Welcome to Winter Semester 2017

January 5, 2017

To Students, Faculty and Staff:

Happy New Year and welcome back from the holiday break. I am looking forward to my first winter on Eastern’s campus. I have been warned about the cold and snow, but I can share with you that as challenging as it may get, it will not come close to the winters I experienced in my last seven years in South Dakota!

We had a very successful commencement ceremony on December 17. More than 1,700 students were eligible to participate in the ceremony, including 26 doctoral graduates. This represents the largest class of doctoral graduates in the University’s history. I want to thank and acknowledge the many faculty members and staff who participated and assisted in the ceremony, and recognize all who contributed to the success of the graduates.

Just prior to the break, the Governor’s office announced the appointment of two new regents to Eastern Michigan University. The new appointees, each of whom will serve eight-year terms, are Alexander Simpson and Eunice Jeffries.

Regent Jeffries is the regional community affairs manager for Beaumont Health. Previously she held positions with the Council of Michigan Foundations, Farmington/Farmington Hills Foundations for Youth and Families, the Executive Office of the Secretary of State as well as associate director of the Southeast Michigan Office under the administration of former Gov. John Engler. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and accounting from Fisk University and a master’s of business administration from Northwood University.

Regent Simpson holds a bachelor’s degree in social work from Eastern Michigan University, a master’s degree in social work from the University of Michigan, a law degree from Indiana University Maurer School of Law, and is currently attending Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management for a master of business administration. During his time at Eastern, he was voted Homecoming King and later was named an Outstanding Young Alumni by the EMU Alumni Association.  He currently serves as legal counsel for IHS, Inc. and is president-elect of the Wolverine Bar Association, Wolverine Bar Foundation, and recently served on the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

A news release with additional details can be found on our news media page. Their first Board meeting will take place on Tuesday, February 7.

On Monday, January 16, we will host our 31st celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year’s theme is Courageous Conversations: The Writings On The Wall. The day is preceded by activities that begin on Thursday, January 12. Given the hateful incidents of racist vandalism that targeted our university in the early fall, and the similar challenges faced by many across the nation, it is a valuable opportunity to not only reflect but to direct action to address issues of racism and inclusion. The observance of this day and the events surrounding it remains one of Eastern Michigan University’s most important signature events. For more information on the schedule, including how to obtain tickets for the luncheon on Monday, January 16 with keynote speaker Benjamin Jealous, please visit the MLK Celebration homepage.

Eastern Michigan University Police continue to aggressively investigate the issues of racist vandalism that occurred on our campus this fall. The incidents run counter to everything this university stands for and the rich history of diversity that makes Eastern Michigan University a leader among Michigan universities. The $10,000 reward that was announced last fall remains in place, and EMU Police continue to pursue and investigate leads. Solving these criminal actions and bringing those responsible to justice remains a top priority. An informational site with ongoing updates has been established in order to keep the community informed.

It is important to note that this issue has arisen because an individual or individuals attacked our institution with messages of hate and racist vandalism, largely because Eastern Michigan University has embraced diversity and inclusiveness. The vandals are using their hateful messages to make a statement against our diverse community. Viewed in that sense, EMU is likely a target because we have such a visible commitment to diversity and it threatens people who fear this commitment.

We continue to make progress on addressing the demands presented in the Black Student 10-Point Plan. Updates on the status were shared with members of the Black Student Union in a formal meeting on December 6, and then shared broadly with the campus community.

The newly appointed President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion, whose members were announced last month, will soon begin its planning efforts. Among its initial activities will be a study of the campus climate and recommendations on how Eastern can foster a more inclusive culture for our students and employees. This is a very important step for Eastern Michigan University, and I would like to reiterate my sincere appreciation to Professor Ronald Woods for chairing the commission and to Associate Professor Devika Dibya Choudhuri as vice chair, along with all of the members. For additional details and a list of the 14-member roster, please view the announcement news release.

Several capital building projects also will get underway in 2017. Among them is the new co-generation unit that will provide more than 90 percent of the university’s heat and electricity needs. This energy-saving project will result in an annual reduction of 21,000 tons of carbon dioxide and 112 tons of nitrogen oxide emissions, and produce annual net energy savings of more than $2.8 million. The project is scheduled for completion in January 2018.

Planning for the renovation of Strong Hall continues. The architect and engineer have been identified and the program and schematic design phase have been completed and submitted to the State for review. All impacted departments will continue to be informed about the status of the project along with discussions about swing space to accommodate classroom space that will be impacted by the renovation.

Planning for the construction and opening of the new expanded Starbucks location in the Student Center also remains in process, and is expected to be completed this summer. Additional enhancements to dining operations will be announced soon.

Another signature event for the University takes place on March 31, 2017—the 37th Undergraduate Symposium. While this may seem like a long way off, an important deadline is approaching. Students who would like to present at the Symposium must complete the submission process by January 15. Submission information can be found on the Undergraduate Symposium Submission Site.

I have been asked on several occasions whether an inauguration ceremony would take place to mark my arrival as president. I am pleased to announce that the event has been confirmed for Thursday, March 2, 2017, at 2 p.m. in Pease Auditorium. The theme of the day will focus on supporting student success across the University. More details will be available in the weeks ahead and will be posted on the inauguration website.

As you can see by the items listed above, this semester is certain to bring us a great number of new opportunities that will continue to enhance the University in many important areas. To our hard working students, dedicated and talented faculty, excellent support staff, and valued alumni and donors, I wish you a healthy and successful 2017.

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions at Office.of.the.President@emich. edu.


James M. Smith
Eastern Michigan University

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