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Sept. 20, 2005
CONTACT: Ward Mullens
734.487.4400
Ward.Mullens@emich.edu

President’s Report

EASTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY

Board of Regents’ Meeting

September 20, 2005

Madam Chair and members of the Board of Regents,

Today marks my 65th day as president.  Thanks to the work of the University Transition Team, a group comprised of University and community members that worked for several weeks prior to my arrival developing a comprehensive communication and engagement plan, my start at Eastern Michigan University has been strategic, coordinated and, well, down right busy.

A great philosopher once said that you, “Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”  One of the first absolutely necessary things I did upon my arrival was to remove the institution’s rearview mirror.  This was, of course, a symbolic gesture—one that signaled my intent to focus on the challenges ahead, not spend time rehashing the past or those things that will not help us grow and prosper as an institution or individuals.

In our first two months in Ypsilanti, my wife Sidney and I have had the opportunity to meet many wonderful and talented people at the University and from the community.  We have traveled to Lansing to meet several state representatives, raced rubber ducks at the Heritage Festival, knocked on doors as part of the House Calls program, sung the EMU fight song while surrounded by a sea of maize and blue, and helped to gather provisions for Hurricane Katrina victims.  We are grateful for the warm and generous welcome we have received.  These activities, along with a spate of other meetings, receptions and programs, have as their goal meeting our need to build and sustain relationships with all of the University’s stakeholders.  This work is critical and will be a major focus for us. 

We start the year amidst an abundance of good news.  Enrollment is up, we are close to having a budget from Lansing and expect to finish negotiations with our lecturers’ union within a few days.

Freshman enrollment for fall is up 2 percent compared to last year.  While this is good news, the even better news is that this class includes a 17 percent increase in students with a 3.0 GPA or better.  Enrollments from Ohio, Indiana and Illinois continue to grow. With the recent legislative approval of our reciprocity agreement with Ohio, we expect this market to continue expanding.  For the first time in the history of the institution, we saw more than 10,000 students apply for admission.  Our challenge is to convert a greater percentage of these applicants into students who enroll and to retain a greater percentage of current students.

With the help of the Noel-Levitz Group, we are developing a statistically valid financial aid-leveraging model that will be implemented for Fall 2007.  For Fall 2006, we are initiating several new conversion activities with special emphasis toward our major feeder high schools and community colleges.  As you know, growing the University’s enrollment is one of the 12 goals we have set for the institution.

Financial strategies continue to be strong components of our enrollment plan.  Financial aid has already paid out a record $32.8 million this fall, up more than $6.3 million over last year at this time.  We also have implemented a new University managed payment plan.  More than 2,900 students have enrolled in the plan, generating $77,812 in fee revenue.  The University also has outsourced credit card payments to a third-party vendor, saving more than $500,000 in fees.

We plan to bolster retention of students through service and academic support programs. 

To that end, the Holman Learning Center trained 142 tutors and Supplemental Instruction leaders who are already providing academic support for EMU undergraduates.  In the first three days of classes, they met with a record number of students.

Service EMU, our one-stop help center in McKenny Union, recently celebrated its one- year anniversary.  Service EMU served more than 13,000 students in its first year.  During the first week of class staff saw more than 690 students.

Administrators and staff visited more than 1,600 first-year students as part of the annual House Calls program.  During House Calls, a two-person team visits students to check on their transition to EMU.  The teams answer questions the students might have, or record questions and/or problems for follow up by our rapid response team.  Sidney and I visited with more than 60 students personally on our assigned floor.  It was a wonderful, uplifting experience.  The students were excited to be at EMU, already engaged in their classes and with faculty, and were beginning to forge new friendships.  Research shows that students who feel a connection to the University are more apt to persist than those students who do not.  We have a very comprehensive set of activities designed for the crucial first four weeks of school to help students get and stay connected.

Although the final documents have yet to be signed, it appears that our state appropriation will be $76,140,600 for FY06.  While this is more than the $75,938,400 planned for FY06, it still represents a decrease of $544,000 compared to FY05.  While this trend is discouraging, I am certain it represents the future for higher education.  We must find ways to be more competitive and entrepreneurial in our work if we are to be one of the survivors.  Private philanthropy must become a stronger component of our budget.

Along those lines, I am pleased to report that as of September 9, we passed the $1 million mark in cash gifts received for the fiscal year, which began July 1.  Among the gifts received is $50,000 from the Sallie Mae Fund to help with student financial need.

A gift of $200,000 from an anonymous corporate donor put the total for the EMU Science Initiative over $600,000.  This will enable the EMU Foundation to apply for a Kresge Foundation Science Initiative Challenge Grant.  To date, EMU’s Biology and Chemistry Departments each have received $200,000 for laboratory equipment from this initiative.

