- Associated Press - Saturday, June 20, 2015

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - The incoming president of the University of Alabama is looking at how to grow the state’s flagship school while managing the momentum of what’s already been a decade of rapid growth.

Stuart Bell, who was approved Thursday as president by University of Alabama System Board of Trustees, will replace outgoing president Judy Bonner when she retires July 15.

Bell, currently provost and executive vice president at Louisiana State University and previously a professor at Alabama, rejoins the university at a time when the university is looking to address how to maintain growth while fostering diversity in the student body.

In 2014, the university reached a record with 36,155 undergraduate, professional and graduate students enrolled for the fall semester. Just a decade earlier, enrollment totaled 20,969.

With that growth in student population, leaders have had to oversee all sorts of other expansions on campus. Some of those include the construction of new living areas and academic buildings, increased student recreational offerings, more traffic, even increased bandwidth on the campus computer network.

Asked if growth is sustainable, Bell said the university needs to be strategic in how it views growth.

“Quality is always going to be a focus here on the Capstone,” Bell said. “And when you talk about growth, you could talk about growth in diversity, growth in grad programs, etc. We need to look at where we have aspirations for growth.”

Steve Miller, the faculty representative for the presidential search, said he hopes graduate programs and research will also receive a boost.

“From a faculty perspective, upping the ante in terms of research here at the University of Alabama is critically important work to becoming the kind of global campus that we see ourselves as,” Miller said. “So ramping up the research side is going to be really, really important. That means adding more graduate students here at the university while not diminishing the undergraduate focus.”

Elliot Spillers, president of Alabama’s student government association, said the university needs to look at how to maintain a community atmosphere even with a larger number of students on campus.

“I think that as we go bigger we have to go smaller as well,” he said. “I know that Dr. Bell is going to tackle that head-on as well as myself on a student government level, and I’m just excited to be tackling that.”

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