Ballard notes challenges, strengths in State of the University speech
By Kathryn Kennedy ECU News Services
Dr. Marianna Walker, left, chair of the ECU Faculty Senate, listens as ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard speaks during his annual State of the University Address on Tuesday, April 10, at Hendrix Theater. Photo by Cliff Hollis
(Apr. 10, 2012)
East Carolina University continues to face challenges wrought by an unprecedented financial crisis, but its people and their dedication to serving the region will enable the institution to persevere, according to Chancellor Steve Ballard.
The third annual State of the University address delivered today in Hendrix Theatre centered on that theme.
"We will flourish tomorrow and in the future because we have an authentic goal and because we believe in people," Ballard said. "Our DNA is true. Our resiliency is unparalleled. We work together better than anywhere I've ever been."
During the course of the half-hour speech, Ballard updated the ECU community on matters of interest beginning with the possible configuration of a new athletic conference, joining the old Conference USA with the Mountain West. He assured listeners that regional rivalries remain a priority, as do the academic success and graduation of student athletes.
"I believe ECU will be recognized by performance on the field…not by the name of our conference," he said.
Ballard spoke about continuing fiscal limitations and congratulated those "doing more with less." Enrollment at ECU grew by a third between 2001 and 2010. Meanwhile, total spending power decreased by about $120 million over the last four years, costing ECU 200 faculty positions and cultivating "great uncertainty," he said.
"But we are the leadership university, and we do things that leaders always do," Ballard said. "We are responding aggressively."
That response includes an ongoing assessment of ECU's academic programs and structure in an effort to locate savings and synergies. Any change must be accomplished while maintaining the university mission – to be a national model of public service and regional transformation – and the quality of classroom experiences offered to students, Ballard said.
Generous donations will support that effort, he continued, but students will also be asked to pay a higher percentage of the total cost of education. Tuition and fees for in-state undergraduate students will increase by 9.3 percent for 2012-13 at ECU, making the annual total approximately $5,813.
"We will do all we can to balance the need for excellence in the classroom with our traditional goals of access and affordability," he promised.
Ballard reminded the audience that ECU is important to the local and regional economy, citing a recent study by ECU Department of Planning faculty:
--The economic impact of ECU on eastern North Carolina is $1.8 million. --The economic impact for the entire state exceeds $3.3 billion and includes more than 17,000 jobs. --The return on the state's investment in ECU is nearly $14 for every $1 invested.
Five areas where ECU continues to "make a positive difference" in the state and region were also identified: research, economic impact, workforce preparation, building communities and excellence in public service.
With each topic, Ballard pointed to outstanding members of the ECU community – those who embody ECU's "soul," he said. They ranged from Dr. Tom Irons, an ECU professor of pediatrics who helped establish the Bernstein Clinic to serve underprivileged county residents to a student swimmer who established a charity walk to fight ovarian cancer after the disease touched his family.
"ECU has a strong and authentic mission," he said. "We live it every day. You live it every day. It makes a huge difference in North Carolina. Help me deliver this message and commitment every chance you have. We have to repeat it as much as we possibly can."
"Your actions give us hope," Faculty Senate Chair Marianna Walker told Ballard before dismissing the audience. "Your words do as well."
Dean Stephen Thomas of the College of Allied Health Sciences said after the speech that while budget cuts and an increased workload for faculty have dampened morale, student success has been a bright spot.
"(Faculty members) are turning people out that will have an impact on the health of our state," he said. "You go to work every day saying, ‘I'm doing something good.'"