MARCH 19, 2002

This is the time of the semester when EMU engages in distinctive activities to recognize the University’s greatest strength—our people—students, faculty, staff and alumni. The capstone is Salute to Excellence Week, beginning yesterday when we kicked off our weeklong activities with the Graduate Research Fair. Today, following the Board meeting, we will be awarding the EMU Student Gold Medallion Awards for leadership and service. Wednesday morning, we honor employees who have reached milestone service anniversaries, and later that afternoon, the Division of Academic Affairs will host the faculty and will present four Ronald W. Collins Distinguished Faculty Awards. Thursday, the Division of Student Affairs hosts the annual Founders Day Breakfast and Gold Medallion Awards ceremony for individual or group contributions to Student Affairs. Thursday afternoon, the College of Education will recognized its award winners, and on Friday the Undergraduate Symposium takes place and the College of Education will host its annual Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. I invite all of you to join us for these festivities.

This week will highlight personal and professional accomplishments through awards that are well-kept secrets until the time of their presentation, but I also want to recognize some recent ones that have been public. Our students continue to excel in diverse ways. The EMU Forensics Team captured the State of Michigan Collegiate Forensics Championship and USA Today honored senior and former Student Government President, Kylie Crawford, by naming her to the 2002 All-USA Collegiate Academic Team, the only student in Michigan selected for this honor. The Women’s Basketball team set a school record for the most wins in a season, and earned a trip to the MAC Championship, and the Men’s Swimming and Diving team won its twenty-second MAC title. In addition, EMU’s Hockey Club finished sixth in the nation while the Intramural Basketball team was second in regional competition and is headed for the national tournament.

We also celebrate the volunteer spirit of more than 75 EMU students who spent their spring break performing community service at nine sites throughout the country, engaging in work as varied as organizing special events for children at a hospital, working with Habitat For Humanity and serving meals at an AIDS support center. EMU even takes time to honor those who, hopefully, will be our future students, through the robotics competition hosted at the Convocation Center this weekend for over 2,000 high school students.

Our alumni continue to excel in ways that we, and others, recognize. Alumnus Andrew Lindsay from Van Buren Public Schools was recently awarded Outstanding Social Studies Teacher of the Year for Michigan, adding this award to one he won in 1998 when he was named Michigan’s Outstanding First-Year Teacher. EMU and our E-Club recently inducted the class of 2002 into the Athletic Hall of Fame, which included honorees Angie Fielder (softball), John Gates (golf), Bob Jennings (swimming), Mauri Jormakka (track), George Mead (football, basketball, baseball), John “Rocky” Roe (baseball), and Rodney Slater (football). Slater, former US Secretary of Transportation and 1976 National Forensics Champion team member, spent an additional day on campus and spoke with students, faculty and staff as part of a town hall meeting. The induction ceremony also featured the new Hall of Fame developed to recognize our three historic traditions—The Normalites, Hurons and Eagles. This new permanent display in the Convocation Center has been warmly received, especially by Huron era graduates, who among others, have contributed private funds to make it possible. Please take an opportunity to review these fine displays in the Convocation Center.

The University’s continuous improvement initiatives resulting from our strategic plan are also recognizing the value of our employees and providing new opportunities for their continued learning. Since the Board last met, we kicked off Leadership EMU, a series of two, ten-week professional development seminars for 60 administrative professionals covering topics as far ranging as planning, budgeting, policy compliance, leadership and conflict resolution. This was complemented by our celebration of Customer Service Week, during which we conducted five workshops for over 500 staff, faculty and student employees on how to be effective service champions. We anticipate bringing this particular training capacity in-house as we build the educational and professional development component of our human resources operations. We also offered a daylong set of activities last week focusing on change and change management, a very important topic as we work to achieve other continuous improvement objectives.

One of those objectives is to better define decision making at appropriate levels of the institution, and to that end, the Cabinet and I have now clarified responsibilities for contract authority throughout the University and defined duties in each division. Another objective is to better ground decision making in facts and through comparisons with peer institutions, both current and aspirational. A special subcommittee of the University’s Strategic Planning Committee is at work on peer group models to help us identify a valid, empirically-based peer group so we can garner effective comparisons, develop appropriate benchmarks, and identify useful best practices from comparable institutions. This is only one of many additional research and analysis strategies that need to be implemented in support of good decision making as we pursue the enhancement of our institutional research and information management functions, further complemented by a new data warehousing capacity that is part of our Banner applications software implementation.

