GOD CALLS US TO EXCELLENCE.
The University of Mobile is devoted to the pursuit of excellence in all we do, because what we do has eternal impact. We exist to send out leaders grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ and fully prepared to pursue God’s calling for their lives and further His Kingdom.
Everything We Do Matters
Nothing is moving on the University of Mobile campus at 5 a.m. except the deer grazing in the morning mist beside Weaver Hall.
At 5:05 a.m., a silver 2017 Toyota RAV4 turns onto Pollock-Altmayer Drive. The man behind the wheel waves to security guard at the gate, takes a sip of coffee from the first cup sold each morning at the new Saraland Starbucks, and pulls into the parking spot behind Weaver Hall marked “President.”
The workday has begun for Dr. Lonnie Burnett.
A Challenging Start
A few months after Burnett was named the 5th president of the University of Mobile in November 2019, his administration faced an unprecedented challenge. A worldwide pandemic would change the way universities operate and, ultimately, cause many higher education institutions to close their doors.
But the Christ-centered university did more than simply weather the storm – it quickly adjusted to the new reality, re-evaluated business models and practices, reduced expenses, added academic programs, completed new construction and major facility renovations, developed new corporate partnerships and strengthened its vision of
Higher Education for a Higher Purpose.
The UM Board of Trustees recognized Burnett’s leadership and voted unanimously in November 2022 to extend the president’s contract through 2026, with an automatic one-year renewal each year thereafter.
Trustee Chair Terry Harbin said the Board was “thrilled with what has been accomplished at the University of Mobile over the past three years.
Despite the turmoil across the world, the University of Mobile has been a place of great stability and growth. We look forward to all the university will accomplish in the years ahead under the leadership of Dr. Lonnie Burnett.”
The Challenges Ahead
Burnett’s early start to the workday illustrates the enthusiasm with which he tackles his role as
president. The 1979 Mobile College graduate has a deep love for his alma mater; respect and
appreciation for the faculty and staff who pour their lives into the work of educating the next generation; and dedication to the students and more than 14,000 alumni who use their UM experience to impact the world.
“We have made great strides over the last three years. The progress we have seen has been accomplished through a most stressful time.
However, we are not yet where I want us to be. We can never say we have made it, for this leads to complacency and stagnation,” Burnett said.
There are challenges ahead for higher education institutions across the nation that impact the University of Mobile as well. They include:
- Declining Birth Rates – decreasing population of prospective students
- Alternatives to College – increasing options for on-the-job training, trade schools and certifications
- Financial Issues – increasing reluctance to use student loans to help fund a college education
- Competition – over 4,300 colleges and universities in the U.S.
To survive and thrive, a higher education institution must distinguish itself from all the rest. It must stand out from the crowd and offer something beyond the expected.
The University of Mobile is already doing that, Burnett said. But there is still more to be done.
“Our Christ-centered focus is increasingly rare among institutions,” Burnett said.
Other distinguishing factors include:
- The university’s culture of mentoring and personal attention, described by the phrase “Know and Be Known,” creates a unique caring environment.
- Integration of faith and learning provides a strong spiritual foundation.
- Quality academic programs assure graduates gain relevant knowledge.
- An emphasis on internships, service and experiential learning prepares graduates for success.
These factors and more result in a well-deserved reputation for producing exceptional graduates. Employers such as school systems, health care facilities, businesses, churches and more are eager to hire UM graduates. Also, UM alumni have an excellent track record for acceptance into medical and law schools, seminary and other professional programs, where they perform well.
As distinctive as these aspects are, though, they are not enough, said Burnett. To truly set the University of Mobile apart, there must be a renewed commitment to excellence in all things.
“Excellence sells itself – people see the value of an excellent product, and they will seek it out,” he said.
Experience Excellence Challenge
Paul’s letter to the Philippians is the inspiration for “Experience Excellence,” the new university-wide focus on assuring that every interaction a person has with the University of Mobile is truly exceptional.
Finally, brothers, whateveris true, whateveris honorable, whateveris just,whateveris pure, whateveris lovely, whateveris commendable, if thereis any excellence, ifthereis anything worthy ofpraise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8 (ESV)
For the University of Mobile family, “Experience Excellence” is a challenge to look with fresh eyes at all aspects of university operations. Beginning in 2023 and across all facets of university life, faculty, staff and administrators are reviewing the way things have always been done and finding new ways to do them better.
- Processes are being analyzed to make them seamless.
- Employees are being empowered to cut through red tape and resolve problems quickly.
- New computer systems are providing greater transparency and allowing faculty and staff to rapidly assess and respond to students with academic challenges.
- Constituents including students, alumni, donors, church leaders and the community are being asked how the university can make their individual UM experiences even better.
“Everything we do matters,” Burnett said. “The University of Mobile experience must be excellent, starting with the smallest detail. Excellence sells itself – people see the value of an excellent product, and they will seek it out.”
Getting It Right, Every Time
It was a few hours before the final performance of Christmas Spectacular 2022. Burnett had attended the previous four performances – he attends as many performing arts, athletics and student events as his schedule allows.
The president and Dr. Roger Breland, dean emeritus of the Alabama School of the Arts, were talking in the darkened auditorium of Cottage Hill Baptist Church when Burnett noticed something happening on stage.
“The tech crew was walking on stage, placing microphones and walking off stage, then immediately walking back on stage and moving the microphones to a different position before walking off again.
“They were still practicing how to get it right – how to move the microphones into the right place after one performance ends and before another one begins. They had already done this correctly for four performances, but they were still practicing to get it right once again for the final performance.
“That’s what excellence is. It’s an all-in, everyone, every day commitment to exceeding expectations,” Burnett said. “There is a quote from Aristotle that says it well: ‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.’”
For a university that is already operating at a level of excellence that sets it above many other institutions, the “Experience Excellence” challenge sets the bar even higher.
“We’ve got to be excellent every day in the big things and the little things. Each and every day, we work at it with all our hearts,” Burnett said.
“Everything we do matters.”