President Donald Green reflects on how previous higher education experiences prepared him for Point Park

Incoming president plans for 7 major objectives at Point Park



New Point Park President Don Green at Point Park University in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Megan Gloeckler)

Written By Amanda Andrews and Jake Dabkowski

On April 12, 2021, the Board of Trustees announced in an email to the campus community that their months-long search for a new president had ended. Donald Green, the then-president of Georgia Highlands College, would be assuming the presidency at Point Park — a position the Board of Trustees had been seeking to fill after Paul Hennigan announced his retirement on Oct. 5, 2020.

In an exclusive interview with The Globe on August 11, President Donald Green spoke of several topics, ranging from his observations of downtown Pittsburgh so far, his perspective on the role of higher education and his goals for Point Park going forward.

Green said that both he and his family were “elated” when they learned that he had been chosen to be Point Park’s eighth president. According to Green, not only did Pittsburgh’s status as a major sports town and dynamic cultural center appeal to him, but, once he officially stepped into the role as president on July 11, he said he found that there was the same genuineness among the campus community as there was in the City of Pittsburgh.

“The students are so genuine and so real. [With the] faculty and staff, there’s a love for students. And that’s so important to me,” Green said. “One of the ingredients that I think is an absolutely essential piece of a successful university is love. And if you don’t have that, then I think that students can sense it, that people can sense it.”

In the press release announcing the Board of Trustees’ selection, the Board cited Green’s successes at the institutions where he had previously worked.

Prior to coming to Pittsburgh, Green served as the president of Georgia Highlands College from 2014 through the end of the 2020- 2021 academic year and before that worked in several administrative and academic roles at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan.

Joe Greco, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, spoke with The Globe about some of the factors that made Green stand out from other candidates, including his experience as a president at another university.

“He also had a dynamic experience at other universities, Ferris State for example, where he really saw a lot of what was involved in running a university. He saw what occurs at the academic level and the administrative level, from the top on down, so that was important,” Greco said. “He also has a dynamic personality. He’s a consensus builder. He’s a person I think that will bring people together—the students, the faculty, the staff and the administration.”

At his most recent institution, Georgia Highlands College in Rome, Georgia, Green increased overall enrollment by 7% between 2014 and 2015 and Latino enrollment by 24% within that same span of time, according to an article from the Rome-News Tribune published in 2015. Georgia Highlands College is one of 26 higher education institutions within the University System of Georgia.

“President Green’s outstanding work has emphasized student success both in the classroom and in the workforce, helping GHC expand its degree programs and carry out its mission as an access point to higher education,” University System of Georgia (USG) Chancellor Steve Wrigley said in a statement. “Don has been an excellent leader who helped GHC positively impact the communities it serves and set an example that will benefit the college and students for years to come. I will miss him as a colleague and am grateful for his service to the system and Georgia.”

Green has expressed that his specific investment in increasing Latino enrollment at higher education institutions like Ferris State and GHC comes from having done consulting work with a three-university system in Puerto Rico earlier in his career. Since then, he has explored other Spanish-speaking countries and Latino cultures, which he stressed covers a wide variety of peoples and places. He hopes to do similar things with Latino enrollment at Point Park.

“I relish the opportunity to be able to reach out to the Latino community of Greater Pittsburgh and be able to build relationships there and get folks to our campus and have them be able to perhaps explore higher education for the first time, and see if this is something that could be transformational in their life, as it’s been transformational for me,” Green said.

For Green, he said he firmly believes in the life-changing effect of higher education, as he is a first-generation college graduate, and that first-generation and economically disadvantaged students are also other demographics he hopes to convince to attend Point Park.

“Neither my mother nor father graduated from high school. I also get that I could have very easily been a statistic,” he said. “I was blessed that I was able to complete college and be able to have this amazing opportunity here at Point Park.”

When asked about his agenda for the university and the opportunities he wishes to create for students, Green stated that he had thought of seven major objectives, although he said he could only disclose a handful of them at this point, one of the major ones being raising overall enrollment at Point Park. According to the Point Park University Fact Sheet, enrollment has seen an almost 12% decrease in the last 10 years.

“My number one on my set of seven expectations that I’ve got for myself is enrollment,” he said. “It is the only bifurcated objective that I have, and that’s because there’s two parts to enrollment: recruitment and retention. And we’re going to go after both of those, but we have to pursue those two initiatives as unique, but they both funnel up to enrollment.”

Retention is roughly defined as a university’s ability to keep students attending the same institution for however long their degree program is—typically four years for students pursuing a bachelor’s degree—without dropping out or transferring to another school. In the most recent publicly available data, Point Park’s retention rate from 2013 to 2018 has hovered between 73% and 79%.

“So Point Park University has a very good retention rate. But good is the enemy of great,” Green said. “If you’re coming to school here, I want you to graduate. So we’re going to have a graduation message, which really goes back down to one of the things on my list which is retention, totally maximizing retention.”

Ideally, Green said he would like to raise retention over 80% to 85%, and if it is possible, 90%, which he added was a percentage that would be “off the charts for many universities.” Part of the way to accomplish this goal, he mentioned, was to invest in student tutoring, academic coaching, affordability and degree programs that lead to careers.

Other goals of his include creating a “cohesive culture” and prioritizing equity and inclusion. Dialogue among the entire campus community, he said, will be necessary to address the past and future treatment of students, faculty and staff belonging to a variety of minority groups. He is also interested in updating the curriculum to include lessons and values of equity and inclusion and added that he believes greater recognition of diversity at the university will improve the situation.

“Diversity is about numbers and demographics as well. For some people, equity and inclusion create diversity,” Green said. “We want equity and inclusion. We want an inclusive culture. We want to create equity. By doing so, you create an environment that allows the diversity we want. So diversity is more like the result.”

In the coming months, the president said that he hopes students will reach out to him if they see him on campus and that he is seeking to learn more about and build unique relationships with different people and aspects of Point Park, including Point Park University Athletics, the Conservatory of Performing Arts, student organizations, campus services, commuters and more.

“When you look at equity, I want to celebrate all the facets of the university,” he said. “I hope that this doesn’t sound trite, but celebrating all of the different facets and nuances of what Point Park University is and being involved with it is yet another form of equity.”