Accreditation through peer review is another key to continuous improvement. We have now launched a full array of committees and associated activities to support recertification of our intercollegiate athletic programs by the NCAA, we are actively planning for the forthcoming accreditation process in the College of Education, and we are analyzing our recent positive reviews of the Urban Planning and Sports Medicine programs.

In keeping with our continuous improvement effort to control energy costs, we are embarking on a new program—Conserve Eastern Energy—to educate the University community about energy savings and solicit participation in helping to cut energy costs. Five firms are currently preparing performance contracting proposals to identify energy savings measures in five University buildings. Measures include all electrical, mechanical and lighting systems as well as windows, doors and related exterior lighting. Contracts have also been awarded to install 52 meters campus-wide to monitor, measure and report energy usage.

On the facilities front, I am also pleased to report that the University has selected Burt Hill Kosar Rittelmann Associates, assisted by Hobbs and Black, to complete a program statement for the expansion of McKenny Union. Having extensive experience in designing and modernizing student unions, their proposal provided the best combination of expertise, experience and price.

The University has also sold $6.8 million in bonds to finance the parking expansion and improvement project authorized by the Board. The bonds were sold in a favorable interest rate environment of 4.9 percent, and both Moody’s and Standards and Poor’s reconfirmed our “A” credit rating.

We also recently held a prospective bidders meeting for Phase II of our student residence expansion project and cut the ribbon for the newly equipped Commuter Central in McKenny Union as part of Commuter Appreciation Week.

Our external relations activities are in full swing, focusing on educating stakeholders about the strategic plan, our needs and EMU’s momentum. As part of our ongoing efforts to influence key stakeholders, our first University Annual Report and a summary of the strategic plan were distributed externally to over 2,000 governmental, business and education leaders. They are being used as part of my meetings with media, business leaders, alumni, state legislators and Members of Congress.

Our federal relations activities have been kicked off in Washington and we have worked with state legislators in Lansing to stave off anticipated cuts for higher education during the next fiscal year. The key objectives of the President’s Council this year have been to prevent reductions in University budgets, to permit appropriations growth when the economy improves, and to prevent the reinstatement of low-level tuition caps which do not adequately reflect rapid cost increases in four key areas which impact us—health care, energy, retirement, and technology. As a result, we have agreed to work at the institution level to voluntarily restrain tuition growth as the state spares us from budget cuts which have been applied to all other areas of state government except the public schools. Because of our fixed costs, including labor contract increases, we will face some challenges as we keep tuition increases to approximately 9 percent for EMU, especially when a flat appropriation indicates a need for about a 12 percent revenue increase. Nevertheless, through a combination of cost savings, fiscal restraints, other revenue enhancements and enrollment growth, we are cautiously optimistic about achieving our goals as we balance the budget for the forthcoming year.

Our efforts to keep access high, grow our enrollment, and recapture lost market shares for both freshman and transfer students are critically important. The College Answer System that has been so successful in addressing financial aid processing will soon begin answering incoming calls for the Student Business Services office, improving service to students inquiring about bills, payments, and other financial obligations. Building on GoalQuest E-mail service in Admissions, we are developing a “virtual” parents association to enable ongoing communication with the parents of incoming students, offering them an electronic bulletin board about activities and developments at EMU.

Finally, we are boosting both our institutional and private commitments to scholarships. Two new institutional programs are in place for fall 2002: Great Lakes Scholarships available to incoming students from states neighboring the Great Lakes, providing $6,000 to undergraduate students with a 3.0 GPA and $3,000 to graduate students with a 3.6 GPA; and the Michigan Merit Plus program through which we are offering one-time awards between $500 and $1250 to incoming freshmen, depending on their GPA. I am also pleased to report that the Presidential Scholars program received a significant boost through a three-year $210,000 scholarship gift from the Sallie Mae Fund of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region.

I thank all of those who are working so very hard to make good things happen for EMU.