President's Report to the Board of Regents

September 21, 2010

There is tremendous energy and great pride in EASTERN on campus as we begin Fall semester. We are pleased to report our second consecutive year of enrollment growth. The number of students increased by 644 over last year to 23,503. In two years, we grew by 1,577 students, more than 7 percent, propelling the University to the fifth highest total number of students in its 161-year history. Come join us at Eastern where Education comes first!

I would like to congratulate the bargaining teams who worked hard, together, to reach a new labor contract with our faculty on August 31. The two-year agreement includes increased sharing of health care costs and raises for faculty. This was no small undertaking in these challenging economic times – and I applaud the professionalism of everyone involved. I also extend the same support to the bargaining teams who are currently working on a new contract for our professional-technical staff.

Our collaboration with community colleges is incredible to fill the appetite for affordable four-year degrees – we have 103 articulation agreements at 19 community colleges. This was largely responsible for an 11.3-percent increase in transfer students this year, an additional 221 students. These agreements enable a 3+1 program -- three years at a community college with 84-92 transfer credits accepted for enrollment at Eastern, requiring only one additional year to complete a degree.

We are an engine of economic growth at Eastern, serving students who have some credits but no degree. More than 300,000 young people between the ages of 25-34 have some college but no degree in the eight counties in Southeast Michigan, including Washtenaw County. Eastern uniquely serves this population well, particularly at this challenging economic time. We do it here in Ypsilanti -- a warm, welcoming, walkable campus in a historic community and setting. We do it in Livonia, Brighton, online and on the main campus with professors ready to talk to you one-on-one.

Students are staying in school working hard toward that degree – returning undergraduate students increased 6.4 percent. The Pell Grant increases have helped these students, and I thank Congressman John Dingell particularly in championing this cause. Retention of first-year students increased significantly with 77 percent of freshmen returning for a second year, compared to 72 percent for the 2008 entering freshmen class. This is the highest retention rate recorded since Eastern began tracking the data in 1992. I thank the campus community for taking care of these students and helping them stay on track toward degree completion.

Institutional support for retention and student success came from all levels of the university, ignited by the Board of Regents and its Faculty Affairs Committee; and then faculty, staff and the campus community, Student Success Council, University Advising and Career Development Center, and the Holman Success Center. Together, we embraced this goal and did what some considered impossible. I would like to ask Lynette Findley, Assistant Vice President for Retention and Student Success to introduce one of our students, A. J. McLittle, who was featured in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press as a young man realizing his dreams by studying at Eastern.

Of the 77 percent of 2009 first time in any college (FTIAC) students who returned the second year, the following successes are also recognized compared to the 2008 cohort’s second year:

  • Increase of 17.29 percent in Good Standing.
  • Decrease of 25.80 percent on Probation.
  • Increase of 39.80 percent with a GPA between 3.0-3.5

The increase in enrollment indicates the appeal of our broad array of academic programs, as well as the unprecedented investment in 46 new faculty and $195 million in new construction, renovation and upgrades in student-focused facilities. Graduation rates also continue to improve – last year’s graduation rates were 40 percent, up from 36 percent the previous year. The graduation rate for student athletes remained higher, at 60 percent.

Student credit hours increased 2.7 percent year-to-year, giving us seven consecutive semesters of credit hour growth. In adopting this year’s 0-0-0 percent tuition, room and board increase budget, we were aggressive in setting a credit hour growth target of 3.4 percent. We knew it would be a challenging budget, and we are working hard to attract new students and contain costs to keep a balanced budget. We remain confident that enrollment growth will just keep coming as prospective students and their families understand what a wonderful education can be obtained at Eastern at an affordable price. We have the oldest undergraduate research symposium in the country – more than 300 undergraduates present research conducted with faculty – a private college experience at a public university affordable price.

We are absolutely confident that our efforts to maintain low tuition, room and board rates -- the lowest increase in the state for the last two years -- was the right thing to do at this troubling economic time in Michigan history. Our alumni and friends take great pride in Eastern’s leadership to keep college affordable in these trying times.

