CONVOCATION, July 23, 2008
Thank you very much, Dr. Tovey.
Let’s get right to the important things. First, is Professor Jason Bond in the audience today?
Where are you, Jason? Please stand up!
As most of you know, unless you were doing research at the South Pole all summer, Jason has become a regular on the Colbert Report comedy show and earlier this month named a spider species for Stephen Colbert.
And he has named a spider for Neil Young. And Nelson Mandela. And I understand Angelina Jolie is next.
But has he named one for Steve Ballard??? NOOOOOOO.
Or for the Mighty ECU Pirates?? Nooooo again.
So, Jason, I understand you have a lot more unnamed spiders. I don’t think I need to say anything more.
Thank you, Jason.
Those of you not familiar with Jason’s work in the Biology Department should know that the spider names are just a tiny part of it. He is doing important research in biodiversity and evolution. His work is supported by National Science Foundation grants, he is training both undergraduate and graduate students, and he is publishing regularly. Thank you again, Jason, for all you do for ECU.
It is good to see you and to begin a new year at ECU. Could I ask all new faculty members to stand and let us welcome you. Thank you. We are delighted that you have joined us here at East Carolina University. As you may have heard, this is almost a perfect place to be a faculty member. Except for parking. And just so you know, I have nothing to do with parking. Kevin Seitz is in charge of that. And his phone number is 328-6975.
Parking aside, we have a truly excellent university, with a collegial spirit and, most importantly, authenticity in what we do and what we say is important. You, the faculty, have my respect and my appreciation for all that you do to make this possible.
We also have a bevy of new deans this year. Linda Patriarca is already with us leading the College of Education. As you know, this university was born as a teacher training school, and we are confident that Dean Patriarca will provide outstanding leadership as the College builds on that legacy.
In the Health Sciences, Paul Cunningham returns to ECU in September to lead the Brody School of Medicine and Jim Hupp will become the dean of the dental school in November.
And back on the east side of town, Judy Siguaw has been selected as the new dean in Human Ecology, effective in January.
As we welcome new deans, I hope you will join me in thanking those who have served and are serving in those positions in an interim capacity: John Swope, Phyllis Horns, Greg Chadwick, Margie Gallagher, Sylvia Brown and David White.
Today, I would like to discuss the institutional agenda for the coming year from a 30,000 foot level. My goal is to ensure that you are aware of several of our opportunities and challenges at ECU.
We have worked well over the past four years to move the university forward. On average, faculty have received a 24 percent increase in overall compensation, we have added well over 400 new faculty positions, and we have expanded our physical plant substantially, $107 million this past year.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR 2008-09
Our Place in the University of North Carolina
Our biggest opportunity is to continue the rapid progress we have made in the UNC system and in our efforts to establish ourselves as a truly national doctoral university with a strong state focus. Three closely related and very important efforts are under way as we speak:
· The final report for UNC Tomorrow, which is the strategic plan for the whole system. The quality of these reports being prepared by each of the campuses in the system will determine how each university fares in the biennial budget process and, especially, in priorities for capital projects. I am very proud of our draft report, submitted last May, under the leadership of Vice Chancellor Deirdre Mageean. Over 60 faculty members participated in developing that report, and your work and contributions were critical. The feedback on that document from the General Administration has been excellent. At the same time, much remains to be done this fall to respond to the requirements of this project.
UNC Tomorrow requires us to address how we can enhance our programs related to 7 areas: global readiness, access to higher education, public education, economic transformation, health, the environment, and community engagement. We have much to contribute in each category.
· Carnegie Community Engagement. We have been selected to submit a final application for this prestigious classification by the Carnegie Foundation. We are already a very engaged university in our communities and, perhaps, we are the best public service university in the nation. So, let’s receive the official designation for our hard work and our legacy of outreach. This designation would also recognize the importance of our strategic plan, ECU TOMORROW, and the commitments we have made to UNC Tomorrow.
· Re-Accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools: Although the official re-accreditation is not scheduled until 2013, we are hard at work to ensure we are ready for this vital recognition. SACS is comprehensive. It covers academic programs, campus physical plant, and financial status. Faculty involvement will be vital to re-accreditation, especially in the areas of learning outcomes and quality enhancement plans.
If we are successful in these three comprehensive and demanding exercises, I believe the benefits will be felt for the next decade and beyond. Success will positively affect our capital projects, access to operational dollars from the state, and, perhaps most importantly, the emerging view of the vital role we play in the state. I’m not sure we will be seen as the third “flagship” campus, but we surely can be seen as the “Starship” campus of the system.
Now here is a critical aspect of these efforts: You are part of them. They do not affect just those faculty members and administrators who sit on the committees and draft the reports. They are about all of us. You can and should find your place in them and help us move the goals forward. They apply to your work in the classroom, the laboratory and the community. I look forward to working with you as we move ECU forward.
