Optimism in Reality

President's Update: January 14, 2010

It is with great enthusiasm that I welcome back all of our faculty, students and staff! I hope you had a warm and peaceful holiday and that you are entering this new decade with optimism, even in these challenging times. My holiday was wonderful – I was able to spend it cuddling a brand new grandson, Alexander. He joins his proud brother Owen in our growing extended family.

I have decided to begin a regular series of communications with the University community, so you will know what’s happening and how it might affect you. This is the first of periodic communications you can expect to receive from me. I will also be out on campus to host conversations with you in the coming months.

As we begin the new year, it is time to take stock of what we have and where we, as a university, are headed. To use a common metaphor, is the glass half empty or half full?

While overall I am an unabashed optimist, I also maintain a firm sense of reality.

The reality I see is that Eastern is a tremendous institution, filled with students with a hunger for education and direction to inspire them to their future, excellent faculty with a determined commitment to help our students achieve their goals, and staff working hard to make this a premier institution on every level. I take great pride in Eastern and love this university.

We continue to grow – winter enrollment is up nearly six percent. We are investing in facilities and new faculty -- 42 searches are underway. We are improving our grounds, buildings and facilities. Within a few short years, we will realize our vision of completing the Science Complex and renovating Pray-Harrold. Our longer-term vision includes the importance of unifying our arts endeavors into a unique arts village.

While some of our facilities continue to need repair and improvement, we are addressing the most critical issues first in a well thought out, prioritized, capital plan. Unfortunately, not everything can get done at once. We understand some tough decisions have to be made, and with limited resources, we know we can’t be everywhere and please everyone, as much as we try. We know that it will be challenging to relocate hundreds of faculty and our classes to renovate Pray-Harrold and Mark Jefferson in the upcoming academic year. We will work together to help and support the students and faculty who must relocate. I look forward to a spirit of sharing and cooperation as we complete these exciting projects.

Student success remains our highest priority as we head into 2010. Significant efforts are under way involving a broad cross section of faculty, Academic Affairs and Student Affairs. The goal is to identify new ways to more effectively engage our students and help them succeed. I deeply appreciate the focus of faculty and staff who are working hard to implement new initiatives.

Our budget situation remains stable, though uncertain, and we continue to forecast a relatively modest overall budget surplus of $5 million (less than two percent of our overall General Fund budget) for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010. The projected surplus is primarily a result of our enrollment increase, as well as our determined efforts to manage expenses and control spending -- an important undertaking as we head into a year in which the state is expected to make deep cuts in higher education. The state projects a $1.8 billion budget deficit. A 10 percent cut of our current state appropriation would be $7.8 million annually. It is important for us to be fiscally conservative in order to maintain our low tuition rates and the increases in financial aid that have helped thousands of our students and their families during these difficult times.

I hope you see the positive environment and changes around you at the University, which brings us back to my earlier question. Is the glass half empty or half full?

In my view, the glass is definitely half full. Is everything 100 percent the best that it can be? Unfortunately, no. Are we on the right track? Absolutely.

Look for continued updates in the future via e-mail, my web site, and other channels. I always welcome your comments and suggestions at Office.of.the.President@emich.edu.

I look forward to seeing you around campus soon!