Private support is one cornerstone of funding opportunity.  We must do better in engendering support for the University in Lansing and in Washington.  I have had the opportunity to begin a series of meetings in Lansing to share EMU’s story and will continue to make frequent visits in an attempt to gain a larger percentage of the appropriation pie and capital outlay dollars.  Likewise, we need to pursue more opportunity for federal dollars and grants.  I will be spending the next two days in Washington meeting with our lobbyists and the Michigan Congressional delegation to set our agenda for the year.

EMU faculty members are engaged in important research work that is applied and translates into real benefits in the classroom, communities, business and industry.  One needs to look no further than the research being done in GPS, polymers and coatings, textiles, school recesses or substance abuse to cite a few projects, to see the value of this research and its important role in the mission of the University.  We have to create more opportunities, through federal or private grants, for faculty to have the time and resources to expand their research and scholarly agendas.

I will also carry with me the news that for the third straight year, Petersons has identified Eastern Michigan University has one of the best colleges in the Midwest and that Kaplan Publishing, in the 2006 edition of Newsweek’s “Hottest Colleges,” selected EMU as one of the 357 most interesting universities nationally.  These rating are important because they provide external validation for our commitment to quality and access, and our entrepreneurial approach to new program development.

In response to Board suggestions and feedback generated from the listening sessions conducted during the presidential search, I have implemented several operational changes.  I disbanded the former cabinet and am now meeting regularly with a Strategic Operations Council comprised of the vice presidents, the CIO and me.  I have also established a Leadership Council, with a much broader membership, to help facilitate the exchange of information throughout the enterprise.  Both of these groups have a defined purpose and will be helpful to me in moving the institution forward.  Within the next several days I will be announcing a Community Leaders Council that will serve as a source of external eyes, ears and advisers to the University.

Clearly, one of the main purposes of each of these groups is to provide greater access to the president and to help create a more transparent leadership model.  To that end, I also have initiated an aggressive communications plan that includes one-to-one meetings, group presentations, a series of periodic e-mail updates, and campus and community open forums, the first of which is scheduled for October 19.  My public engagement schedule is now posted on the Web and staff is in the process of creating a place on my.emich where agendas and minutes of both the SOC and the Leadership Council will be available for anyone who chooses to read them.  Web Communications is also in the process of developing a Web site where anyone who has suggestions that will help us, “Build the Promise” that is EMU, may submit them electronically.

For the past 13 days, I have been engaged in writing a diary as part of the Journal of College and Character’s Presidents Public Diaries series.  Tonight, after flying to Washington, I will complete my 14th and final entry.  Attempting to capture the ethical and moral values that influence the spate of decisions and activities during each day has been both challenging and humbling.  But, I think I have done so without embarrassing the University or myself.  The diary will be published in the October edition of the Journal, at www.collegevalues.org.  You will be able to get a sneak peak beginning next week on www.emich.edu/president.

We continue to expand marketing communications to our very important stakeholder group of alumni and friends.  This month we launched the first issue of TechInnovations, targeted at alumni and friends of the College of Technology, and an e-mail newsletter, Business Decisions, for College of Business graduates.  These publications join an expanding family of communications that help us advance the cause of the institution, and that will be invaluable as we lay the groundwork for a capital campaign.

We have had a busy start to the new semester.  The University, like the rest of the nation, was stunned by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  And, as people have done throughout the country, the University community has rallied to show its support by collecting cell phones for the Phone for Life project, durable goods, clothing, money and even blood.

The College of Education is spearheading “Project Backpack” to deliver school supplies to children in the Baton Rouge system who were displaced as a result of the hurricane.  A semi-trailer full of backpacks left campus yesterday and another is scheduled for October.  The student ombudsman’s office is serving as the coordinator for campus activities.  A full description of all activities, including how people can contribute, is located on the Web at www.emich.edu/katrinarelief/.

We have admitted more than two-dozen students from Tulane, Dillard, Xavier and Louisiana State universities.  We processed special refund checks on the spot for the hurricane victims and made special arrangements for them to cash financial aid checks without having a state identification card.  Staff has been generous in finding students housing and other essentials they might need.

As has been the custom, I’d like to share a few success stories:

Students:

Brian Britt, a senior in criminal justice, is serving as the EMU Department of Public Safety’s first Community Student Officer.  The program is collaboration between DPS and the Criminal Justice Department to provide students with practical experience in a police department.

EMU was one of only three schools in the Mid-American Conference to record a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better for its entire athletic program during the 2004-05 academic year.

