The President’s Page
Building the New SOU: Spring Report
Mary Cullinan, President, SOU
April, 7, 2009
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to that amazing whirlwind we experience from March until the end of the academic year. We call it spring term. As always at these events, I will be brief so we can enjoy socializing time together afterwards.
I want to highlight some of our good news from earlier this year, tell you what I know so far about this legislative session and the budget news—and then summarize some of the exciting events that lie just ahead for us.
We had a lot of successes in winter term. Our enrollment headcount ended at 5,490, up 8% over our Fall 2009 enrollment and 4.2% over Winter 2008. We probably won't be at that level for this spring, but if we can keep our trend up in fall 2009, we can safely say we're a campus of 5,500 students, not 5,000. Increases like this will, of course, greatly improve our financial situation and our ability to weather economic storms.
I know our enrollment folks are working hard to build a strong freshman class—and a strong group of transfers for next year. We all need to help them however we can. I urge your active involvement in Preview Days and Transfer Days this spring. We continue to hear that a personal connection with an SOU professor is the deciding factor for a student to enroll at SOU.
This Friday's Preview Day has over 550 participants—the largest ever of an event of this kind at SOU. So indicators are positive. Now we need to turn them into reality.
And we all need to help retain the students we have. Often a simple inquiry from a faculty member or academic advisor can ensure that a student enrolls for the next term. Our retention from last fall to this spring looks excellent—let's make sure we get our current students enrolled for next fall.
As most of you know, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Oregon a couple of weeks ago. This will help facilitate enrollment of freshmen who are admissible to both U of O and SOU—but who can't be accommodated in UO's residence halls. Technically the program would start in fall 2010, but we are already getting inquiries from prospective students for this fall. It looks like we will have a pilot cohort of 10-15 students for this coming year.
With the good work of Dean Dave Harris, also, we will see some highly qualified students from China joining us next year. We may host one or two delegations from Chinese most prestigious universities this spring as we develop agreements with them.
Some of you have also been involved in discussions with OIT concerning partnerships we could develop with them. There may be some exciting opportunities for students and for faculty. Our vision is to increase access and opportunity for students through institutions of higher education across the State of Jefferson.
A lot of work was done last term with planning. We finished our branding process and are well underway with master academic planning as well as the campus master plan, enrollment management, and other areas. Under Sylvia Kelley's leadership, our Foundation is completing a strategic plan, expanding the Board, and engaging actively in fundraising. All our planning processes underscore our strong connections with our region—with the physical bioregion as well as our arts and cultural communities—and our strong connection with regional businesses, educational institutions, and not-for-profit agencies.
We have seen, also, a strong commitment to academic excellence and to intellectual creativity—and to connecting our students with applied research as well as our strong liberal arts foundation.
After Provost Klein holds one or two more master academic planning forums this spring, we will continue moving ahead with the overall strategic planning for the university—which will reflect the strong themes we're seeing throughout all our planning processes.
Planning at the Higher Education Center has been successful as well. The HEC enrollment has been astonishing. The beautiful building has also been a magnet for regional businesses and groups—so it is really doing what we had envisioned-bringing the academic and external communities together in powerful ways.
This winter we also received a federal earmark for the HEC for $285,000, which we hope to use for the solar panel project that we anticipate will get the building to LEED platinum status. We sincerely appreciate the work on our behalf of our U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, former Senator Gordon Smith, and Congressmen Greg Walden and Peter DeFazio.
There are so many things to brag about from last term. The SOU Foundation received $1 million from the Osher Foundation for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. OLLI serves nearly 970 non-traditional students. When they reach 1,000 members, OLLI will qualify for an additional $1 million from Osher. The Osher Foundation also provides ongoing scholarship support for continuing students. They are wonderful supporters of SOU.
Our student athletes have been doing excellent work—kudos to our wrestlers and our women's basketball team. Our track and field students are doing great. Congratulations to all our students who successfully balance athletics and academic work. My thanks go to Matt Sayre and to the coaches who work hard to help our students be successful in all areas.
On a personal note, I served on the search committee for the new president at Eastern Oregon University. Bob Davies was selected and will start there this summer. He has been serving as vice president for university relations at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
We will also have a new president at U of O—Richard Lariviere—who is currently provost at the University of Kansas. When Dave Frohnmayer retires, I will be the second most senior OUS president—I don't know about you, but that makes me a little nervous!
Of course, much of winter term was spent figuring out a myriad of budget issues. We received $2 million in state stimulus funding for deferred maintenance and capital repairs. However, our excellent work to build back our university reserves to 8% was upended when the legislature re-balanced the 07-09 budget—and swept $2.2 million from this campus. The state giveth, and the state taketh—
I have expressed—and will continue to express—to State Legislators my disappointment in the practice of sweeping OUS reserves, since this practice hurts our efforts to be frugal and to plan effectively. The practice also puts an undue burden on Oregon's state public universities that is not shared by local K-12 and community college education districts.
We are working now to end the fiscal year with a 5% reserve. We continue to pursue administrative efficiencies to preserve academic programs and student services. The vice presidents, directors, and deans have been making difficult decisions to ensure we meet our retrenchment objectives and reorganize as needed to focus on academic endeavors and student success.
