Written by Dowling Payne
Over the past few months, VSU has been home to a new dynamic duo in the form of our new university president and his wife, Dr. Dacia Charlesworth.
Always sharing a smile and more than willing to sit and talk with any student, Dr. Charlesworth has taken on her title of being the “VSU First Lady” beautifully.
Dr.Charlesworth came to Valdosta from Missouri, Pa. and Indiana where she held various teaching positions. Her undergraduate college days were spent at Arizona State where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications.
After her undergraduate days, Dr. Charlesworth was completing her doctorate degree when she met her now husband, VSU President, Dr.William McKinney. They immediately hit it off as they had very similar interests and a passion for teaching.
Upon coming to Valdosta, Charlesworth knew it would be a change from working in the classroom.
“Now that I’m not teaching it’s bizarre,” she said. “I didn’t know I would miss that day to day connection with students so much.”
According to Dr. Charlesworth, she has always had a strong passion for students and their wellbeing. Because she missed the classroom so much, Dr.Charlesworth often makes lunch dates with students and simply spends time on campus to socialize and connect with them.
“It’s my job to be on campus when my husband can’t,” Dr. Charlesworth, said. “We want students to know that they are our number one priority.”
President McKinney is the first to say how outgoing and caring his wife is.
“She genuinely and honestly cares,” he said. “She works incredibly hard to understand each student she meets as an individual.”
Upon moving to Georgia, there was more than just a shock of how different weather in the South is. Dr. Charlesworth quickly took notice of the ethnic diversity of VSU’s campus. She loves spending time and learning from all different kinds of students.
One of the students she has gotten to know is Michael McKerson, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, Fraternity, Inc. and VSU Ambassadors.
“She’s very energetic, she wants to get to know the whole student body,” McKerson said. “Unlike others in a higher position, she takes the initiative to talk and be open.”
With her strong background in communications, it’s easy to see how Dr. Charlesworth relates so easily to students.
She has spent the past few months preparing for the upcoming inauguration events and has spoken to many different groups on campus and incorporated their events to be highlighted during the week.
Students and faculty are invited to attend the VSU Performing Arts Showcase at 8 p.m. in the Whitehead Auditorium.
Dr. Charlesworth and President McKinney will both perform—Dr. Charlesworth with a dramatic reading, and President McKinney with a drum performance.
In preparation for inauguration, the two have spent lots of time preparing President McKinney’s speech.
“It’s his biggest presentation yet,” Dr.Charlesworth, said. “And I’m his biggest supporter and fan in the world.”
Being a professor in previous years has given her a new outlook on students and the workings of a college campus. Now that she is mostly working with students every now and then instead of in the classroom, Dr. Charlesworth has an undying respect for students and the hard work and effort that college requires.
Outside of her role as VSU’s First Lady, Dr. Charlesworth loves Zumba, her four cats and completely indulging in everything pop-culture.
Her advice to students as they pursue a degree is to find their real passion and follow it. As she is inspired by the work students do, she wants everyone on campus to soak it all in and be inspired by those around them.
Dr. Charlesworth is a woman with a welcoming personality, a glowing spirit, a devotion to students and an eagerness to listen. She loves to give guidance and welcomes anyone to say hello to her on campus.
“I’m never more proud when a student notices us on campus,” Dr.Charlesworth, said. “I’m here for the students and that’s the number one thing I want them to know.”
To find a complete list of inauguration events, visit the VSU website, and also follow Dr. Charlesworth on twitter @VSUFirstLady