Governor Jennifer Granholm recognized members of EMU’s Pi Chapter of the Kappa Delta Pi Honor International Honor Society in Education for being named a 2005 ACE Award winner.

EMU’s CloseUp Theatre Troupe was invited to present three shows for the Western Kentucky University orientation program.  The troupe has been performing for nine years.

Faculty/Staff:

Tana Bridge, Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work, was named the Trauma and Loss Consultant of the year by the national Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children.  Bridge consults with organizations specific to loss and grief in children and teens, and helps individuals and families work through trauma.

Governor Jennifer Granholm recently recognized Joe Bishop, Assistant Professor in Teacher Education, with a certificate of tribute in honor of his Fulbright Scholar Grant.  Bishop is teaching and conducting research in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the 2005-06 academic year.

The National Association of College and University Food Service (NACUFS) recently named EMU’s convenience store, CrossRoads Marketplace, one of the “Best in the Business.”  The award recognizes recognized Crossroads’ outstanding efforts in the category of marketing and merchandising.

WEMU 89.1, FM, EMU’s public radio station, was the co-sponsor, along with Comcast Cable, of the Pyramid Stage at the 2005 Detroit International Jazz Festival, September 2-5.

Genevieve Peden, a Professor of Foreign Language and Bilingual Studies, has received the Georges J. Joyaux Award from the Michigan World Language Association.  The award honors exceptional foreign language teachers.

EMU’s Masters of Public Administration Program has received full reaccreditation for the maximum seven-year period by the Commission on Peer Review and Accreditation of the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA).

Sandy Wagner, an Assistant Women’s Golf Coach at the University of Michigan for five years, has been named Eastern Michigan University’s Head Women’s Coach.  As a member of the Michigan women’s golf staff from 2000-2005,Wagner helped the Wolverines appear in four NCAA Tournaments (2001, 2002, 2004, 2005).  Wagner graduated from Ferris State University in 1991, after earning a bachelor’s degree in business management.  She served as a three-year captain of the FSU softball team and also played on the basketball squad.

Alumni:

Gail Bohner, an art teacher at Brighton's Spencer Elementary School, was selected as the Michigan Art Education Teacher of the Year for 2006.  Bohner earned her bachelor's degree in art education from Eastern Michigan University and also teaches art integration in the College of Education at EMU.

Elias Chapa, ’76, was awarded the Michigan Education Association’s Herman W. Coleman Human Relations Award.  The award is given in recognition of those who have “demonstrably served to improve the quality of human relations.”  Chapa, who is retired, taught fifth, sixth and seventh grades in Willow Run and Ypsilanti.

Richard J. Pappas (B.B.E. '73) had a center named after him at Lake Michigan College.  The College's Board of Trustees renamed the One-Stop Student and Financial Services Center the Richard J. Pappas Student Services Center.


Deaths:

The University lost four wonderful friends in the past few months:  Dean Rockwell, ’35, one of EMU’s staunchest supporters, died August 8 at age 93; William Shuter, retired Professor of English Language and Literature, died September 5; Charlie Brown, a special equipment operator at EMU for 21 years died September 11; and Diana Clark, a 35-year employee and long-time president of the clerical union, died September 15.  Dean, Bill and Diana were respected and loved throughout the University community.  They will certainly be missed.  We extend our condolences to their families.

And finally, I’d like to highlight some important dates for your calendar:

Constitution Day at EMU is being observed today with a mock Supreme Court debate presented by the Political Science Department.  Professor Barry Pyle is coordinating the event.  Other events include a student survey about the Constitution and a display at Halle Library.

Straight Talk with Representative John Stewart will be televised from EMU September 29 at 7 p.m.  The cable television show will feature Representative Stewart and EMU professors David Horton and Dennis Beagen in a question-and-answer session with students about issues.

Homecoming Week begins Sunday, September 25 and culminates with several reunions, tailgates and the Eagles vs. Kent State University football match-up at 2 p.m., Saturday, October 1.

Saturday, October 1 also is the date of the premiere showing of “EMU:  Our Story” on WDIV Channel 4 at 7:30 p.m.  This half-hour program, narrated by veteran broadcaster Mort Crim, tells the story of how EMU helps change the lives of students and the community we serve.

The annual Freshman Convocation of Excellence and Exceptional Educators award programs are October 8 from 10:30 a.m. to noon in Pease Auditorium.  A reception follows.

Family Day, a program for kids from 4 to 84, is October 8 from noon to 4 p.m.  This annual program, which consistently brings more than 4,000 visitors to campus, features more than 60 programs throughout colleges focusing on how learning can be fun.

I invite you back to participate in these very important activities.

Thank you Madam Chair, that concludes my report.

 

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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.


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