We recently had to send to Salem a series of budget scenarios with varying levels of cuts up to 30%. At meetings held in Monmouth last week, we learned that a 30% cut scenario will almost surely NOT happen. This is in part because federal guidelines for stimulus funding ensure that states can't cut so deeply and then accept the federal funding.
On campus, the Financial Strategies Task Force, chaired by Susan Cain, has been working hard to make recommendations that reflect our priorities and values as an institution. However, we truly do not yet have enough information to make definite plans for next year.
The Ways and Means Committee will begin a statewide road trip later this month. They will be here on campus on April 30 to roll out several budget scenarios—highlighting what happens if we increase revenue options and what happens if we don't.
The legislature in late April will also conduct Joint Ways and Means Committee budget hearings in Salem for OUS. However, no major decisions on the 09-11 budget will be made until after the May revenue forecast.
I continue to be delighted with the ongoing support of our Southern Oregon legislative delegation. They understand how important this university is to the region and how effectively we have repositioned ourselves in the last couple of years. They and other legislators are very supportive of our top capital project—our Theatre remodel and expansion—so hopefully it will remain in the state budget throughout this difficult process.
I want to thank everyone who has been helping us with savings. I know that freezes—or at least a very deep chill—on travel, supplies, hiring, and so on are onerous. However, they are making a tremendous difference. I want to thank folks again who took voluntary FTE reductions.
We will continue to hold budget forums and other meetings through the spring as we learn more about the financial situation. I was pleased, last week, when Dr. Peter Gilkey, president of the Inter-Institutional Faculty Senate, told me how happy he was at the transparency of our budget processes at SOU. He made it clear that such transparency was not always the norm in Oregon state universities.
Unfortunately, it will undoubtedly be summer before we have all the information we need to make decisions. Therefore, the Budget Committee is working this spring, with input from the Financial Strategies Task Force, on what we assume would be a worst-case budget cut scenario of 20%. The Budget Committee will make recommendations, also, on the changes we would make if the percentage of cut turns out to be less than 20%—or in the unlikely case that the cut exceeds 20%.
I will do all I can throughout the spring and into the summer to communicate how these processes are evolving as we gain more information.
So—some good news for spring. We have hired some key administrative positions. As we announced earlier this week, Craig Morris will start as permanent Vice President for Finance and Administration on July 1—and Alissa Arp from Hawaii Pacific University will start as dean of CAS. So far we have hired 7 new faculty for next fall and are still searching for 7 other faculty positions.
This next item may not seem like good news to you—but I am actually delighted that we have our accreditation follow-up visit at the end of April. We have sent the Northwest Commission an interim report that shows excellent progress. I want to thank the faculty and administrators who've been working on the recommendations from the 2007 accreditation site visit. Those recommendations focused primarily on areas of planning, assessment and evaluation, and budget. I know the accreditors will be pleased with our progress.
Next week—next week! —is our Guanajuato celebration. About 100 Guanajuatenses will be arriving, starting this coming weekend. Our plans reflect the global economic times. We have to be much more restrained in our spending than we were ten years ago. Nonetheless, this will be wonderful—and very significant for us. We're celebrating our 40th anniversary with the Universidad de Guanajuato, but we're also forging some new and important ties between our respective academic areas that I believe will be very fruitful for faculty and students. As you know, the events of the week will culminate on April 17 in a major conference on Doing Business with Mexico.
Many, many people have been working on this huge event. I particularly want to thank Josie Wilson, Meredith Reynolds, and Dave Harris—but many other folks have been involved in making this a huge success. For example, Gary Miller and his students have been working to catalog the history of our 40-year partnership. And many others on campus and throughout the city of Ashland are involved in planning this wonderful celebration.
Another significant effort is SOAR II planned for May 19-21. Geoff Mills, Deborah Hofer, and many others are working on this event—which is truly a wonderful celebration of the great work we do here in scholarly and artistic areas. The deadline for applications to present at SOAR II has been extended to April 24—so please send in your applications.
On May 15, we will hold our third annual Recognition and Retirement event organized by the folks in Human Resources. Please plan to celebrate and honor the wonderful folks who are retiring or who have worked here for significant amounts of time. As I say—whenever we get a chance, we need to celebrate. So let's take hold of every opportunity—including this afternoon.
Of course our biggest celebration of the year is always Commencement. This year our speaker is Michael Geisen, Oregon Teacher of the Year, National Teacher of the Year, and SOU grad. He will be here with his family the weekend of Commencement, and I know you will want to welcome him.
In closing, I return briefly to the time I've been spending in Salem the last couple of months. As I walk the halls of the state Capitol and meet with legislators, I can see most of them have gotten the message that SOU is on an upswing. They know that we're coming out of our troubles—and that we're working together productively as a campus. I can't tell you how important that message is in this climate. Two years ago state legislators saw SOU as being in trouble, as being a "problem"—that perception, that reality, is very different now. All of you have helped and continue to make a tremendous difference. Thank you.
In the spirit of budget savings, we did not buy wine for today's reception. Wine has been provided by Liz Shelby, courtesy of the donations of the Ashland Rotary members. I know you will want to thank her as we take a few moments to celebrate all we're doing here to build the new SOU.
Again-thank you all.