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Vaughn Vandegrift
Vaughn Vandegrift
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Report to the University
Increasing the Momentum for National Recognition

by SIUE Chancellor Vaughn Vandegrift


October 17, 2006
Meridian Ballroom, Morris University Center


Good afternoon! Fifty years ago, our predecessors were busily preparing for the exciting beginning of SIUE. They could not have imagined that today the SIU School of Dental Medicine, one of the premier dental schools in the country, the East St. Louis campus, which serves as a national model for how universities can empower people and strengthen communities, and our central campus, which has emerged and matured on the beautiful bluffs and fields of Edwardsville, would all be part of our university.

SIUE has come a long way and we are thriving. We are the only Metropolitan University in Southern Illinois, serving the second-largest metropolitan area in the state. We have a vision for national recognition. And this past year, we've enjoyed national recognition like never before! We've faced our challenges with the same perseverance and positive spirit that have shaped our history and our culture. And our future is brighter than ever. In a word, The "e" has momentum.

You can feel that momentum on campus. It can be felt in the construction of the new residence hall; in the renewed beautification and signage on the campus; in the second entering class of our pharmacy school, and in the freshmen reading Barbara Ehrenreich's book, Nickeled and Dimed, as part of the new Chancellor's Literary Society. Yes, it can even be felt in the parking problems, which will result in new parking lots on campus next fall. As I walk the campus and talk to students, I find they are excited to be here, anxious to learn, and proud to be receiving an SIUE education. And, as I speak with faculty and staff, I find they, too, are positive about our progress, and optimistic about our future. The momentum has faculty, staff, and students proudly wearing SIUE shirts and driving cars with SIUE bumper stickers. Our sense of community and pride is showing and growing!

As we continue to gain momentum to achieve our vision for national recognition by 2015, it's important that we remember to stop and celebrate successes and milestones along the way. SIUE has a rich and colorful history. In 2007, we will celebrate our 50th birthday. A year of celebration is being planned that will include an official birthday party on Sept. 29. Mark your calendars! You will all be invited. Dixie Engelman, SIUE Dean Emerita and Associate Professor Emerita, is chairing the 50th Anniversary Planning Committee. Dixie, please stand and be recognized. Thank you for your continued service and support.

The "e" has progressed through the hard work of so many. Dr. Ellen Nore, Associate Professor Emerita of Historical Studies, is writing the official history highlighting SIUE's first 50 years. Dr. Nore, please stand and be recognized. Ellen, thank you for your creative work and thanks to the many who have participated in interviews that will be used to make our history come to life. We look forward to reading your book next year.

As I enter my third year at SIUE, I again want to acknowledge everyone here today and offer my personal thanks to all our faculty and staff for your kindness, openness, friendship and support of Sue and me. I wish Sue could be with us today. Deciding between my speech or visiting our granddaughter in London was apparently not a difficult choice! I also want to thank SIU President Glenn Poshard and our SIU Board of Trustees for the support we have received. In addition, I want to thank the retirees here today. You have enriched the University with your knowledge, experience, expertise and continued support. Thanks, also, to our community leaders. You have done so much to perpetuate our success. The good work and advice of all of you, given through town hall meetings, open forums, and through suggestions made by students, faculty, staff, community leaders, and legislators, have made SIUE a better place and a better neighbor.

For the second consecutive year, U.S.News & World Report named SIUE among America's Best Colleges for our Senior Assignment Program, our integrative learning experience required of all seniors prior to graduation. SIUE again joins the ranks of 15 elite universities on the list-including Yale, Harvard, MIT, Duke and Princeton. Our Psychology Department received one of four national 2006 awards for Institutional Progress in Student Learning Outcomes from the Council of Higher Education Accreditation. The Princeton Review named SIUE among the best MBA programs in the world accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) in its guide "The Best 282 Business Schools". And, we continue to be ranked in the top tier of Midwestern master's universities by U.S.News & World Report. This year only 11 public universities in our sector are ranked higher, and we are ranked 55 out of 142 institutions overall. And, with the number of SIUE undergraduate students living on campus, the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education now classifies SIUE a "primarily residential university," a classification that should be solidified by the completion next fall of Evergreen Hall. SIUE's University Housing has been awarded the 2006 Commitment to Excellence Award for demonstrated dedication to continuous quality improvement by Educational Benchmarking Inc., an international assessment and analysis firm.

