Remarks to the Board of Regents
December 17, 2009
As we close the 2009 calendar year, it is with deep appreciation that I wish you and your families, our faculty and staff and their families, our students and their parents, our donors, supporters and friends, a joyous and peaceful holiday season. The end of the year is a good time to take stock of the many positive developments underway on the Eastern Michigan University campus.
We are actively seeking to add new faculty in several key areas. I am pleased to report we currently have 41 faculty searches open. Our emphasis on supporting our academic mission has never been stronger and reflects our ongoing commitment to faculty members and students, while also allowing us to address the surge in enrollment that began this fall. Seventy-five percent of our $178 million, 3-year capital plan is focused on upgrades to academic areas.
Eastern has always been a college of hope and opportunity where students of every race, age, sex, color, religion, race and creed come and realize they can get that degree and be successful in Michigan earning a living to support their family. Winter enrollment so far is up more than five percent compared to the same time last year. This is due to our concerted efforts to keep tuition low – the increase of 3.8 percent in 2009-2010 was the lowest of Michigan’s 15 universities – only $10 a credit hour. It also is due to our concerted efforts to reach new first-time students, transfer students, workers in transition, and military veterans. Our new Vet Connect Award provides the opportunity of in-state tuition for every veteran in the United States. We also established a one-stop service center for veterans in McKenny Hall.
We are among Michigan’s leading universities in forging strong and lasting relationships with our community colleges. We signed new articulation agreements during the past month with Oakland Community College and Lansing Community College. We now have 98 individual agreements with 16 different community colleges – 13 in Michigan, two in Ohio and one in Canada that accept 84-92 credits toward a Bachelor’s degree. Community colleges don’t need to offer four-year degrees in Michigan – they just need to work with public universities like Eastern and we will work out a smooth affordable path to enable students to get a bachelor’s degree.
Our support of faculty also is reflected in the recent awarding of 14 faculty awards totaling more than $68,000. The Provost's Research Award for New Faculty offers competitive awards of up to $5,000 to faculty in their first or second year of employment for research or creative projects.
December is an important time for our students. They are wrapping up final exams this week and heading home to celebrate the holidays with families and friends. Others are hoping for a different sort of holiday present. Millions of dollars of academic scholarships are being awarded this year, most of it to students participating in our annual Presidential Scholarship Competition, which wrapped up last weekend. More than 400 students took part. Sixteen will receive our largest academic award, a four-year full-ride Presidential Scholarship valued at approximately $64,000 over four years. Twenty-nine students will be awarded the Regents Gold Scholarship, which includes tuition and fees for 30 credits a year renewable for four years, valued at approximately $32,000. All students who participate in the competition and meet the minimum qualifications are guaranteed a minimum $12,000 four-year Regents Scholarship. While merit-based support is important, funding of need-based financial aid continues to be a top priority. Including next year, our financial aid commitment has increased by 42 percent since 2007-2008, from $21.4 million to $30.4 million.
On Sunday, we will celebrate undergraduate and graduate achievement with our winter commencement ceremony. Approximately 1,800 students are eligible to walk across the stage – approximately 1,200 will receive undergraduate degrees, 609 will receive graduate degrees, including 10 doctoral candidates. This is truly an inspiring event and we congratulate all of our graduates and their families. We are pleased that one of our new graduates will be Erin Incarnati, the daughter of Regent Philip Incarnati.
We also look forward to hearing from our honored commencement speaker, Judge Greg Mathis. He is an Eastern Michigan graduate, Bachelor of Science in 1983, as is his wife Linda, Bachelor of Science in 1985. Like many of our students, Judge Mathis followed a non-traditional education and career path to great success.
Judge Mathis isn’t the only celebrity to visit our campus. Actor Danny Glover and a production crew spent several days on our campus in late October-early November filming a new movie. It is scheduled to be released next year.
Soon to be underway is the renovation of Pray-Harrold, our largest and busiest classroom building. The renovation, which will lead to extensive modernization of the facility and new, student-focused commons areas, also is behind a new term that is sweeping the campus. The term is "Swing Space." It is a simple term for a complex challenge – providing temporary areas for classrooms and offices during the renovation of the Pray-Harrold and science buildings. We continue to seek capital outlay funding from the State of Michigan for the renovation of Strong Hall.
This is one of the most dramatic and important logistical undertakings to occur on the Eastern campus. Approximately 340 faculty and staff members who work and teach in Pray-Harrold will need a temporary home after they move out when the winter term ends and construction begins.
A team of staff and faculty, along with outside experts, has worked closely together for nearly a year to assess possible space for additional offices and classrooms. This elaborate process involved the Educational Environment and Facilities Committee, which includes seven faculty members. Planning meetings are underway with departments affected. Completing the project at one time will eliminate more than a year of construction as well as phased move-outs and prolonged disruption to offices and classes.
In other developments, construction of our indoor practice facility is on schedule, with inflation of the "bubble" to take place during the first stretch of 40-degree weather in January, with completion scheduled by March.
We held numerous H1N1 vaccination clinics on campus and supported Washtenaw County with three mass vaccination clinics at the Convocation Center.
We were pleased to host Governor Jennifer Granholm for a rally in support of the Promise Grant initiative. The rally took place on November 23, drawing a standing-room-only crowd. Our student government leadership, particularly President Regina Royan, is responsible for making the event a success.
Other campus events include an open community discussion on the holocaust that was attended by 300 people, and a lecture by University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole on President Obama‘s Middle East policy. We thank Professor Martin Shichtman for bringing these thought-provoking events to our campus.
This past weekend featured a novel event that blended business and basketball at the Convocation Center. The "Marketing Idol" competition pitted students from the College of Business against each other in an American Idol-type format. A panel of judges and an audience of approximately 400 students rendered their verdict on the students’ marketing proposals to increase attendance for the men’s and women’s basketball teams. I would like to thank our E-Hoops group for its sponsorship and involvement.
We are pleased to announce that we will soon embark on another important mission. In April, we will formally announce our new capital campaign for Eastern Michigan University. We are firmly committed to the launch and success of this effort, and look forward to sharing details about our campaign goals and objectives next April.
Chairman Wilbanks, this concludes my report.
Susan Martin, President