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New SIUC Chancellor looks forward to growing enrollment

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News 3 This Morning anchor Evie Allen walks the SIU Campus with new Chancellor Austin Lane

CARBONDALE, IL (WSIL) -- SIU has had six different chancellors leading the Carbondale campus over the last decade. The newest person in the role is Austin Lane. He spent his first official day on campus on Monday.

Lane most recently served as president of Texas Southern University. He says he heard early on in the search process about the passion of the SIU community.

"You talk about the traditions that are here. You talk about the history that is here. It's just been something that for me has been very exciting to be a part of," he said.

ENROLLMENT CONCERNS

"We see it as more of an opportunity than a challenge."

Lane knows boosting enrollment will be one of his biggest struggles.

"It is a marathon. Enrollment does not increase overnight. It takes some time to get that going," Lane said.

The campus has lost about 10,000 students comparing Fall 2004 and Fall 2019 enrollment.

Lane has a game plan. He wants to target different parts of the state and lean on SIU alumni.

"We'll also form some pretty strong partnerships with our superintendents here in the area and across the state, with our community colleges, to make sure those students who are there transfer to SIU," Lane said.

The chancellor also plans to hit the road and go into communities himself to recruit.

RECENT RACIAL TENSIONS

Issues surrounding racial injustice have led to protests across the world, including some in Carbondale.

Lane has already seen local challenges after racist videos from students connected to SIU surfaced online.

"My job really will be to listen to our students and to understand and not assume I know how they feel, but to understand where they are coming from and then proactively put some programs in place."

Chancellor Lane's first year on campus will also include a listening tour throughout the community.

"And that's me talking to faculty, staff, students, and alumnus, community members about what they love about SIUC and some things that we need to enhance," said Lane.

He knows that will take work. Lane will use the search committee that brought him to SIU as his advisory team.

He knows the next few months will be hard work but he's ready for the challenge.

"I'm excited to meet all the Salukis that are out there, and go Dawgs!"

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