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Vaughn Vandegrift
Vaughn Vandegrift
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Report to the University

First Impressions of a Premier Metropolitan University

by SIUE Chancellor Vaughn Vandegrift

October 7, 2004
Meridian Ballroom, Morris University Center

Good morning! I have been your Chancellor now for a little over three months. It has been said that there are two big mistakes a new chancellor can make: (1) to assume he has all the answers and (2) to assume everyone expects him to have all the answers. I do not want to make either mistake. Not only will I never have all the answers, but I also recognize that I have been here long enough to know only a little about the state of the University. Nevertheless, I have been able to form some first impressions that I want to share with you. It is true that first impressions can be wrong. Indeed, there is a French proverb that says that we should always mistrust them because they are always right. However, I have enough evidence by now to be confident about these impressions. That's because I have visited almost all the core campus buildings to meet faculty, staff, and students, and I will be visiting the remaining buildings in the very near future. In fact, I have planned a series of "town hall" meetings with various groups around the campus. I have also been able to visit several communities near to SIUE, and I intend to widen the scope of my visits and to meet with additional business and community leaders. I have been impressed on these visits by your kindness, generosity, openness, and friendship. And I want to thank you for that. I have learned that SIUE has a well-formed sense of community, clearly articulated values, and a welcoming environment. These qualities were not produced by chance, but through the hard work and dedication of talented Edwardsville faculty, staff, and administrators. For me personally, that means thanking Chancellor Werner and his predecessors, President Walker, the Board of Trustees, and acknowledging all their contributions. But all of us who are privileged to be current members of this academic community owe much to the dedicated labors of those who came before us. At the Annual Retiree Reception in June of this year, the University honored 55 retirees with a total of 1,304 years of service to the University-an average of 23.70 years of service per employee. If any retirees are here today, I ask them now to stand and be recognized.

We are also very fortunate that such dedication continues, and that it continues to be honored. Each month, an outstanding employee is recognized for the quality of his or her work day in and day out. May I ask all the Employee of the Month award winners present to please stand and be recognized.

SIUE exists in a dynamic, changing present that builds on the past that we honor today and that prepares us for exciting future changes. In only three years, 2007, we will celebrate our 50th anniversary. We will begin to prepare for that celebration and I will appoint a task force for that purpose soon. We all hope that as many of our retirees as possible will be able to return to help us celebrate our 50th anniversary. While acknowledging our past, I believe it is time to boldly embrace the future we have articulated in our Vision Statement, which states that SIUE, "as a premier Metropolitan University, will be recognized nationally for the excellence of its programs and development of professional and community leaders." Excellence is not a matter of all or nothing. It exists by degrees. Excellence is one of our official University values, and, along with our other values of Citizenship, Integrity, Openness, and Wisdom, is publicly displayed on the banner that hangs in the Goshen Lounge of this Center. In fact, Excellence is so important to SIUE that it appears not only in our values but also in one of our seven strategic goals.

But we are not like the fictional university in Jane Smiley's delightful book, Moo, in which the university president had a stated goal of excellence in all things, whereas the provost had a secret goal of excellence in something. We already have excellence in many things! For example, there is the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center, which is the only facility in the world that fully emulates both a wet-mill and a dry-mill commercial fuel ethanol production plant. It is ideally suited to generate new technologies to produce ethanol more cost effectively from corn. And the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research facility is situated in a developing University Park, one of only six in the country associated with institutions with missions similar to that of Edwardsville. We also have the Donal E. Myer Arboretum which, given its potential, has been recognized as a Shaw's Garden East site by the Missouri Botanical Garden. The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education has accepted SIUE's application for pre-candidate accreditation status. This is the only program in the country to receive this status this year. The accreditation visit is scheduled for November 2004.

Our excellent undergraduate programs stand up nationally. Consider our Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business-accredited strong programs in the School of Business. The program in Accountancy, for example, is one of a few nationally accredited. And for the last three semesters, our Accountancy majors have scored in the 95th percentile nationally on the Major Field Exam given by the Educational Testing Service. Our accounting graduates have been very successful in finding internship and employment opportunities at the top accounting firms and corporate employers in St. Louis and the Metro-East.

The School of Engineering provides the best public undergraduate engineering education available in the region. A multi-disciplinary robotics course was introduced this year through National Science Foundation funding, and students are now working on a new solar car to enter in a national race next summer.

Our Department of Instructional Services has received advanced level certification from the National Association for Developmental Education. Faculty in our Department of English Language and Literature edit and publish three nationally and internationally circulated journals: The Sou'wester, Drumvoices Revue, and Papers on Language and Literature.

Our Art and Design program is distinguished in several ways. We are one of only a handful of ceramics programs that has a traditional Korean wood-burning kiln. We are one of only a few schools with a program that allows students to compete for the opportunity to construct large-scale works that are displayed for up to one year on campus. Our facilities in printmaking are among the best in the nation. And our metalsmithing program is considered one of the best undergraduate programs of its kind.

