President's Report to the Board of Regents

April 14, 2011

Good afternoon.  As students complete the academic year, more than 2,300 of our seniors are preparing for their next big step – graduation on Saturday – a celebration of student success and achievement.  I would like to acknowledge the faculty and staff who have helped guide our graduates to this important milestone in their lives.  Commencement speakers are successful alumni Steven Tapper, partner and vice president of Tapper's Diamonds and Fine Jewelry, and Robert Skandalaris, owner of Quantum Ventures of Michigan, LLC.

Today we are recommending for Board of Regents' approval a modest increase in room and board rates of an aggregate 2.15 percent.  This will allow us to respond to rising food and infrastructure costs that were not addressed in last year's “0, 0, 0” budget, as well as necessary upgrades to aging facilities, while still providing a competitive rate.

We are reinvigorating strategic planning and are engaged in campus-wide budget planning for the 2012 fiscal year to address the 15 percent reduction in state funding proposed by Governor Snyder.  Yesterday we held a second budget retreat with the Board of Regents to discuss the components of our budget and receive their guidance and input. Chairman Wilbanks is going to appoint an ad hoc committee of the Board to work with the leadership team in developing a budget recommendation for the Board of Regents to adopt at their June meeting.

At the same time, individual divisions and departments, the University Budget Council, and the Faculty Senate are analyzing budgets and providing ideas to save money and better allocate our resources to provide a great education at an affordable price.  We held a campus budget forum on March 17, the seventh conducted since summer 2009, where we outlined the guiding principles that provide the foundation for the budget development process.  They are:

  • Resource allocation focused on growth and building on momentum
  • Academic quality and campus safety and security are top priorities
  • Recognize importance of re-investment in aging facilities
  • Participation and ownership of need to reduce expenditures significantly
  • Budget structurally balanced and sustainable

We also outlined our approach to the process, which includes:

  • Transparent, frequent communication with full campus engagement
  • Re-assessment of all we do and how we do it

On March 16, I testified before both the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees on higher education.  In the testimony I cited my own example – growing up on a farm and attending a one-room schoolhouse – as that of someone who benefited from scholarship help and state taxpayers' support of Michigan's public universities.

Fall enrollment projections appear strong.  Applications from first-time students are up 28 percent over last year at this time (increase of 2,541), transfer applications are up 25 percent (increase of 467), and graduate applications are up 15 percent (increase of 320).

I am pleased to introduce Kevin Kucera, our new Associate Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management.  He formerly was at the University of Toledo.  This is an important addition to our leadership team as he brings significant expertise in the area of enrollment management and experience at one of our key competitors in the region.

Other recent highlights include:

  • On April 1, Eastern staged the student conference, “Conversations on Race.”  The event included participation by Regents Floyd Clack and Jim Stapleton, and a keynote address by University of Pennsylvania history professor Thomas Sugrue.
  • The third annual Cesar Chavez Celebration was held March 31st with a keynote address by author Luis Rodriguez.
  • Our annual Week of Excellence, held March 21-25, celebrates the wonderful work of our students, faculty, and staff.  The week offered a chance to recognize various segments of the University for great work, including our distinguished faculty awards.  Honorees included Ruth Ann Armitage (chemistry), Stephen Blair (mathematics), Daniel Brickner (accounting), Amy Flanagan Johnson (chemistry), Christopher Robbins (teacher education) and Lee Stille (communication, media and theatre arts).
  • Eastern's fifth-annual Ethos Week featured WJR radio's Paul W. Smith broadcast from the College of Business and a keynote address by U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade.
  • Robert Winning, a professor of biology at Eastern, was named a “Distinguished Professor of the Year” by the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan.  Professor Winning was one of four winners selected from the state's 15 public universities.
  • Eastern students elected a new President and Vice President of Student Government for 2011-2012.  They are Jelani McGadney and Jeff Chicoine.  Jelani McGadney is a senior studying international affairs.  Jeff Chicoine is a junior who has been actively engaged on campus despite a 35-mile daily commute, and will bring the perspective of non-traditional and commuter student life to the office.
  • The Eastern Women's basketball team had a terrific run in the WNIT postseason tournament.  They beat Michigan 67-59 at the Convocation Center.  The team then beat UNC-Wilmington before falling to Syracuse in a “Sweet 16” matchup.

Athletic Director Derrick Gragg is making excellent progress in the search for our new men's basketball coach with many well-qualified candidates from whom to choose.

The Invest. Inspire. capital campaign has $41.7 million toward the $50 million goal.  The annual spring fund drive is underway.  More than 17,000 alumni will receive direct calls; 20,000 will receive direct mail solicitations; and 45,000 will receive email solicitations.  In the meantime, WEMU set an all-time record in its spring pledge drive with $162,000 donated.
Chairman Wilbanks, this concludes my report. 

Thank you. 

Susan Martin