As we advance toward achieving our vision, we will continue to measure progress on our seven strategic long-term goals:

  1. Engaged students and capable graduates;
  2. Innovative high-quality programs;
  3. Committed faculty and staff;
  4. Harmonious campus climate;
  5. Active community engagement;
  6. Sound physical and financial assets; and
  7. Excellent reputation.

These goals, developed in 2003, have been reported on each year and can be accessed on the SIUE Web site. The president and Board of Trustees have asked me to report on the incremental progress toward meeting these goals at the Board of Trustees meetings. Consistent with this commitment, the Provost has instituted a new collaborative process of strategic planning involving the Provost's Office, the academic Deans, and academic support and outreach units in order to improve the alignment of our goals with those of the President and Board of Trustees. This process is intended to ensure better planning, program development, and fiscal accountability. We must hold ourselves accountable for fulfilling our goals and achieving our vision.

Following the recent national report by Secretary of Education Margaret Spelling's Commission on the Future of Higher Education, calling for universities to enhance access and success, affordability and institutional transparency and accountability, it is important for the public we serve to know that at SIUE we are demonstrating continuous improvement. The public reports to the Board of Trustees will assist us in explaining how we are being accountable to the public trust.

Central to SIUE's future is our focus on enrollment management. And, the results indicate that we are gaining a reputation as a first-tier, first-choice University. Our students come from 101 of 102 Illinois counties, 44 states, and 46 nations. In 1995, 67 percent of our students were age 19-24. Today, 83 percent of our students fall into that age category. Five years ago, we had 2,800 campus visits by prospective students. Last year there were almost 10,000 campus visits. In the past 10 years, student applications have increased by almost 50 percent. The number of freshman applicants in fall 2006 was 5,800-an all-time high. And, our incoming new freshmen class of 1,794 is the largest since 1970. The average freshman ACT score for fall 2006 is 22.8, up from 21.9 in 2003. And, we continue to attract a diverse student population.

This fall, 223 of our freshman students - or 12.4 percent of this group - are part of a minority population. Of our total enrollment of 13,449 students, 11,205 attend SIUE full-time; an increase of 1,081 full-time students from fall 2002. The number of students who apply for academic scholarships at The e has doubled over the past few years. The average ACT score of this year's Chancellors' and Presidential scholarship recipients was 30. At this time I would like to recognize our freshmen Presidential and Chancellor's scholars who are in attendance today. These individuals exemplify our high-achieving student population for 2006-2007. Please stand and be recognized. Congratulations!

This fall we turned away more than 200 students who had to attend their second-choice university because we did not have room in the residence halls. Given that we have more freshman students who want to attend SIUE than we can accommodate, students will need to be academically well prepared to enroll as freshmen. The increased competition for admission to The e means we must think anew about our traditional commitment to access to an SIUE degree. The purpose of access is not attendance, it is graduation. Access means access to a degree. We must admit students who are ready to succeed. If students are not ready to enter the university and succeed, we must assist them by developing an approach to access that reflects the reality of our progression as a university, as well as that of our partner institutions in the region.

Fortunately, we have excellent community colleges that enable students to enter SIUE. These include students who seek to drive down the total cost of their undergraduate degrees, as well as those who need to strengthen their academic preparation prior to enrollment at the University. Dual freshman admissions programs with community colleges, where the colleges and SIUE cooperate programmatically, can enhance opportunities for an SIUE degree. Enhancing the transfer process can also increase access. This fall we welcomed 1,347 transfer students to this campus. More than 1,000 came from community colleges. As the two major providers of transfer students who become SIUE graduates, I believe we should build on our already strong relationships with Southwestern Illinois College and Lewis and Clark Community College. Dr. Elmer Kirchoff, president of Southwestern Illinois College, and Dr. Dale Chapman, president of Lewis and Clark Community College, are with us today. Please stand and be recognized for your contributions to higher education. We will work with these Presidents and their staffs on dual admission programs, increasing the transparency of course content at our institutions of higher learning, and devising means by which our respective faculty and staff members can better assist each other in providing opportunities to students. In this fashion we can maintain our long-standing commitment to access to an SIUE degree, even as we realize our vision to be nationally recognized for the excellence of our programs.