The East St. Louis Center provides high-quality comprehensive programs, services, and training in the areas of education, health, social work, and the arts. The East St. Louis Center is a national model for how a university can strengthen the community it serves. And the work of the Center is assisted by our NCATE-accredited School of Education in its commitment to work with area schools.

In graduate education, we were one of 15 master's institutions in the United States to receive funding from the Sloan Foundation and the Council of Graduate Schools to develop and implement a master's in Biotechnology Management and a master's in Environmental Science Management. Additionally, we were one of a select few master's institutions to receive funding from the Ford Foundation and the Council of Graduate Schools to study the feasibility of master's degrees in Criminal Justice and in Professional and Technical Writing. In FY02, the latest year for which data are available, Edwardsville ranked 228-in the top 10 percent in total federal grants for research and development among more than 3,000 accredited institutions across the country. In FY04, we expended $20.4 million on research and development, not counting student aid.

The School of Nursing also excels at innovative, creative programs and high student test scores. Its research funding proposal to develop a new Master's program, the Clinical Nurse Leader, was recently accepted by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. And graduate students had a 100 percent pass rate on the specialty certification examinations in the Nurse Practitioner and Nursing Anesthesia program.

Our School of Dental Medicine has been recognized for ranking nationally on the National Board Examination. This year's class rank is ninth in the nation out of 54 dental schools. The Dental Implant Clinic, one of only eight such facilities in the nation, opened in 1997 in University Park, and it continues to flourish.

We also have an excellent faculty at Edwardsville. It is possible to cite numerous examples. For the sake of time, however, permit me to mention only a few. As with the undergraduate and graduate programs, I mention these simply as being representative of many more I could cite that are known nationally and internationally.

Excellence in teaching is abundantly represented by recent Teaching Excellence Award recipients-Tom Foster in Physics, Dennis Hostetler in Public Administration and Policy Analysis, Michael Shaw in Chemistry, Randall Pearson in Geography, and Elizabeth Fonseca in Foreign Languages and Literature. There are also the exceptional faculty who have been honored with the Alumni Association's Great Teacher Award over the last few years: Cristina de Meo in Chemistry, the late Debra Reichert Hoge in Special Education and Communication Disorders, Susan Thomas in Psychology, Robert Wagner in Communication Disorders, and Madhav Segal in Management & Marketing.

Outstanding faculty have also distinguished themselves for nationally and internationally recognized scholarship. For instance,

  • Associate Professor Albert Luo, from Mechanical Engineering, is an internationally known scholar. His research in nonlinear dynamics and nonlinear structure dynamics has made a substantial impact in the field.
  • Ron Schaefer, in English, has done a marvelous job of developing international studies and conducting linguistics research, for which he has received National Science Foundation and Fulbright funding.
  • Margaret Simons, from the Department of Philosophy, has received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and is SIUE's first Vaughnie J. Lindsay Research Professor award winner, for her research focusing on the existential philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir.
  • Professor Urszula Ledzewicz, from Mathematics and Statistics, is examining the application of optimal control theory to chemotherapy treatments for cancer and AIDS with National Science Foundation funding and support from the Hoppe Research Professor award.
  • Department of Biological Sciences Professor F. Marian Smith, supported by the National Science Foundation, the Paul Simon Award, and the Hoppe Award, is nationally known for her work on a threatened species of plant that grows in the flood plains of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers.
  • Carole Frick, from the Department of Historical Studies, is working on her second book examining gender roles and material culture in Renaissance Florence.
  • In the School of Education, Yuliang Liu has received funding to support his research comparing on-line learning with face-to-face instruction.
  • Associate Professor Venessa Brown, from the Department of Social Work, is examining the correlation between levels of lead in children's blood and school achievement in the East St. Louis School District. Supported by a grant from SIUE's Institute for Urban Research, Professor Brown's work has significant implications regionally as well as nationally.
  • English Professor Allison Funk, SIUE Hoppe Award winner, has received national recognition for her poetry, while Michael Mishra, associate professor of Music, won first prize at the Vakhtang Jordania International Conducting Competition.
  • Marcia Maurer, dean of the School of Nursing, was selected as one of only 20 nurses nationwide this year to be a Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellow.
  • Among many stellar accomplishments in Music last year, John Bell led the SIUE Wind Symphony in a highly acclaimed performance at Carnegie Hall. And Reggie Thomas was a faculty member in the 2004 Lincoln Center Essentially Ellington Competition and Band Director Academy.
  • Through the efforts of Krzystof Jarosz, the Department of Mathematics and Statistics has for many years hosted international conferences on function spaces. These conferences have been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation.

I could go on about many more of you, but I think that you see my point that our faculty accomplishments are worthy of national recognition.