Our second opportunity is also a requirement…we must obtain state funding for vital classrooms, faculty offices, and research laboratories, especially on the east campus. Without sufficient funding, our growth potential is severely limited and the quality of what we do will be threatened.
The Good News is that we were extremely successful this year with legislative funding of 106 million dollars and legislative approval of self-liquidating projects of over 90 million dollars. All together, these projects exceed the capital funding we received in the 2001 Bond Package. More importantly, the projects will provide vital capacity for our health sciences programs.
The bad news is that our enrollment growth has occurred primarily on the east campus and it is here that we find our most outdated, decrepit, and over-stuffed buildings. Our priorities include a new science building to replace Howell, a new Education and Business building, and a Performing Arts Center. All have been approved by the Board of Governors. Now we must secure state funding and we must do so in a very challenging economic environment.
THE SECOND CENTURY CAMPAIGNT
The third opportunity is our campaign to secure the resources necessary to provide the margin of excellence at ECU. Our goal in this campaign is 200 million dollars, at the earliest possible time and then, by the year 2020, to generate one billion dollars. That’s an imposing target, but that is what we need to make ECU TOMORROW successful. We are already more than half-way toward the first goal.
We have captured the imagination of our friends and they are stepping up. The Monk family of Farmville has provided $2.5 million for a new Geriatrics Center in the Family Medicine Center. We have new endowed chairs in Business, Nursing and the East Carolina Heart Institute, and tremendous excitement among our alumni and major donors. Vice Chancellor Mickey Dowdy has done excellent work in getting us to this point.
The next step is for every member of the community to help us create a culture of giving by contributing to the campaign, by talking with legislators about our vital needs, and by identifying the numerous positive impacts of our work for North Carolina. Now is the time to make a difference for ECU.
THREE CHALLENGES AHEAD
Let me conclude by mentioning 3 challenges for the coming year. The ECU Board of Trustees is well aware of these challenges and is expecting strong and clear responses during this academic year:
The State Economy
Even though we have enjoyed unprecedented growth in the last five years and good support from the General Assembly, the next two years look much different. State revenues are declining and nearly every prediction is that there will be a mid-year budget cut for all state agencies, including higher education. While I would do almost anything to avoid or prevent this cut, the more prudent approach is to get prepared for the downturn. In addition, we anticipate, although it is too early to know for sure, that campus-based tuition and fee increases will be restricted and perhaps prohibited by the Board of Governors this year. In anticipation of these events, I have:
Asked all division leaders and fund managers to assess their fund balances and adopt conservative approaches to expenditures this year;
Mandated that requests for higher tuition or fees be made only with a strong and clear rationale regarding the impact on student welfare, retention, and graduation rates.
Asked our risk management team to identify those areas of the university most at-risk if a rescission occurs; and
Encouraged the continued statewide leadership ECU has shown in efficiency improvements and conservation.
Growth vs. Quality
ECU is the fastest growing public university in the state, measured by total student headcount. No other university is close. There is much good from this growth, including new faculty positions, more state funding for information resources, and more state support. This year, we expect to have the largest freshman class in our history and a total enrollment of over 27,000 students.
At the same time, our retention rates have dropped and we know that retention is affected by academic preparation. The soul of ECU is to make a difference for every one of our students, and we must never lose that commitment.
To manage the challenges and opportunities for growth as well as demands from the UNC system that we grow, Dr. Judith Bailey is chairing the campus-wide Strategic Enrollment Management Task Force. The goal of that group is to have a draft report this fall, a full review toward the end of the semester, and a final report by early spring. The report should address such strategic issues as our rate of growth, admission standards, the mix of graduate and undergraduate students, and the role of distance education.
Infrastructure and Safety
Growth has also severely pressured our capacity to protect our community and to provide necessary services for our students, staff and faculty. In short, we must stop for a moment and address the question “WHAT IS THE RIGHT PACE OF GROWTH?” and “WHAT ARE THE IMMEDIATE PRIORITIES FOR IMPROVING OUR INFRASTRUCTURE?”
We do not yet have answers to these questions. However, we have made significant investments in campus safety and these will continue, with the help of new revenues from the General Assembly. We must also have a very strong partnership with the City of Greenville, that bears primary responsibility for protecting the majority of our students who live off campus.
In addition, I have convened four workshops this summer that have addressed our largest risks and our immediate needs for better services. This work is not complete, yet it is apparent that we must invest more resources in:
Enrollment management and enrollment services and especially financial aid;
Better approaches to identifying risks and then preventing the most serious; and
Student services across the board; everything from more counselors to honors program staff to aligning university academic requirements with those in the colleges.
In short, it will be a busy year in which we have great opportunities to move the university forward. With your intellect, energy, and skill, we will do just that. It is a great time to be a Pirate!