Once students enroll as freshmen or transfer students, we need to do more to help them graduate. We want our students to graduate in four years. And, we want our graduates to possess the skills necessary to be productive citizens and add to the vibrancy of our regional economy. Yet our graduation rate is among the lowest among the top-tier sector of universities in which we are ranked. We need to focus on our students and the quality of our programs from initial enrollment to graduation. Beginning in summer 2007, at least one residence hall will be open to promote summer school enrollment, thus giving students more options in an attempt to improve four-year graduation rates. We plan to update our summer teaching schedule and aggressively recruit for summer school, to enable students to take full advantage of the state's four-year guaranteed tuition rate.

As we have achieved national recognition for our senior capstone experience, so must we continue to focus on improving the overall student learning experience at SIUE. Our campus BRIDGE General Education Reform Committee, led by the Faculty Senate and chaired by Professor Erik Ruckh, has made excellent progress in the reform of our general education requirements, and we expect the proposals to be discussed at a day-long faculty meeting held March 29, 2007. In addition to general education, requirements are being designed and implemented to influence the onset of the collegiate experience through the development of Freshman Seminar courses. Our curricular redesign from Freshman Seminar to general education will better enable students to demonstrate proficiency through our celebrated Senior Assignment program.

SIUE is an economic engine committed to helping our region grow. An economic impact study published this year, led by three of our faculty; Dr. Rik Hafer, Dr. John Meisel and Dr. Timothy Sullivan, attests to that fact. In FY05, SIUE's total regional economic impact was $356 million. For every state tax dollar we received, we generated $5 total spending in the local economy. More than 100,000 visitors attended SIUE sporting events, conferences, and performances or visited our students on campus. These visitors added $43 million to the local economy. SIUE's economic impact is significant. And, we look forward to partnering with our community, business, and industry for growth in the years to come. As one example, the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center, located in SIUE's University Park, continues to lead the way in bridging technical innovations from research to plant operations, paving the way for entrepreneurial industries engaged in biotechnology. The expansion of fuel markets to include the use of renewable resources, such as corn, has become a national priority and has sparked national media coverage. This past May, the state granted $4 million to the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center for research and capital improvements, further solidifying its importance on a regional and national scale. Also this year, a $600,000 National Science Foundation grant was awarded to the School of Pharmacy to fund a study with the NCERC. This is another example of the ability of our departments and schools to collaborate on projects that will further enhance knowledge and foster economic development.

Our impressive research faculty continues bringing in over $22 million per year from a variety of Federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Over $12 million in state, federal and private grants is attributed to the East St. Louis Center for programs such as Early Head Start, Upward Bound, the Charter School and TRIO. Taken together, the SIUE Graduate School ranks among the top 10 percent of all higher education institutions in the U.S., receiving federal funding for research and development as reported in the SIUE Economic Impact brochure. This is impressive for a Masters-level University.

In addition to economic outreach, we will focus on educational outreach, particularly through our master's programs. In the last three years, our overall graduate enrollment has declined as more competing institutions have moved into or expanded services in surrounding communities, providing convenient locations for course offerings. Graduate School Dean Steve Hansen is taking the lead in determining how we maintain our traditional role as the leader in providing post-baccalaureate education to professionals in our region. While we may be near capacity in undergraduate enrollments, we do have graduate capacity. We must make enhancing our graduate offerings a priority for the Metro East.

In the past, I have spoken of the importance of expanding our resource base. Active discussions regarding differential tuition for new freshmen at the undergraduate level and additional student fees are in progress in the University Planning and Budget Council. SIUE has the lowest tuition and required fees of all the public four-year institutions in Illinois, and our rates will continue to be attractive to prospective students. With regard to facilities, our first priority is a new Science Building. We've received $3 million from the state of Illinois for the planning and design of renovations to the current Science Building and the construction of a new Science Laboratory Building. The new Science Laboratory Building will allow us to attract more students, retain students and faculty, and ease our current lab space problem. In fact, the lack of a new science building is the single most important factor limiting the future growth of SIUE.

The Science Building is one building among others in our proposed Facilities Master Plan. The proposed plan will be featured in the Goshen Lounge following this speech. This long-range Master Plan sets a course for SIUE's future development. It includes a continued commitment to green space with ample parking on the perimeters of campus and a pedestrian-friendly core campus. The integrity of the original architecture and building design will be respected as we grow. Bear in mind that the Master Plan only proposes the sites of future buildings; it does not place any priority order on when they would be constructed. Review and comment sessions regarding the Master Plan will be held on campus before it is submitted to the Board of Trustees and President Poshard.