Our faculty and our students are supported by an excellent staff who maintain our beautiful campus and manage our systems. Our buildings are well kept, our grounds are well managed, and our offices are run by hard-working staff who exemplify our values day in and day out. Consider, for example, the contribution to the campus that the Morris University Center's $19 million renovation has made in enhancing community. Or the fact that we have an accredited Early Childhood Center that implements an innovative curriculum to provide excellent social and learning opportunities to the children of students, faculty and staff, as well as providing a learning environment for our early childhood majors in education. As I've walked through the offices of Human Resources, Health Service, Facilities Management, Purchasing, the Bookstore, University Relations and elsewhere on campus, I have been so impressed with the folks who support our student-centered university. They, along with our coaches, athletics personnel, campus recreation staff and others, support the learning environment of the campus by providing or enabling co-curricular support for our faculty and students. I could name many of them, but we all know who they are. One of them recently won the Degree Completion Award which supports our staff by allowing one full-time civil service or professional staff employee to complete his or her first baccalaureate degree as a full-time student each year. Kyle Stunkel from Facilities Management, who is now president-elect of the SIUE Staff Senate, received two semesters paid leave and a waiver of tuition for classes taken during the award period, and completed her degree in Business Administration/ Management Information Systems.

I also want to mention our students. Lisa Gooley, for example, is an extremely talented and highly motivated Sociology and Criminal Justice major who will graduate at the end of this semester. She was one of only 30 students in the nation recently accepted for an internship at the FBI academy in Quantico, Va. Jennifer Esker, who graduated in Physics in May, was twice a winner in the Phi Kappa Phi undergraduate paper competition and received the Richard F. Scharf Paragon Award as the Great Lakes Valley Conference's top individual based upon academic excellence, athletic ability and achievement, character, and leadership. She is now pursuing graduate study at Arizona State University. And Rob Nugent, an undergraduate Music major, has been selected as one of 10 finalists to take part in the World Saxophone Competition at the London Jazz Festival. Only two Americans have been selected to participate.

I mention these programs and people because I believe that now is the time to call attention to examples of excellence at SIUE. I mention these programs and people because now is the time to recognize ourselves for our excellence.

Just as excellence is not a question of all or nothing, neither is national recognition. Consider, for example, our academic reputation score in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings. This year U.S. News changed its methodology such that it now ranks former tier 1 and tier 2 Midwestern Master's Schools together. In this new arrangement, we are ranked by number for the first time. We rank 58 out of 72 universities. Fifty-eighth might not sound as good as we'd like until we realize three things. First, these schools are both public and private, and most of the factors in the rankings are heavily weighted for selectivity. In fact, only 25 of the 72 schools are public. Second, although we are now being ranked along with former tier 1 schools, only 15 of the 57 schools ranked higher than SIUE are public universities. Of these, only one is a metropolitan university. Third, when you turn your attention from overall rankings to peer rankings-what presidents, chancellors, provosts, and directors of admissions at those 72 schools said about all the others-our ranking climbs dramatically to 21st out of 72. In these peer rankings, only five of the 20 ranked above us are public institutions, and not one of those five is a metropolitan university. These peer reputation rankings suggest to me, and I want you to note with pride, that we are already recognized for having a top tier faculty.

I trust the examples of our excellence I have reported today demonstrate that our evolution as a university has already resulted in a transformation. Indeed, I want you to know that I am fully convinced that we already are a premier Metropolitan University. And I believe we should do what is necessary to gain national recognition for what we are. But if we truly seek to be recognized nationally as being premier, we must believe in ourselves to achieve that recognition.

SIUE is changing rapidly, and those who retired only a few years ago are likely to be astonished at just how much has changed. Last year, our enrollment increased 5 percent, the largest increase among all public universities in Illinois. And our enrollment growth since 2000, 1,300 new students, is composed entirely of full-time students.

The transformation that has occurred at Edwardsville has been accelerated by the addition of three residence halls. The campus has taken on a proportionately larger residential "feel" because the University is changing more rapidly from a commuter to residential campus than many people realize. Not only do 3,000 of our students live in university housing, but we also have more than 2,000 students who have left their parents' homes to live in nearby communities. Even though these students do not live on campus, they are full-time, away from home, and spend much more time on campus.

If one adds in the 2000 away-from-home students, these data demonstrate that our full-time undergraduate population is about 50 percent residential. And the increase in residential students has had a profound effect on the campus and the University. Our commitment to student-centeredness has resulted in an increase in co-curricular activities and campus involvement. Whereas in the not-too-distant past, the core campus would have been empty after 5 p.m., there are now large numbers of students finishing classes, walking to the residence halls and Cougar Village, going to Lovejoy Library, the Morris University Center, and Dunham Hall. The substantial number of residential students is part of the reason why the number of full-time equivalent students at SIUE now greatly exceeds the predictions of just a few years ago.

