Campus Update: June 11, 2021

To the Eastern Michigan University community:

Summer may be a little more than a week away but it certainly looks like we are heading into a beautiful Michigan summer-like weekend. While we can all revel in the beautiful weather, we also have quite a few things to celebrate at Eastern Michigan.

At the beginning of the week, we were pleased to announce a transformational $1 million gift to the University from alumnus, entrepreneur and auto racing legend Jack E. Roush. He is chairman of the board of Roush Enterprises, and founder, CEO, and co-owner of the NASCAR racing team, Roush Fenway Racing.

This generous gift will play a critical role in increasing access for students to math instruction, with particular emphasis on students desiring to pursue engineering, computer science and other STEM majors. It also will support automotive programs in the GameAbove College of Engineering and Technology.

In making the announcement, Mr. Roush noted his lifelong commitment to learning, from receiving his master’s degree in scientific mathematics at EMU in 1970 to founding and chairing a company so heavily committed to technical excellence. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Commercial Science degree in December 2019.

The gift is part of the University’s Give Rise campaign, the comprehensive fundraising campaign. With a goal of $100 million, Give Rise is the largest comprehensive campaign in University history.

I would like to acknowledge the fine efforts of Dean Mohamad Qatu, EMU Foundation Vice President and Executive Director Bill Shepard, and Senior Director of Development Lisa Comben for working with me, and Mr. Roush, to make this gift a reality.

We have several other updates to cover this week:

  • $3.5 million increase in financial aid support for students in 2021-22
  • Adoption of block tuition pricing
  • 3D Arts Complex approval
  • Voluntary Severance Incentive Plan offered to certain instructional personnel
  • COVID-19 testing center schedule
  • Swoop’s Food Pantry summer schedule
  • Celebrating Eastern Michigan University excellence

$3.5 million increase in financial aid support for students in 2021-22

Yesterday, we announced a $3.5 million increase in our financial aid support for students in the next school year. This brings our total financial aid commitment for next year to $54.8 million. There couldn’t be a more important time to provide this added support. As the nation emerges from the pandemic, we must do all we can to help students and their families as they work to get back on track in their educations and futures.

Over the last 14 years, the University has increased its financial aid budget by 156%. This commitment reflects the University’s mission, as outlined in our strategic plan, to be an institution of opportunity with the state’s most diverse student body among Michigan’s public universities.

Details about the financial aid increase and the overall 2021-22 general and auxiliary fund budgets approved yesterday by the University’s Board of Regents are included in this news release.

Adoption of block tuition pricing

The University’s move to implement block tuition pricing, beginning this fall semester, will further help our students by providing an incentive to take more credits, graduate earlier, and get a head start on their careers. Under this model, which is used by the majority of public universities in Michigan, undergraduate students may take between 12 and 16 credit hours and pay the same flat rate.

Our adoption of block tuition is designed to encourage students to complete their degrees in four years. In yesterday’s announcement, Student Body President Luis Romero noted the benefits to students, stating, “Keeping in mind the ongoing urgent need for targeted financial aid and assistance, I believe that block tuition will lower students' cost of attendance and incentivize them to graduate earlier. Which, in return, saves students money. If block tuition had been in place when I was a first-year student, I likely would have taken the full 15 credits.”

I also heard directly from a faculty member who voiced support for the decision, calling it a “game changer” for our students.

For additional details about the block tuition plan and overall tuition pricing for 2021-22, please review the announcement posted on EMU Today.

3D Arts Complex approval

Yesterday’s approval by the Board of Regents of the $4.6 million capital project for the construction of a 3D Arts Complex is also a game changer. The project, part of the School of Art and Design, will be funded by a $2.2 million grant from the Windgate Foundation with matching funds of $400,000 in fundraising from the EMU Foundation, and $2.0 million funded by the University.

The new 3D Arts Complex (please click here for the renderings) will advance opportunities in several arts disciplines by providing a dynamic new and expanded space in collaborative, a creative environment for artmaking. Programs to be housed in the new facility include: sculpture, ceramics, furniture design, digital fabrication, 3D design, and metalsmithing. Currently, these programs are spread across several campus buildings. It will be built on the northwest corner of campus as part of our current sculpture studio, and is scheduled for completion in 2023.

We are grateful to the Windgate Foundation for supporting the vision and planning for the new complex under the fine leadership of School of Art and Design Director Sandra Murchison and the School’s faculty.

