There’s a well-known saying: “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” We embarked on our journey for national recognition almost a decade ago as new mission, values, strategic goals and vision statements were developed. Our mission statement identifies SIUE as a “public comprehensive university dedicated to the communication, expansion and integration of knowledge through excellent undergraduate education as its first priority and complementary excellent graduate and professional academic programs…”.1 The Illinois Board of Higher Education Focus Statement further specifies that SIUE address “the social, economic, and health care needs of our region.”2
While our Mission and Focus statements describe our responsibilities as an institution, they alone do not define us. The five values of SIUE – wisdom, openness, integrity, citizenship, and excellence – emphasize the importance that we place on high quality student learning, continuous improvement and innovation, outstanding scholarship and public service, and standards consistent with the premier status to which we aspire. Similarly, our seven strategic goals: 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, emphasize that we participate and excel in actions that command national recognition.
Who we are as a University is emphasized in one recurring theme: Excellence. Excellence is one of our five stated values. Excellence is a responsibility designated in our Mission statement. Excellence is required of us as one of our strategic goals. And Excellence is explicitly stated as an expectation in the realization of our vision, which reads: “Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, as a premier metropolitan university, will be recognized nationally for the excellence of its programs and development of professional and community leaders.” In my first speech to the University in October 2004, I challenged us to make material progress toward achieving our Vision by 2010 and to fully achieve national recognition for excellence by 2015. I spoke then of creating an “intentional” future for SIUE by defining our journey as a University, as opposed to drifting on a course controlled solely by external events. I said at the conclusion of that speech: “I invite all in our University community to join us on this noble and exciting journey.”
A University that has a bold vision for national recognition must also be a University that believes it can attain such recognition. I’ve often said that our journey to national recognition would be realized not by seeking recognition for its own sake, but by doing the right things and doing them well. And doing the right things well has both enabled national recognition and catalyzed our advancement as a University. We see the results of our efforts in the pride we take in the accomplishments of our faculty and staff, and that inspires us to greater achievement. We see it in the value our Metro-East community places on our work and our contributions to the quality of life in this region. We see it in the expansion of our physical facilities. And we see it in the accomplishments of our students. We now have a student population better prepared to complete college level work upon arrival at the University. The Chicago Tribune3 recently listed SIUE as having the fourth highest freshman ACT average among all public universities in Illinois behind only U of I Urbana/Champaign, Illinois State University, and U of I Chicago. Our fall freshman class, with an average ACT of 22.4, is the largest we have ever enrolled, and they are part of the largest total student enrollment ever at SIUE at 14,235. Significantly, we have been able to accomplish both growth and the enrollment of academically well-prepared students, while maintaining our commitment to diversity. This fall 18 percent of our students are from underrepresented groups with all time highs in African-American (1777, 12.4 percent) and Latino (459, 3.2 percent) enrollments. As we have attracted more academically well-prepared students, we have seen more students designating SIUE as their first choice institution. The most recent data on our freshman class indicates over 70 percent selected SIUE as a first choice university while some 93 percent selected us as a first or second choice university4. Capable students who have made SIUE their first choice are far less likely to transfer to other institutions, and that has had a positive effect on our graduation rate. I am pleased to report that our six-year graduation rate for students entering in 2004 increased by 5 percent to 51.4 percent compared to 46.4 percent for students who had entered in the 2003 school year. Clearly when it comes to recruiting and retaining students, the results indicate that we are doing the right things and doing them well.
But let’s hear from students themselves about what we’re doing that’s causing them to choose SIUE!