So, it is evident that SIUE is a markedly different institution from what it was just 10 years ago. Changes made then have affected our present. What we need to do now is to determine the path that we will take, the strategies that we will adopt, to achieve excellence to the fullest and attain national recognition. In short we must create an "intentional future." I believe that from now on, everything we do, every piece of official University literature, every public declaration about the University, should communicate the fact that we are a "premier Metropolitan University." I should emphasize that I realize this claim shifts the emphasis on discussions of our vision from "what is premier?" to what we need to become "nationally recognized." That, of course, is exactly what I intend. While I do not intend that we will no longer improve, nor that we will not ask ourselves what we must do to improve, we simply must devote more of our attention to the realization of our vision. We have a strategic plan to get us there, and we have wonderful long-term goals to emphasize as we move forward: engaged students and capable graduates; innovative high-quality programs; committed faculty and staff; harmonious campus climate; active community engagement; sound physical and financial assets; and excellent reputation. In fact, I have given you today a business card with the Vision, Values, and Mission of SIUE on it. THIS is the business of SIUE!

I want you to know that I am excited about SIUE. I am fortunate to have been chosen as your new chancellor and I count my role as both a great honor and responsibility. I believe in you. I know that we can continue to improve and, at the same time, I know we can achieve national recognition for what you have and will accomplish. In that quest, we will focus initially on three major themes.

First, we will further align our enrollment management program to attract a student population that is characteristic of a premier metropolitan University. We will focus on attracting and retaining increasingly better students who can be academically challenged by our fine faculty, while maintaining our commitment to diversity. Just as excellent students seek a well-prepared and committed faculty, an excellent faculty seeks well-prepared and committed students. This process has actually already begun. The average ACT score for the fall 2004 freshman class is 22.3. The national average ACT score for 2004 is 20.9, and the state average is 20.3. We will work with the Enrollment Management Council to align our resources committed to attract students who will develop into the "professional and community leaders" we seek. And, while we're working on our academic profile, we will put together a housing task force to assist us in achieving our enrollment management goals.

Second, we will strive to position SIUE as a premier Metropolitan University in the marketplace of ideas. In part that means that we will develop a carefully fashioned campaign to communicate who we are. To that end, we will survey stakeholders including faculty and staff, and various members of the external community. I will be asking you in the meetings I have scheduled about your impressions of SIUE. The questions will be designed to learn how we see ourselves and compare that to how the external community sees us. We will ultimately develop an integrated marketing plan to represent who we are, and we will consistently communicate it. I believe a consistently expressed message of who we are will assist us in achieving our vision. Reputation building will be an important theme.

Third, we need to develop our resource base. We cannot wait around for the economy to improve, or for the largesse of the state to achieve what we believe is some optimal or at least necessary level. While we are state assisted, we cannot say that the manifestation of our vision is solely dependent on the level of state funding. We are the writers, stakeholders and responsible owners of our vision. And we must prepare to achieve our vision with what we are given and with what resources we can raise to augment what we are given. We have done well with what we have been given. And we're going to tell people that we've not only done well, but we're going to do better. We'll need to convince our students, their parents, and friends of the University that we are committed to our vision, and that we will work hard to pursue all possible resources to accomplish our goals. If we do these things, I believe we will realize more grants, more contracts, and more funds raised from private, corporate and foundation donors.

I know that my first impressions omit many important issues and facts about our university. There is much more I could have said about the faculty, staff, and programs of the University. I am still learning about the uniqueness of SIUE, and as I said earlier, I will be meeting with you. I want to know more about what you think about these and other issues that impact on our future. Then, at a later date, I will return to discuss more of what I've learned and propose further steps we can take to achieve our vision.

I would like to close with a part of Dr. Sue Thomas' address to the New Freshman Convocation on Aug. 21. Her words apply to us all-especially to me. "Challenge yourself," she said, "-the old adage, 'you get out what you put in' absolutely holds true. Do what it takes just to get by and you set yourself up for a mediocre future. Push yourself and there is no limit to what you can achieve." I believe we should all take Dr. Thomas' advice to heart, just as our retirees here today have, just as the employees of the month we recognized today have and just as the others who have come before us.

The purposes of higher education lie in the fulfillment of human potential. We add value to people's lives. Since higher education is inherently a people business in the end, it is people who make the process successful. At SIUE we have wonderful people, clearly articulated values and goals, and a strong commitment to make our vision a reality.

To achieve our shared vision we need only to believe in ourselves, to believe in our life's work, and to believe in the strength of our university community. To actually achieve national recognition, our vision statement must be our institutional destiny. National recognition!

We start our quest now. We will make material progress by 2010. And we will achieve national recognition by 2015.

I invite all in our University Community to join us on this noble and exciting journey.

Thank you.

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