Following are excerpts from remarks prepared by Chancellor Steve Ballard for delivery at the Faculty Convocation on Aug. 20.
Today I want to review the State of the University. One reason for doing so is to share my great pride in the legacy and contributions of ECU. I also want to say this: like all public institutions, we will face tensions related to the allocation of resources, where to take inevitable budget cuts, and how to share the responsibilities associated with success and leadership. But those tensions must never overshadow or reduce our commitment to the great contributions we make to North Carolina.
First, the good news. It has been a great year for East Carolina University. Every division, every unit, and virtually every department has helped to move the university forward.
Four areas of distinction capture the spirit of ECU. Let me briefly explain.
Recognition for Leadership
Across the state, ECU was recognized over the last year for being a truly national quality university, for its leadership in statewide initiatives, and for the impact we have on our state and region. In visits to our campus, the General Assembly, the Board of Governors, and the UNC Tomorrow Commission all saw, felt, and acknowledged that ECU is the university on the move in North Carolina....We lead the state in producing teachers and nurses, our graduates stay in North Carolina and make a difference, and the Educational Trust labeled ECU as one of the very best universities in the nation with respect to the success of its minority students. In two of President Bowles’ most important priorities this year, teacher preparation and efficiency, ECU led the UNC system.
Strength of the Health Sciences
When the Brody School of Medicine was approved by the General Assembly in 1974, few observers would have imagined what now exists. Today we have three great colleges in our health sciences division, and approval to build a fourth - the School of Dentistry. Every academic and service element of these schools has been true to its original mission - serving the primary health care needs of the state, addressing critical shortages in the highest need areas, providing jobs for North Carolinians, and making a difference for underserved populations:
• 95 percent of our nurses pass their licensure exams;
• Over 90 percent of our allied health graduates work in North Carolina, and
• “U.S. News” ranks the Brody School of Medicine Number six nationally among schools that emphasize primary care.
All great universities are built on a great faculty. We should be proud of our growth of students and total number of faculty…which will soon reach 1800, a 50 percent increase since 2000.
Each year I try to mention at least one relatively new program that captures the spirit of ECU. My choice this year is the STEPP Program in the College of Education....The carefully coordinated support services available in STEPP is literally unique in the nation and I believe ECU will soon be seen to be the national model of serving this population. Dr. Sarah Williams, I thank you for your passion and your commitment.
We also make a difference in the most daunting problems of our times. For example, researchers in our Metabolic Center have made tremendous discoveries in the field of diabetes and that dreaded disease has changed from the “incurable” status to “the next cured disease” in large part because of contributions of Walter Pories and many other faculty. We have a truly significant capacity for health disparities research, as evidenced by Ron Cortright’s recent NIH grant to study metabolic disparities among African-American women.
Confront the Reality
On those rare occasions when we find problems, we fix them. I can’t tell you the work, the sacrifice, and the results that have been achieved by the faculty of the Brody School of Medicine in addressing the severe financial difficulties facing all community-based academic medical centers.
Working with Vice Chancellors Horns and Seitz and Board member David Brody, the School turned a projected $18 million deficit this year into an $800,000 surplus. We all know that much remains to be done. The tough conditions still exist and some will worsen. But I believe this is the single biggest one-year turnaround that has ever occurred in a community-based academic medical center.
So congratulations to you all for an impressive year. Of course, with achievement and recognition come a new set of opportunities, which are known in some circles as challenges.
The first, the biggest, and the most daunting is diversity on this campus...I am strongly committed to achieving these goals in next few years:
• We will achieve greater diversity in the leadership of the University, starting with the Executive Council;
• We will make every effort to have more people of color in mid-level and upper-level management, especially at the dean’s level, where four searches will be conducted this year; and
• We are committed to getting to the mid-level of similar institutions in the UNC system in terms of faculty diversity. This will require that we make steady progress, to be measured and reported each year, in going from 10.7 percent to 13.5 percent faculty of color.
Student Access and Cost
We have done an excellent job of providing access to students who need our resources, especially through our distance education programs. In the UNC system, we are the only rural university that is growing significantly. However, with 80,000 new students projected to enter the system in the next 10 years, we must do more. The single biggest challenge is cost. ECU has more students with a demonstrated financial need than any other North Carolina university....We must find resources other than students to provide resources for the future.
ECU has had significant legislative success over the last three years. This year, more than $28 million in new capital appropriations were received, and this is in addition to funds for faculty compensation, financial aid, and other priorities of the UNC System....However, much work remains. We are one of the most under-funded universities in the system, receiving only 70 cents on the dollar compared to a couple of other universities. And, we have significant capital project needs. Those include a major academic building on the east campus, a new science building to ensure adequate research space, a performing arts center, and a family medicine center. These needs will dominate our budget work in the coming year.
We have grown faster than any university in the state over the past five years, our growth continues this year, and we will be asked to grow more in the future. It is inevitable that this growth causes some tension. We have inadequate space for our faculty. One college is spread across six buildings from downtown to the east side of campus. More to the point, our growth puts at risk the quality of what we do…especially our small campus feel, our commitment to the education and transformation of the whole student, and the value we add to the educational experience. In this light, I will soon appoint a strategic enrollment management task force, led by Dr. Judi Bailey, our interim director of Enrollment Management. The task force will include faculty and it will find answers to such questions as how to “right size” ECU and how to expand access to the neediest residents of North Carolina.
This Academic Year
I think the first goal of the coming year should be to maintain our soul. It has different definitions and interpretations, but to me it is our commitment to service, to making a difference for people, and to adding value as we transform our students into being tomorrow’s leaders. Let’s ensure that we keep our eye on the ball and remember what we do best.