Following are additional highlights of recent activities and accomplishments:

  • Major progress continues on our capital projects – the largest in Eastern’s history. The 80,000-square-foot addition for the science complex with a new planetarium will be completed for winter semester 2011.
  • Classes began September 8 with a new twist. Swing space – it worked. For example, McKenny Hall has come alive with new classrooms and other renovated space, such as a food shop, a large, comfortable student lounge and the new career and academic advising areas (now called UACDC). The southern part of campus is again vibrant with student activity.
  • Other new locations for classes include Halle Library, Fletcher School, the Student Center, Welch Hall, the Village Commons and the commons areas in various residence halls. We are even holding classes in the Geddes Town Hall one-room schoolhouse. And, of course, we greatly appreciate the efforts of faculty whose offices were relocated from Pray-Harrold to Hoyt Hall. It will all have been worth it in a year, when we move back into a much-improved, modernized, and friendlier Pray-Harrold.
  • Speaking of locations, our all-new website, launched in August, features a way-finding feature that helps students find classrooms and even individual faculty members. Be sure to check it out on the home page. It’s part of a terrific overall site that offers great visual versatility, enhanced multimedia capacity, and many more stories and details about Eastern.
  • Momentum continues with our comprehensive capital campaign, “Invest. Inspire.” We have raised more than $34.7 million toward our goal of $50 million.

In academic news:

  • Professor Sandra Rutherford has been awarded a grant of nearly $1 million to promote educational partnerships in the Great Lakes region related to climate change. Sandra, a professor in the department of Geography and Geology, received the award from the National Science Foundation. The grant is part of a nationwide effort to increase educational programs and resources on climate change and its impacts.
  • Eastern received a $600,000 National Science Foundation grant for students studying physics. The grant will help recruit outstanding students and allow the program to graduate more physics majors, contributing to needed growth in the profession.
  • We were awarded $1 million by Wayne County for a one-year collaborative partnership with the Detroit-Wayne County Community Mental Health Agency. EMU will lend faculty expertise in support of the agency's goals for serving persons with mental illness, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse disorders.
  • Some solid recognition came in over the summer, as Eastern was named a top Midwestern university in annual rankings by the Princeton Review and by U.S. News and World Report. The Midwest region includes: Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
  • Students from our Integrated Marketing Communications master’s program won first and second place in the Collegiate ECHO Direct/Interactive Marketing Challenge, competing against other teams from around the world. The Echo award is considered one of the top honors for collegiate marketing students.
  • You might have heard that the surf was up for the Eastern Michigan Marching Band on our ponds this past summer. In July, about 25 members of the band performed a rousing rendition of the classic Hawaii Five-O theme for a CBS TV crew, and the spot was included on a promotional TV ad for the remake of the popular series. The ad is airing around the Metro Detroit area all this month.

In athletics news:

  • The academic success of our student athletes continues to be a source of pride. Our women's tennis team received national recognition for being in the top 10 percent nationally for its Academic Performance Rate (APR) with a perfect score of 1000.
  • Enhancements to Rynearson Stadium have created a more comfortable and fan-friendly environment for what we hope will be a successful, competitive season for the football program. We have three home games remaining, including the October 2 Homecoming matchup against Ohio University. Kickoff is at noon.
  • Women’s soccer started its season with a 1-1 tie vs. Michigan, at U of M. The team followed up its tie with victories against Illinois State, Eastern Illinois and Valparaiso. The MAC season begins this Friday vs. Ohio at home. Game time is 4 p.m.
  • The volleyball team began its season with a 10-1 record, which included a signature win against #29 Michigan State University on their home court. The team plays at the Convocation Center tonight at 7 p.m. There are 10 remaining home dates; be sure to see this year’s team in action.
  • Men’s Cross Country kicked off its season with a victory at the Titan Invitational, and is a consensus pick to win the MAC this year.
  • Athletes from several sports have already garnered MAC Athlete of the Week awards during the fall season.
  • We formally initiated our Certification process with the NCAA. The process, which is conducted every 10 years, must be led outside Athletics. It is chaired by Vice President for Communications Walter Kraft. The overall objective is to ensure that the activities of the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics are consistent with the NCAA, the Mid-American Conference and Eastern Michigan University’s principles, rules and policies. The self-study involves more than 50 faculty, staff and students participating in five subcommittees:
    • Governance and Commitment to Rules
    • Academic Integrity
    • Gender Issues
    • Diversity Issues
    • Student-Athlete Well Being

The subcommittees, and the Steering Committee, on which I am actively participating along with Regent Stapleton, will meet regularly over the next seven months to draft our self-study report, which will be presented to the NCAA in April 2011.

Chairman Wilbanks, this concludes my report.

Thank you.

Susan Martin