For those who attended the All-University Awards Banquet and heard my remarks, I realize this is a bit redundant, but something tells me you won’t mind hearing good news a second time. The team of eight Higher Learning Commission reviewers had very kind words for all of you during their exit interview with me last week. They complimented your courtesy, professionalism and preparation, your commitment to your jobs, and your engagement in the accreditation process. This held true at every level of the organization. We won’t receive the preliminary report for another 30 days or so, and I realize I’ve been president for only a short time, but let me say this: I’ve never had a prouder moment during my 35 years here. My thanks to each and every one of you who contributed to this most favorable impression.
With the HLC accreditation visit behind us, we waited two days and then submitted ourselves to another round of scrutiny when we completed our application to pursue classification by the Carnegie Foundation as a community engaged university. My thanks to the many faculty and staff across the university who supplied information and documentation as part of this process. Engaging with our surrounding community is what we do; it’s who we are. So we are optimistic that our application will be favorably received; we expect to hear word in early 2015. Special thanks to Kerry Rastigue, coordinator of service learning, for preparing the application.
I attended some of the honors theses presentations last Friday and was once again impressed by our students. I would also like to express my appreciation to all the faculty who serve as advisors to students in this and similar highly rigorous programs. I am especially appreciative of the leadership of Elizabeth Rich, professor of English, who directs the Honors Program.
Congratulations to Nameeta Mathur, professor of history, who received the Innovative Writing in Teaching Award at last week’s University Writing Awards reception. My thanks to those faculty – David Berry, Dee Storey, Erik Trump, Bob Tuttle and Debra Wagner – who nominated students who won a Braun Award for excellence in student writing, and to everyone who nominated students for these awards. I’m pleased to see our faculty demonstrate a commitment to developing our students' writing skills.
Our new provost-elect Deb Huntley and Brian Thomas, associate professor of sociology, are in South Korea this week, meeting with leaders of the University of Suwon. We continue to make progress toward articulation agreements with them. Their president will visit us in June when we dedicate Ming Chuan University’s space on our campus.
Several Board of Control members and I attended the Association of Governing Boards conference over the weekend. Besides telling you how much warmer it was in Florida, I can report that student recruitment and retention, and graduation rates are issues challenging many institutions across the country. Accountability at the state and federal levels will be a hot topic for years to come. We know we have work to do to improve our retention and graduation rates while maintaining high academic standards. There are no surprises and no shortcuts. But if we apply the same formula we used to prepare for our HLC visit and put together an orderly process with realistic goals and wide participation across the university, I am confident we can achieve meaningful progress.
Finally, I would like to congratulate Ann Coburn-Collins, who served as an invited presenter at the annual HLC conference this month. Her paper, “Best Practices for Supporting Adjunct Faculty” was selected for a Best Paper Award. This conference draws some 4,000 higher education professionals each year, so this is quite an honor for Ann and for SVSU.