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Pieces of Eight


 
Chancellor Steve Ballard described critical challenges and opportunities facing the university in 2008 and 2009, during the annual faculty convocation Aug. 18. (Photo by Marc J. Kawanishi)
 

Ballard Presents 2008-09 Challenges, Opportunities

Following are excerpts from the remarks given by East Carolina University Chancellor Steve Ballard at the 2008 faculty convocation held Aug. 18 in Wright Auditorium.

Today, I would like to talk about the institutional agenda for the coming year. 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, over the past five years, faculty have received a 24 percent increase in overall compensation. We have added well over 400 new faculty positions. We’ve had the best legislative year in a long time: $107 million in new capital from the state. It provides us with opportunities for growth, and that is a huge step forward for ECU. These opportunities say a lot about where we are, and in the next ten years, establish our deserved need for more resources.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR 2008-09

1. Our Place in the UNC System

We must continue the rapid progress we have made in the UNC system and with our Board of Trustees and Board of Governors, establish ourselves as a truly national doctoral university with a strong state focus. People all over the state can see how much we are doing. Three closely related and very important efforts are under way as we speak:

  • The final report for UNC Tomorrow: This is the strategic plan for the entire UNC 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’m extremely proud of our draft report, and it is consistent with our own plan, ECU Tomorrow. It was submitted in May, under the leadership of Vice Chancellor Deirdre Mageean. ... UNC Tomorrow asks us to address how we can enhance our programs in seven areas: global readiness, access to higher education, public education, economic development and transformation, health, the environment and community engagement. We have much to contribute in every one of these categories.

  • Carnegie Community Engagement: We have been selected to submit a final application for this prestigious designation. We are already a very engaged university making an impact in our communities and, perhaps, the best public service university in the nation. So, let’s receive the official designation for our hard work and our legacy of outreach. ...

  • 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 financial affairs, academic programs and the campus physical plant. Faculty involvement will be absolutely essential to re-accreditation. ...

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, and certainly our status in the UNC system and the operational dollars we ask for from the state, and, perhaps most importantly, the emerging view of the vital role we play in the state.

Now here is a critical aspect of these efforts: You are a key part of them. They do not affect just those faculty members and administrators who serve on committees and draft the reports. They are about all of us – administrators, faculty and staff. ...

2. Capital Projects

Our second opportunity we face this year 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 by a lack of physical space for our faculty and students.

The good news is that we were extremely successful this year with legislative funding of $107 million and legislative approval of self-liquidating projects of over $90 million. All together, these projects exceed the capital funding we received in the 2001 Bond Package, which is no small accomplishment.

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 for the coming year include a new $130 million science building on the east campus to replace Howell Science Complex, a new Education and Business building and a Performing Arts Center. All have been approved by the Board of Governors and are ready to move forward to the General Assembly. Now we must secure state funding and convince state leaders how critical a new bond package will be to us. And we must do this in a very challenging economic environment.

3. The Second Century Campaign

The third opportunity is our campaign to secure the vital resources necessary to provide the margin of excellence at ECU. The first goal in this campaign is $200 million, as soon as possible, so we can move toward our next goal of $1 billion. 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. ... 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 three 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. All are manageable but some could be difficult:

  • The State Economy

    We have enjoyed unprecedented growth in the last five years and great support from the General Assembly. But the next two years look significantly different. State revenues are declining and nearly every prediction is that there will be a mid-year budget rescission for all state agencies, and certainly higher education; we are one of the largest discretionary state agencies and will be affected. While I would do almost anything to avoid or prevent this cut, the more prudent approach is to get prepared for the downturn and take a conservative approach to our budget. ...

  • Growth vs. Quality

    The heart and soul of ECU is to make a difference for every one of our students and it becomes a bigger challenge every year. 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. ...

  • 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?” to serve more than 27,000 students.

We do not yet have answers to these questions. However, we have made significant investments in campus safety and will continue to do that. No campus community is ever risk-free. We 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, and that partnership gets stronger every day.

I have convened four workshops this summer that have addressed our largest risks and our immediate needs for better services: growth, better business operations and student services. This work is not complete, yet it is apparent that we must invest more resources in enrollment management, enrollment services, student services and especially financial aid; better approaches to addressing risks we can identify; and student services across the board; everything from more counselors to mentors to honors program staff, to aligning university academic requirements with those in the colleges.

So, it will be a busy year. Let’s focus on the opportunities we have to move the university forward. I need, and our leadership team needs, your intellect, energy, and skills to do it. And we can do it. It is a great time to be a Pirate, and I look forward to working with each of you on these opportunities and dreams we have for this great university.

7/29/08
This page originally appeared in the Aug. 29, 2008 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at http://www.ecu.edu/news/poe/Arch.cfm.