William Bynum, president of Jackson State University

William B. Bynum on Friday joined the list of Jackson State University presidents to visit the weekly community forums at Koinonia Coffee House blocks away from campus.

The conversation quickly shifted from back-to-school excitement to the seriousness of Jackson State’s financial challenges.

“Some of what you would like for us to do or be involved in (partnerships, proposals, investments) I’ll tell you straight up we won’t be able to for the next couple of years,” said Bynum.

The priority is raising funds to compensate for the reduction in state financial support and increasing the university’s cash reserves.

In the audience stood the university’s new vice president of institutional advancement, Veronica Cohen, who joined the Jackson State staff on Tuesday. She is a long-time administrative partner of Bynum’s dating back to Lincoln University in the late 1990’s.

Veronica Cohen, vice president for institutional advancement at Jackson State University

In 2015, Cohen joined Bynum at Mississippi Valley State University as vice president of university advancement, leading efforts to triple fundraising amounts at the university.

“We did it at Valley. We will do it here,” said Bynum.

Cohen was most recently associate vice president for major and planned gifts at Claflin University in South Carolina. Claflin is rated No. 1 for alumni giving among all historically black colleges in the nation with 47 percent of its graduates giving back to the school.

In another move with financial impact, Bynum announced Friday that Jackson State will close its satellite student housing and reopen historic Alexander Hall, increasing the capacity for on-campus housing to 2,800 residents this fall.

In 2013, the Institutions of Higher Learning board of trustees approved a lease for Tiger Plaza, a former motel near the Mississippi Coliseum, to provide 236 additional beds.

“We are out of the hotel business,” said Bynum, laughing.

Ongoing renovations at Stewart Hall, a dormitory for male students, are expected to be complete within the fiscal year, which will increase on-campus capacity to 3,000 residents.

Ashley F.G. Norwood

Ashley F. G. Norwood, a native of Jackson, earned a bachelor's degree in English from Jackson State University and a master’s degree from the Meek School of Journalism at the University of Mississippi. Norwood, who specializes in multimedia journalism, has been recognized nationally for her documentary film the fly in the buttermilk, which covers the history, perceptions and principles of black Greek-lettered organizations at the University of Mississippi.