Voluntary Severance Incentive Plan offered to certain instructional personnel

The University recently launched a Voluntary Severance Incentive Plan (VSIP) for certain faculty and academic administrators who hold faculty tenure. Employees who are eligible for the VSIP have been notified by email and will receive additional information later this month. 

The VSIP is designed to promote voluntary departures for eligible faculty and administrators with faculty rank in exchange for an incentive so that the University may avoid more impactful measures in the future. No employee is obligated to participate. Eligible employees who elect to participate in the VSIP will generally end their employment with the University on August 31, 2021.

The purpose of the VSIP is to more closely align faculty headcount with EMU’s current and projected enrollment. This is an early step toward a more deliberate and strategic process of designing a University that, while smaller, can support, advance, and invest in its high-quality, high-demand academic and student support programs. The VSIP is one important step toward these efforts. The terms of the VSIP were approved by the EMU-AAUP.

Again, employees who are eligible for the VSIP have been notified by email and will receive additional information later this month. We will continue to update the campus about the VSIP as well as other strategic initiatives designed to position EMU for a solid future.

COVID-19 Testing Center schedule

The schedule for the EMU Testing Center in the Student Center for June is as follows:

  • Tuesday June 15: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. 
  • Wednesday June 16: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Tuesday June 22: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Wednesday June 23: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. 
  • Tuesday June 29: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Wednesday June 30: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

COVID-19 testing is encouraged even if you are fully vaccinated. While being vaccinated limits the symptoms of COVID-19, vaccinated individuals may still be carriers and inadvertently spread it to friends and family. Visit the testing website to review the Center’s schedule, as hours are subject to change.
Swoop’s Food Pantry summer schedule

Summer hours for the John and Angie Sabo Swoop’s Food Pantry Room are Mondays 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Wednesdays 12 - 6:30 p.m. and Thursdays 12 - 5 p.m. Shoppers are requested to complete an Online Shopping Request Form before arriving. Items will be bagged by staff and brought out to clients when they arrive. Visitors to Swoop’s can enter through the main entrance on the north side of Pierce Hall near the elevator. Swoop’s requires any student who has not used the pantry this year to complete the Swoop's Food Pantry Intake Form.

In terms of donations, the most needed items this week are pet food, toilet paper, almond milk, veggie burgers and tofu. Monetary contributions are always appreciated and can be made online.

Celebrating Eastern Michigan University Excellence

Please join me in celebrating these fine examples of Eastern Michigan University excellence:

  • The Early College Alliance (ECA) has always been a point of great distinction for Eastern Michigan University, and that remains true more than ever today. The ECA allows high school students to earn college credits for free while still in high school.

The publication Bridge Michigan featured the ECA this week in an article that profiled students who are excelling in the program and nearing their degree from Eastern or who have recently graduated. The students attribute their success to the ECA. The article further discusses the high college graduation success rate at the ECA for Black high school students in comparison to Black high school graduates in Michigan overall – 76% compared to 11%.

The ECA@EMU is certainly one of the true gems of the University. I’d like to thank Washtenaw County Educational Outcomes Consortium Executive Director, Mr. David Dugger; Principal, Dr. Ellen Fischer; and all of the faculty and staff at ECA@EMU for their tireless efforts and commitment to student success.

  • In late May, Eastern Michigan University, along with GameAbove and the Mr. October Foundation (founded by MLB Hall of Fame member Reggie Jackson), held a partnership celebration event at Hope Academy, an EMU charter school in Detroit. This event marked the partnership of the three organizations in support of STEM education and outreach efforts in the community. I was privileged to be among the speakers at the event, along with Dr. Mark Mayberry, principal of Hope Academy; Kristen Young, EMU alum and GameAbove Advisory Board member; George “The Iceman” Gervin, EMU alum, GameAbove Advisory Board member and NBA Hall of Fame member; Alisha Bell, chair of the Wayne County Board of Commissioners; and, Reggie Jackson.

It is not often that organizations such as these can come together for a common cause; in this case to provide opportunities for young people. This was truly an occasion to celebrate. You can watch highlights of the event in this video from GameAbove.

Looking ahead

As I noted yesterday in my report to the Board of Regents, our faculty, staff and facilities teams are busy preparing for the fall semester and the return of a large number of students to our campus. We are very much looking forward to welcoming them!

For many, it will be their first look at the $40 million revitalization and expansion of Sill Hall and the dynamic $16 million renovation of the Rec/IM, that includes new workout equipment and a renewed focus on overall health and emotional wellness.

There’s nothing like fall on Eastern’s campus and all of the academic experiences and activities that take place. We’re looking forward to enjoying that experience with you again.

James Smith, Ph.D.