Remarks to the Board of Regents
April 21, 2009
I am pleased to report that yesterday, I presented testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education Appropriations. This follows my testimony before the House Subcommittee on Higher Education Appropriations in February here on our campus. I talked about issues such as our operating budget and needs to fund our growth in nursing programs and new academic programs like Simulation, Animation and Gaming; our capital projects like the science complex, dormitory renovations, and campus police facility that reinvest in the campus and put people to work in Michigan; and recognition like the Carnegie Foundation Community Engagement Classification and significant grants and contracts we have received. We look forward to EMU Day in Lansing on May 5 to again talk to the legislature about the many ways our University brings value to the citizens of our state.
I also announced to the subcommittee that if the Board of Regents chooses to recommend a salary increase for me for FY 2009-10, I will not accept it, to do my part to keep college affordable for our students. John Lumm, Interim CFO, has continued open dialogue with the Budget Council this year, and we continue to openly share information in a transparent manner. Other University-wide efforts to keep college accessible and affordable include $1.9 million in additional Financial Aid funding for the next academic year, and working to identify ways across the university to do business more efficiently. Cost containment will be a top priority for us as we develop our budget for FY10 and beyond. We expect that Federal stimulus dollars will help fill in the gaps in the state appropriation during this fiscal year and during FY10 and FY11, but that still leaves us with a challenging decline in state funding for FY12 and beyond, after stimulus dollars are spent.
Eastern is also doing its part to address the economic challenges our students, alumni and community are facing. In addition to our Return to Learn open houses in April, June and August, we are hosting our first-ever Return to Earn job readiness fair next week, in which EMU staff and community partners will present resources, advising and workshops to assist displaced workers and others who are seeking jobs in Southeast Michigan. We are also creating a one-stop shopping center for returning Veterans who have an enhanced GI bill to return to college. Recognizing the importance of graduate education and its impact on employment opportunities, EMU is one of 15 universities participating in the April 23 Michigan Graduate Education Day at the State Capitol. Graduate student research will be on display, and the students will discuss with legislators issues such as innovation, economic development and environmental protection.
Eastern is a major partner in the Eastern Leaders Group, which is actively involved in stimulating our regional economy. Our College of Business faculty and administrators play key roles, which has led to the SPARK East business incubator in downtown Ypsilanti.
I am pleased to report progress on filling key leadership roles. I commend the Search Committee for a new Provost and Executive Vice President who have worked many hours. We have five candidates who will be on campus in the next few weeks to meet in open forums with various constituencies. Information about the candidates and forums is posted on our web site. The Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management search is concluding. The Vice President for Communications search has a strong pool and is moving along as well. In the meantime, I have appointed Art Timko, a long-term member of the EMU community and station manager of WEMU 89.1 FM, as interim Vice President for Communications.
In late February, EMU launched its participation in Apple’s iTunes U, a free service that presents educational content from more than 150 universities worldwide. In the first week of participation, one of EMU’s podcasts was selected for the site’s front page, presented next to content from Stanford, Duke and the University of Michigan. EMU’s Salute to Excellence Week began with the 11th annual Graduate Research Fair on March 23, which showcased the outstanding research and creative projects of 212 of EMU’s graduate students. Excellence Week culminated with the 29th annual Undergraduate Research Symposium on March 27, featuring the scholarly and creative presentations of more than 330 undergraduate students under the sponsorship of 185 faculty advisers. The Ypsilanti Housing Commission co-sponsored the first-ever Eastern Egg Hunt at University House on April 9, where more than 100 local children participated in crafts activities and enjoyed a fire truck, bounce house and colorful egg hunt. In an effort to forge a closer connection and understand the concerns of residential students, I spent last Thursday night as a resident at Hill Hall. In support of our local community businesses, I purchased a classic green and white bicycle at Ypsilanti Bicycle, LLC to ride across campus.
I want to invite you all to attend this weekend’s Commencement ceremonies at the Convocation Center. This is where all of our efforts are targeted – toward the successful graduation of our students. More than 1,800 students are eligible to participate. We will be commemorating the 160th anniversary of EMU’s founding. Our speakers are Richard M. Smith, Newsweek chairman; and Kenneth Fine, retired vice president and general manager of semiconductor products group for Intel.
Finally, I want to thank the Board of Regents for sending me to the first Harvard Seminar on Crisis Leadership in Higher Education. It was extremely helpful to me and reaffirmed many of our efforts on campus to create a campus communications plan, establish our Emergency Operations Center, and get more of our campus community enrolled in RAVE, our emergency alert system, and to continuously improve safety efforts on our campus. After the armed robbery in Sellers Hall, Regent Stapleton, Interim Vice President Lindke, Lieutenant Heighes and I walked the scene of the crime and other residence halls in the evening. As a direct result of those observations, the exit doors to the freshman living centers are now alarmed, equipped with better cameras on the exits at a minimal cost (less than $10,000) that would likely prevent that crime from reoccurring. Let’s all work together to keep our eyes open to simple solutions to improve our campus safety.
Susan Martin, President