President Fallon's report to the Board of Regents
EASTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY
Board of Regents Meeting
March 21, 2006
Thank you, Regent Valvo.
It seems almost unbelievable that it was just a little more than a year ago, at the March 15, 2005 meeting of the Board of Regents, that I was selected to serve the people of the State of Michigan as the 21st president of Eastern Michigan University. As I shared then, this is a very special place with a faculty and staff that is committed to providing an outstanding educational and co-curricular experience for students. I remain as committed to, and excited about, the opportunities and possibilities at Eastern Michigan University as I was that day.
The past several weeks have been extraordinarily busy, as I’ve juggled on-campus responsibilities with donor and alumni events in Florida, Arizona, California and Washington, D.C.
While these visits are informative and absolutely essential to the University’s advancement work, I find that as I get older, I find myself agreeing with Mark Twain when he commented that: “Travel no longer holds the same charm for me. I’ve seen all the places I want to see except for heaven and hell, and I don’t have an urgent need to know about either of those.”
I’m pleased to report that two major positions on my leadership team will be filled in April when Darryl Sczepanski and Derrick Gragg join the staff.
Darryl Sczepanski, vice president for advancement at Kettering University, will join the University April 3 as vice president for university advancement and the executive director of the EMU Foundation. Darryl has more than 30 years of experience in capital campaign planning and management, major gift fund raising and alumni relations.
Derrick Gragg, deputy athletic director at the University of Arkansas, joins the University April 3 as the new athletic director. Derrick brings an impressive record in athletic administration to EMU. He has served as a senior-level athletic administrator at four Division I institutions and received accolades for his work at each.
While I look forward to the experience and vision both Derrick and Darryl will bring to their positions, I would be remiss if I didn’t publicly thank Bob England and Tom Stevick for stepping forward and providing interim leadership during this transition period. Both served the University very well. I believe both are in attendance today, and I would ask that they stand so that we can give them an appropriate acknowledgment.
We have good news to share relative to continuing activities at the EMU Foundation.
Gifts such as these are critical to the University, especially as we face less-than inflationary increases in state appropriations. As you’ve heard, both the Governor and the Senate have now weighed in with budget proposals for FY07. Although their funding scenarios differ slightly, under both proposals the University would receive slightly less than a 2 percent increase. While we are pleased that we are not facing cuts to our appropriations as we have done the past two years, this modest increase provides a significant challenge to our ability to deliver high-quality, accessible educational programs.
As I shared with the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education Appropriations, this challenge is further exacerbated for the seven sister schools hit with costs for the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System—an unfunded state mandate for retiree health care benefits that is hurting us. Costs for MPSERS have more than doubled since 1998. The cost to the University in FY05 was $4,845,175, an increase of $252,723 over FY04. It is estimated that the FY06 composite benefit cost will increase to $5,536,866—an amount equal to a 5.5 percent tuition hike.
For the past two years the state has provided some relief to the seven institutions by subsidizing payroll contributions from a stabilization sub-account, but that source is now depleted. We continue to lobby in both chambers for continued relief in this area and I will make it a part of my request when I testify before the House Subcommittee on Higher Education Appropriations April 19.
We were pleased to see that renovation and restoration of Pray-Harrold was included in the Governor’s proposed budget, and received support from the Senate subcommittee. I personally want to thank the Regents and faculty, staff and students who visited Lansing to promote the necessity of this project, or wrote letters of support, or who hosted state legislators as they toured Pray-Harrold to see first-hand the scope of its problems. I also want to urge you to keep doing what you’ve been doing.
As you know, the development of the state budget often takes a circuitous route from start to finish. We’re only in about the fourth inning of the game, so we need to keep the pressure on. This pressure will take a different form on May 2 when some 100 students, faculty, staff and alumni descend on Lansing for “EMU Day in the Capitol.” This event will begin with a breakfast in the rotunda for our folks and legislators followed by four-person team visits to all 138 legislators. Our intent will be to share the special character of this university and some of its noteworthy programs and particular strengths.
Thanks to the Board’s foresight in designating a portion of this year’s tuition increase to funding the debt service on new bonds, we’re in strong position to move forward. Both Moody’s Investors’ Services and Standard and Poor’s have affirmed EMU long-term debt position with ratings of AA and A respectively. In rating EMU, Standard and Poor’s cited the university’s “enrollment and demand trends with a growing applicant pool; and healthy financial performance with consistent balanced operations despite a decreasing reliance on state operating revenues.”
