These are the remarks of Dr. Samuel A. Kirkpatrick given during the Board of Regents meeting, September 19, 2000.
One of the most important things a president can do is to listen and learn. This takes on a special meaning when you are new to an institution and its communities. Since the Board last met I have engaged in an intensive set of learning experiences, with tremendous assistance from faculty, staff, students and EMU's friends. Having attended 20 extensive briefings on the University by the people who make it successful, inspected most of our 800 acres and 129 buildings, met with all of our collegiate faculties and engaged legislative and executive leaders locally and in Lansing, I have a deeper understanding of the University's strengths, potential, and role in the State of Michigan and nationally.
I am deeply grateful to so many-hundreds of participants on campus; local civic and business leaders who crafted information sessions, city tours, and forums for community interaction; public officials in Lansing, including area legislators who are hosting a reception at the capitol next week; EMU friends, donors and alumni who have met with me in various settings; and the communications and engagement task force which has recommended and planned the most effective ways for us to reach out to all University stakeholders over the course of the next several months.
We owe a special debt of gratitude to those who have worked very hard to bring the University community together and to reach out to newcomers and those less fortunate. Our new student orientation and move-in leaders wowed us with a model start for the new academic year. About 2,000 students participated in orientation and 6,000 were present for the opening picnic. One hundred eighty volunteer group leaders were involved and hundreds of people, including many student athletes, assisted with move-in. For the first time the Community Plunge was incorporated as a part of orientation, with over 100 group leaders and students participating, and 1500 students and staff were involved in YpsiFest, the largest number ever.
This past week we also had a record number of faculty and staff-180-participating in community projects at United Way agencies through the Day of Caring which Pam chaired and EMU hosted for over 1200 Washtenaw County volunteers
And I am reminded of the truly hard work of faculty and staff in collaborating to craft human resource policies-the health care task force which streamlined efficiencies, enhanced comprehensive coverage and reduced costs, and is now working with all of the unions to facilitate implementation of its recommendations; the administrative and clerical union bargaining teams who successfully negotiated an agreement before the Board today; and the administrative and faculty union teams who worked through a very complex set of issues to reach a tentative agreement. Although we would have preferred to avoid an instructional work stoppage, it appears that damage to the institution was minimal while both sets of parties worked around the schedule of the state mediator and so many staff and academic administrators kept the campus open. Enrollment and credit hour production appears to be holding steady, after losing about 80 students, housing occupancy remains near 100 percent, academic classes are back on track, and both sides are engaged in the healing process that is essential after such an action. Academic leadership is working with faculty to ensure that students receive the full measure of their tuition and that all lost instruction is restored. The AAUP leadership presented the tentative agreement to their membership last week and expect to have a ratification vote within the next week. The full agreement is now being prepared for subsequent Board review and action.
With a fall final enrollment count expectation of 23,800, including 2800 freshman, 1600 new transfers and 1000 new graduate students, we are especially pleased to have one of the academically strongest freshman classes in our history-the number of students with GPAs of 3.0 or higher increased by 10 percent over last year.
These students were greeted by a range of new dining options, including the Common Ground snack bar in the new Marshall building, Sunset Strips in the McKenny Union and two new offerings at Eastern Eateries in the dorm complex. In addition, there are new Honors Program offices and meeting spaces in Wise Hall and a new career services satellite office in the Porter Building to support College of Education students, complementing those in the College of Business, College of Technology and the Freshman Center. Our roughly 180 student organizations are up and running, including the new Student Ambassador program to support the President's Office with fundraising and hosting activities throughout the institution.
The University continues to improve its learning and living environment through new and modified facilities. Pray-Harrold has now been restored from the devastating March fire, and although the project was complicated and required the relocation of faculty and staff, as well as office contents, to temporary trailers, the restoration was completed in 16 weeks at a cost of 10.3 million dollars, to be funded by our insurer. The restored building is safer, more energy and operationally efficient, and aesthetically enhanced. Without the full cooperation of faculty, staff and contractors this could not have been accomplished. All involved are to be commended.
The new Marshall College of Health and Human Services building and newly restored Boone Hall projects have been completed on time, within budget, and are now open and operational. Both facilities represent the vibrance of this University and are designed and equipped to optimize student learning. We are proud of the historic renovation of Boone and gratified by the national attention our "green" design is receiving for Marshall. I would also like to note that the Marshall Building is the first state-funded higher education capital project to use the design/build methodology, which has resulted in considerable savings and reduced design and construction time. This has been an important partnership with the State of Michigan and our architects/engineers and construction company. I am also pleased to announce that both Boone and Marshall can look forward to enhanced facilities, instrumentation and learning technology through a generous gift of $200,000 from The Christman Company. We are grateful to them for this gift and their confidence in us, as further witnessed by the Board agenda item to name the Marshall Electronic Classroom on their behalf.
Construction of the new residence halls is underway and progressing at a rapid rate. All foundations have been poured and framing for all six structures should be completed by the end of the calendar year. These residences, which will be a model of twenty-first century living and learning environments, will be available for occupancy next fall.
High on our agenda is the full development of the West Campus Master Plan which is needed to accommodate our growth in a planful and attractive way, facilitated by today's agenda item for the purchase of strategically valuable property from one of our educational partners.
The audited financial report for last year is also being presented to the Board today. It reflects that our financial condition, internal controls and operational reserves are fundamentally strong to ensure a sound financial base to meet the challenges of the years ahead, and balance the new budget consistent with the revenues we will now receive from the state. The agenda also includes a tuition increase in all categories, with our undergraduate resident tuition increase remaining within the state cap of 4 percent.
It is also imperative for us to enhance our private resources and heighten our visibility. To this end we have initiated a comprehensive advancement review to study our marketing, communications, publications, alumni relations, fundraising and governmental relations activities.
These resource initiatives, coupled with our North Central Association accreditation review, will be linked to a comprehensive strategic planning process which asks fundamental questions about our collective future and yields a consensus on directions, priorities, and strategies for reaching a new level of institutional maturity. To assist me in achieving these objectives I have brought two talented academic leaders with broad institutional views within the purview of the President's Office-Dr. Martha Tack, who will provide leadership for selected institutional initiatives, and Dr. Don Loppnow, who will facilitate our strategic planning process. I look forward to robust dialogue and widespread participation as we address topics of importance and plan for the future.
And speaking of the future, please mark your calendars for a plentiful week of homecoming-related activities. Although the list is too long to mention all items, they include Family Day, special recognition for freshman scholars, the Golden Years Reunion, Faculty Teaching Excellence Awards, the Applegate Golf fundraiser, the Toledo football game, the launching of our commemorative EMU license plates, and dedication of the Marshall Building. These events will be followed by inaugural activities focusing on an October 20 convocation currently being planned by a committee of faculty, staff and students appointed by Chairman Incarnati. We look forward to celebrating our proud heritage through Homecoming and to focusing on the future of EMU and higher education later in the month.
Thank you again for making our transition smooth and even more exciting than anticipated.