Will Lucas: Utoledo’s Chairman of the Board of Trustees

Will Lucas speaks during a graduation event

By Asia Nail
The Truth Reporter

In the ever-evolving landscape of higher education, leadership is paramount, guiding institutions through times of change and transformation. At the University of Toledo, this leadership takes on a new hue with Will Lucas at the mantle as chairman of the Board of Trustees, marking a historic milestone for the university and its commitment to diversity and inclusion. As the youngest African American to hold this esteemed position, Lucas brings a fresh perspective and a bold vision to the table.

With a shared dedication to advancing the University’s mission and strategic vision, the Board of Trustees and administrators stand united in their efforts to propel the University forward.

“I was appointed to chair in July. This summer 2024 will mark eight and a half years of me working on the Board of Trustees at the university,” observes Lucas.

Over the past eight years, the world has undergone a remarkable transformation, marked by unprecedented technological advancements, profound social changes and shifting geopolitical landscapes. From the rapid proliferation of smartphones and social media platforms to the emergence of groundbreaking innovations in artificial intelligence and renewable energy, the pace of change has been nothing short of staggering.

“The whole world has changed over the past eight years, particularly accelerated by the pandemic. To remain relevant and responsive to the evolving needs of our students, the University does its best to innovate quickly,” shares Lucas.

Leading the charge in college and university governance, Boards of Trustees shoulder the responsibility of pivotal decision-making, steering the direction of academic institutions.

“Overall, our Board’s job is to ensure the President is fulfilling the vision the University has set forth,” explains Lucas.

Will Lucas

Often tasked with selecting university leadership, approving budgets, and ensuring fiscal responsibility, trustees serve as stewards of both institutional integrity and taxpayer dollars.

Their duties encompass a broad spectrum, from appointing university presidents to overseeing financial matters and curricular changes. In the State of Ohio, trustees face particularly high expectations, especially those entrusted with public higher education institutions like the University of Toledo by the governor and local officials.

“When I was appointed to this Board by Governor John Kasich, it was important to me that my personal mission be representative of what is possible in this community,” Lucas emphasizes.

“I want other young Black men and women to see me and feel that achieving their goals is attainable.”

Change is brewing, signaling a dynamic shift in the University’s trajectory and commitment to excellence. Lucas’s journey to board chair is a testament to his unwavering dedication and multifaceted expertise. A graduate of University of Toledo himself, with a bachelor’s degree in Organization Technology, Lucas has cultivated a remarkable career marked by numerous accolades and accomplishments.

As the founder and CEO of aWLCo, a dynamic conglomerate operating across media, technology, real estate and hospitality sectors, Will Lucas demonstrates a keen ability to drive growth, foster strategic alliances and harness the power of innovation to effect positive change.

As colleges and universities grapple with the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s landmark rulings on affirmative action, the landscape of higher education admissions stands on the brink of significant change. With the systematic consideration of race now largely prohibited in admissions decisions, institutions are facing a critical juncture, compelled to reevaluate their approaches to recruiting and selecting students.

“Every college in the country is dealing with the Supreme Court’s decision, ” attests Lucas.

“It’s definitely changing the landscape. However, this is an opportunity for us to reaffirm our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in new ways. That starts with ensuring that all types of students have the resources and support they need to succeed.”

The Board of Trustees is consistently leveraging their diverse expertise and expansive networks to propel the University President Dr. Gregory Postel’s vision. Central to this endeavor is the implementation of UT Reimagined: Strategic Plan 2023-2028, a bold blueprint for the future that prioritizes student success, academic innovation and community engagement.

In the absence of race-conscious admissions policies, institutions must redouble their efforts to attract and support a diverse student body. One of the key tenets of their updated plan is a commitment to ensuring student success from recruitment through graduation.

“Guided by our strategic plan, our goal is to propel UT to unprecedented levels of prominence, making us an even stronger public research university,” shares Will.

“The University is innovative in the ways we give instruction. Not every student will be on campus or in physical classrooms.”

Today, college is not merely a physical destination; it is a virtual realm where students navigate a complex tapestry of online classes, virtual meetings and digital collaborations. The traditional college experience, once defined by face-to-face interactions and hands-on learning, has undergone a profound metamorphosis, giving rise to a new era of remote education and digital engagement.

Yet, amidst the dizzying array of digital tools and platforms, one thing remains constant: the transformative power of education to shape minds, inspire hearts and change lives. While the landscape may have changed, the essence of the college experience remains as vibrant and transformative as ever.

“The future of higher education is limited only by the bounds of our imagination,” adds Lucas.

“Administrators continue to innovate, providing not just remote learning but, ‘quality’ remote learning opportunities.”

The university’s strategic plan also offers a roadmap for navigating challenges while fostering a more inclusive, equitable admissions process. As colleges and universities explore alternative metrics and criteria for evaluating applicants, the University of Toledo is positioning itself as a leader in pioneering holistic, student-centered admissions practices.

“UT is a college that has a ton of first-generation students,” says Lucas.

“Our goal is to truly nurture first-generation students to achieve gainful employment, become the next doctors and lawyers, provide new scientific research or create new services and products.”

Still, the court’s ruling directly impacts students who relied on previously appropriated funds to go to college at all.

“We are finding new ways to support these students,” Lucas adds.

“On the other side there are donors who have specified they want their dollars to go to specific initiatives. Now committees are reorganizing to meet all the requirements for both students and donors alike.”

Imagine stepping onto a college campus, where the air crackles with excitement and anticipation, and the world feels ripe with possibility. For many first-generation college students, this moment is both exhilarating and daunting, as they navigate uncharted territory with a mixture of hope and apprehension. Armed with determination and resilience, they confront the challenges of higher education head-on, driven by a fervent desire to break the cycle of generational barriers and carve out a brighter future for themselves and their families.

By prioritizing outreach and engagement with underrepresented communities, UToledo can proactively address disparities in access and opportunity, ensuring that all students have the resources and support they need to thrive academically and personally.

At the core of Lucas’s leadership philosophy is a steadfast commitment to collaboration and partnership. Recognizing that no single individual holds the monopoly on innovation or insight, Lucas has championed a collaborative approach to governance translating vision into action.

By fostering open dialogue, soliciting diverse perspectives, and encouraging collective ownership of the university’s mission and values, UT continues to cultivate an academic environment where every voice is heard and every idea is valued.

Through strategic planning sessions, ongoing dialogue, and regular updates, the Board of Trustees remain fully invested in supporting and advancing the president’s agenda. Whether it’s through advocating for resources, providing strategic guidance, or championing key initiatives, Lucas and his fellow trustees serve as steadfast allies in President Postel’s quest to elevate UT to new heights of excellence and impact.

“Our goal is to make sure the University of Toledo is the first place students consider attending for their four-year degree program,” says Lucas.

“The University is also expanding certification programs and re-educational pathways for both students and professionals to meet students where they are.”

Through collaboration, innovation, and a relentless pursuit of excellence, University of Toledo’s Board of Trustees and administrators are paving the way for a brighter and more inclusive future for all students, faculty and staff. As the university charts its course through the challenges and opportunities ahead, it’s clear that with steadfast leadership and an unwavering commitment to excellence, they are positioned to achieve success.

Follow www.utoledo.edu/strategicplan/ for updates