Dr. Tony Allen ready to take reins as DSU president at start of 2020

Though Dr. Tony Allen’s experience is comprised of a variety of different sectors, he has always been drawn to education. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — Delaware State University will start the new decade under new leadership.

On Jan. 1, Dr. Tony Allen will assume the university helm and, while he’ll be new to the role, he’s no stranger to DSU.

“I have been a big fan of Delaware State University for a very long time and have been interested in higher education for the same amount of time. Certainly, I’ve had multiple experiences across a variety of sectors,” he said in an interview this past week. “But I think all of that, and my two years as provost, have prepared me well for what I think is a sleeping giant in this community.”

Dr. Allen, 49, will succeed Dr. Wilma Mishoe, who announced her plans for retirement in September after serving as interim president in November 2017 before permanently taking over the role in 2018.

Most recently, Dr. Allen served as provost and vice president for the university. Prior to his arrival on campus in 2017, Dr. Allen worked for Bank of America in Global Marketing & Corporate Affairs. He also worked for former Vice President Joseph R. Biden as a speech writer and special assistant.

Though Dr. Allen’s experience is comprised of a variety of different sectors, he has always been drawn to education.

He noted that neither of his parents went to college; his stepfather didn’t finish high school.

“The ability for me to have gone through three levels of education and have a terminal degree, and have had a very successful professional experience spurs me to do a couple things,” he said. “It really relates to what my mom has told me over the years, which is to make sure that you remember where you come from, and you continue to serve as others have served you throughout your life.”

When he officially begins his tenure next month, Dr. Allen will endeavor to make sure the university is “aspiring to be the most diverse, contemporary HBCU in the country,” he said.

He pointed to the fact that students from 23 countries and faculty and staff from 44 countries make up the population at DSU.

Within DSU’s students, Dr. Allen added that the university has worked hard to serve special populations, through TheDream.US scholarship — which supports undocumented students — and Inspire, a scholarship for students from Delaware.

“While when you are actually operating in a diverse setting — it’s not always easy — it’s important when you think about the world you want to live in,” he noted. “I always think back to what our mission was, making sure that we’re opening the doors for those who have been overlooked or underserved by their traditional education system and make sure we’re granting opportunities that they can have a quality comprehensive university experience.”

Dr. Allen also hopes to see the university prepare students for a 21st century workforce, continuing to make sure students and faculty have access to technology so they’re prepared, he said.

He added that remaining contemporary involves infrastructure for the university’s visage.

“We have great work to do on our physical infrastructure as well, so folks feel good about where they’re living and working every day,” he said.

Upgrading the physical form — not just the new dorm that went up recently, but the classrooms as well, is important, he added.

Serving as a historically black university is also an important component, Dr. Allen said.

“I’ve said on a number of occasions that if you didn’t have HBCUs, you would literally have to invent them,” he said. “I don’t think there are any other institutions of our kind that can look across a broad spectrum of students, and provide them with world class comprehensive education in a way that they might not have gotten because of where they come from, and many years ago, what they look like.”

He added that the university wants to build on its tradition.

“That goes back into not only serving our African American population, but also being open to other populations that have similar needs and can benefit from the same type of quality that we’ve offered here for 128 years,” he continued.

Looking ahead to his tenure, Dr. Allen said that the university is composed of many strengths, but it faces challenges in sharing those accomplishments.

“We are continuing to build the top producers of students who are in key disciplines that affect our everyday life here in Delaware,” he said.

He said that the university is producing the most teachers, accountants, social workers and pilots of color across the board.

“We are responsible for most of the students of color in the STEM disciplines that go into work in Delaware as well,” he continued. “So we are building a diverse, thoughtful, quality talent pipeline as well. And more folks need to know about that across our many disciplines here at the university.”

In the future, he also looks for growth in the student population. He noted that DSU is at the most students it has ever had, but he sees room for more, with the goal to announce plans in the near future.

The areas Dr. Allen views as points for added growth include the special populations of Dreamers and Inspire scholars, online classes and graduate populations.

“When you combine all of that, you get to a multiple that we think will be advantageous to the university over time, and that’s where we want to build capacity,” he said.

Dr. Allen added that DSU is Delaware’s state university, and that means that the university should be connected to the strategic interests of the state.

“We think we are but we want to do more of that across a number of disciplines, and we also want to be a go-to provider in that regard as it relates to our academic research, our professional consultancies and other activities we believe would be of significant value to Delaware,” he said.

As a “Delaware boy,” he said he was excited to serve the state university.

“I think my predecessors, each of them, have continued to enhance the profile and the import of the institution. And I do plan to continue that legacy so that we can make sure that our community has a deep, deep connection to who we are,” he said. “And I think with the right level of engagement from all of us — faculty, staff and students — and a great vision, we’re going to become the university we are meant to be, both for the county, the state and, I argue, the nation as well.”