The University’s ability to attract and retain students is critical to maintaining this position. To that end, two indicators for fall enrollment show positive activity:
We are also continuing our Return to Learn activities. These programs, focused on helping adult learners complete their degrees in order to compete more effectively in the changing marketplace, have attracted more than 200 students who have expressed an interest in working with EMU. You may have seen the story featuring one of our adult learners that recently ran in the Detroit Free Press.
Along these same lines, Eastern Michigan University is partnering with Automotive Components Holdings, LLC, to provide services to those employees who take advantage of its recently announced educational buy-out option. ACH, an entity managed by Ford Motor Company, is offering this buyout to hourly employees at all of its U.S. plants, including Saline and six other plants in southeast Michigan. The ACH educational buyout includes free tuition up to $15,000 a year for up to four years and other benefits. To provide even more incentive, EMU will offer up to $300 for books and waive the registration fee.
Two activities that you’ve heard about in previous reports have moved into a new phase. We officially launched our AQIP projects two weeks ago. These continuous improvement projects will help us focus strategically on academic advising services, general education, assessment and customer service as part of our reaccreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association, our primary accrediting agency.
The Visioning Task Force is preparing for two open forums during which time the University community will be invited to provide input regarding the core elements of the task force’s work. The sessions are scheduled for Monday, April 10, from 10-11 a.m., in the Tower Room, McKenny Union, and Tuesday, April 11, from 5-6 p.m., in 104 Mark Jefferson.
Planning for my investiture April 7 has entered the “nervous” stage. I’m pleased that the planning committee has looked for every opportunity to present a quality event while at the same time keeping costs down, and that the evening program is doubling as a benefit to raise money for student scholarships. I am hopeful that funds raised that evening will allow us to establish at least one new endowed scholarship, and to “top off” several others that need a slight boost to raise them to the funding level at which a scholarship could be awarded. In all, I am hopeful that some 20 new scholarships will be awarded next fall as the result of the investiture. This approach lends yet additional meaning to one of my favorite concepts: leveraging. I hope you will all join me April 7 for the investiture activities.
Another major event on the horizon that has great promise for raising dollars to support Eastern Michigan University is a benefit concert being presented April 15 at the EMU Convocation Center by A.R. Rahman, one of India’s leading musicians and music director for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Bombay Dreams” and the musical, “Lord of the Rings.”
The show, “Wake Up! A.R. Rahman with 150 All Stars,” will bring together Rahman’s works on stage through colorful costumes and set designs, along with Indian and American singers and dancers. Rahman also will perform with the Global Rhythm All Stars, a group of more than 150 American artists that has performed with numerous Grammy-winning artists. This project is the brainchild and present passion for my wife Sidney. I hope many of you will be able to attend.
As always, I’d like to close my remarks by sharing with you news about the successes of our students, faculty, staff and alumni.
FACULTY and STAFF
Our student athletes and teams have had a successful winter.
ON THE HORIZON
March 27 Salute to Excellence: Graduate Research Fair
March 28 Salute to Excellence: Employee Recognition
Salute to Excellence: Student Gold Medallion Ceremony
March 29 Salute to Excellence: Distinguished Faculty Awards
March 30 Salute to Excellence: DSA Gold Medallion Awards
March 31 Salute to Excellence: Undergraduate Symposium
The sixth annual Education Alumni Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The 2006 Hall of Fame inductees are: Michigan State Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Flanagan, Dean of the University of Miami College of Education Sam Yarger, EMU Regent Floyd Clack, and Mary Lou Durbin, a teacher consultant for the Garden City School District.
April 3 Holman Learning Center’s Faculty and Tutor Appreciation Awards
April 7 Investiture activities
April 12 President’s Open Forum—McKenny Union
April 15 A.R. Rahman Benefit Concert at the Convocation Center
April 19 House Higher Education Subcommittee Hearings
April 26 Office Professionals Day
April 30 Spring commencement ceremonies. The morning ceremony is at 10:30 a.m. and the afternoon cceremony is at 2 p.m.
May 2 EMU Day in Lansing
May 6 Alumni Awards Banquet
May 20 Congressman Dingell’s “Conversation and Art” at Ford Gallery
Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their career and lives, and to be better citizens.
Editor's Note: Looking for an expert source for a story? Check out EMU's Eastern Experts online at www.emich.edu/univcomm/easternexperts.