organization. Everybody plays a role in student support and success.”

walter-kimbrough and Dr. J.The three points Dr. Kimbrough wanted the Salus community to take away from his presentation were: (1) That faculty make sure they think more intentionally about how they’re teaching and engaging students; (2) For non-faulty, think about how you speak to and engage with people; (3) That it’s not uncommon to have some fears during the process.

Dr. Kimbrough’s career was built in student affairs, and he has been recognized for his research and writing on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and African-American men in college. A native of Atlanta, he earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia, his master’s from Miami University in Ohio, and his PhD in higher education from Georgia State University.

At the age of 32, he served as the vice president for student affairs at Albany State University. Before that, he served at Emory University, Georgia State University, and Old Dominion University. Dr. Kimbrough’s path led him to Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas where, at 37 years old, he was named the college’s 12th president.

Known as “The Hip Hop Prez” on social media, Dr. Kimbrough is widely recognized for his adroit use of social media. He was cited in 2010 by BachelorsDegree.org as one of 25 college presidents you should follow on Twitter. In 2013, he was also cited by Education Dive as one of “10 college presidents on Twitter who are doing it right,” and he was named to Josie Ahlquist’s “25 Higher Education Presidents to Follow on Twitter.”