We are a state-assisted University, and we appreciate the strong support of our legislators. But in order to accomplish anything above and beyond the basics, we must expand our resources with philanthropic dollars. And for The e, philanthropy begins at home! Last month, we enjoyed our first SIUE Day, which will become an annual event. On SIUE Day, faculty and staff show their dedication and support of the University by donating to specific programs and services, and then we approach businesses in the community and ask them to follow suit. I am pleased to announce that 564 faculty and staff, fully 25% of our full-time work force, and 30 local businesses participated in our inaugural year, raising a total of almost $109,000. We expect that every year this dollar amount and the number of people participating will increase. The fact that our own faculty and staff are committed to financial support of the University sends a powerful message as we prepare for a comprehensive fundraising campaign. And we expect to have our case statement for the campaign completed and the campaign organized by the end of the academic year.

2006 was a banner year for our athletes and a year of firsts for our Intercollegiate Athletics teams. The SIUE Athletics program finished fourth nationally among the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II schools in the U.S. Sports Academy Directors' Cup. Year after year, it becomes more obvious that athletics at SIUE help us to achieve our long-term goal of fostering an harmonious student-centered campus characterized by integrity, cooperation, open dialogue, and mutual respect among individuals with different backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives.

The Intercollegiate Athletics Task Force, a committee charged last fall to study the future of our athletics program, is completing its examination of the future of our Intercollegiate Athletics program. The committee considered the pros and cons of three options for intercollegiate athletics: enhancing further participation in Division II: combining Division II with some Division I programs; and participating at the Division I level in all of our sports. The committee will post its findings on the SIUE Web site and will conduct hearings to obtain feedback. It's important to know that one of the three options currently being examined will be chosen and the funding will come primarily from student fees and community support-not from state funds. Following input from students, faculty, staff and the community, I will make a recommendation to the President and SIU Board of Trustees by the spring semester this year. This is a critical decision for the University and I encourage all to participate fully in the discussion. I'd like to thank the task force, led by Dean Gary Giamartino, for its hard work and commitment to this important University effort.

I am often asked: What does it mean to be a premier Metropolitan University? A premier Metropolitan University earns recognition for the quality of its programs and continually strives for excellence, while contributing to the intellectual and cultural vitality, social well being, and economic development of the region. SIUE meets this description. We are also premier in the range of undergraduate and graduate degrees in the College of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering; and Nursing, as well as professional degrees in Pharmacy and Dental Medicine, all supported by our excellent Lovejoy Library. We are the only public Master's level university in Illinois with this unique combination of liberal arts and professional programs. In fact, we are unique among master's degree institutions in the United States due to the range of degrees we offer. Our College of Arts and Sciences delivers over 60 percent of our semester credit hours and most of our majors. The defining statement of what characterizes us as a premier metropolitan university is that we are: The Liberal Arts and Professional Studies University in Illinois.

As a premier Metropolitan university, our goal of national recognition is appropriate: We do not seek national recognition for its own sake, but rather as a consequence of hard work, dedication to excellence, and accomplishments that follow from doing the right things well. That is our intentional future for SIUE. You may have heard me say it before and I'll say it again: The purpose of higher education lies in the fulfillment of human potential. We add value to people's lives.

Last year, I said our glass was more than half full. This year, it has been filled even more. In 2005, we had well over 2,500 media stories about SIUE placed in local, regional, and national publications and electronic media outlets. When I first arrived on campus in 2004, you told me we were the best kept secret in the Midwest. My response to you was: Not any more! We are no longer the best-kept secret. We are telling our story and getting the word out about our quality programs and graduates.

As our momentum continues, you will each play an integral role in achieving our vision. I'm reminded of a quote by Theodore Roosevelt: "We cannot do great deeds unless we are willing to do the small things that make up the sum of greatness."

In closing, I'd like to share with you our two television commercials that are currently airing in the St. Louis Metro and Metro East areas.

Our tagline is excellence in education. As our two student stars so beautifully demonstrate, excellence means dedication, perseverance, and passion. Those student stars are Tyler Davis, who was not able to join us today, and Christopher Rigdon, who is enrolled in a doctoral program at Arizona State University. Thanks to Tyler and Christopher for being such tremendous representatives of our talented and intelligent student body.

And now just so we don't forget …

Yes, 2005-2006 can be summed up in one word: momentum. The wheel has been set in motion, and The e is on a roll.

Thank you for joining us today. In the months ahead, I look forward to hearing more from you in our Open Forums, luncheons, and in my individual discussions with you. I appreciate your dedication and support as together we lead SIUE into its next half-century.

Go Cougars!