Almost five years ago, we welcomed 2007 fully prepared for the 50th anniversary celebration of the “e”. We celebrated our transition from a branch campus to a University proud to be part of the SIU system, and we honored the founders and builders of our University by recommitting to our vision to be nationally recognized. We sharpened our focus on Excellence to include an emphasis on providing students the support required to come to class prepared to learn. Learning may not be possible if, for example, a student has an unmet need for tutoring, advising, or counseling services. We recognized that we could not control all of what happens in the lives of our students, but we should control what we can. We planned for a new Student Success Center – subsequently opened in Fall 2009 – to combine the student academic support services of Academic Advising, Student Opportunities for Academic Results, the Honors Program, and Instructional Services with the student personal support services of Disability Support Services, Career Development Center, Counseling and Health Services, International Student Services, and the Kimmel Leadership Center – to create a collaborative, responsive and creative resource area for students to meet their learning and personal needs. In 2008, following the recommendation of a task force, we announced that Academic Advising would become a University-wide program with professional advisors assigned to all the Schools and the College of Arts and Sciences. All SIUE students now have their progress tracked by advisors whose sole responsibilities will be to work with students to enable graduation, thereby allowing faculty more time to serve as mentors. To enhance faculty opportunities for mentoring, in 2009 we modified the Undergraduate Research Academy to create the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities program (URCA). The URCA program offers nearly 200 scholarly experiences each year for students working with faculty in research and creative activities across the University. We also spent considerable time examining the teacher/scholar model for SIUE faculty to enable a clearer representation of who we are as a University and to define the role we play in higher education. This fall we further expanded the concept of service to students through our “Connections NOW” project that is part of our Academic Quality Improvement Program process associated with our institutional accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission. Through Connections NOW, staff members will participate in service-oriented training to better enable an appropriate learning environment for our students, and improve the working environment for ourselves.
Our fourth residence facility, Evergreen Hall, completed in 2007, increased our on-campus housing capacity to about 3,500 students, solidifying our classification by the Carnegie Commission on the Advancement of Teaching as a primarily residential university. We both accommodated those on our housing wait list to fill Evergreen Hall, and expanded the size of our freshman class by about 300 students. During the past several years, we have been able to manage our overall enrollment growth by one to two percent per year through larger freshman classes and increases in well-prepared transfer students, including those from dual-admission programs now in place with Southwestern Illinois College and Lewis & Clark Community College. Our four consecutive years of record enrollments have enabled us to maintain a continuously strong financial position. Despite the recent difficult economic times, we made a commitment to our University community by not furloughing or laying off employees, and, in fact, were able to provide our committed faculty and staff with salary increases. We added faculty positions where growth demanded it, maintaining our student-to-faculty ratio at 17 to 1. During the period from 2001 to 2011, we increased our student credit hour production by 25 percent and the size of our faculty by 25 percent, while increasing staff positions by 13 percent. This increase in efficiency helped enable us to provide those salary increases, bringing salaries more in line with peer institutions and improving morale. We also significantly increased the stipends of our graduate students, placing us competitively among other master’s-granting institutions in the state. And we have not forgotten our commitment to graduate programs in other ways. Through our Strategic Advancement of Graduate Education initiative, we were able to identify new graduate programs to serve the needs of the region, including the new Doctor of Nursing Practice and Doctor of Education in School Administration programs that began this Fall.
We have also grown in recognition through the accomplishments of faculty and staff. This year at $34M, SIUE is ranked sixth among all 553 public and private master’s comprehensive universities nationally for research expenditures and our commitment to public service.5 A significant portion of these expenditures is for work we do for our region at the East St. Louis Higher Education Center. It is appropriate that we be recognized for the work we do at the Center, from Early Head Start to the Charter School. This represents the highest form of regional service. And we add to this service through the work we do for those in need at our School of Dental Medicine Clinic averaging over 32,000 patient visits each year. In FY 11, nearly 40 percent of the SIUE tenured and tenure-track faculty applied for grants. More than $6 million was awarded for 115 research grants from agencies including the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. And in scholarly endeavors, our faculty and professional staff produced 1,098 peer-reviewed books, papers, professional presentations and performances in just the last year!
Our journey for national recognition has included a re-examination of our athletics program. In 2000 a task force recommended that we target several of our sports for enhancement, as we sought to be more competitive in NCAA Division II. The task force further recommended that we re-examine our commitment to Athletics in five years. This was accomplished by a second task force that began its work in 2005, and issued its report to the campus in 2006. This task force received input from constituency groups and the broader community, and considered options including remaining at NCAA Division II, blending Division I and II, or moving to Division I. During this process it became apparent that while our students, staff, faculty and alumni were competing nationally at the highest levels, only our athletics program was not. A University seeking national recognition for excellence must allow all of its programs to compete at the highest level. Based on this conviction and following my recommendation, the Board of Trustees approved our NCAA reclassification efforts in 2007. Subsequently, we became a member of the Ohio Valley Conference and an affiliate member of the Missouri Valley Conference in men’s soccer and the Southern Conference in wrestling. While we have been engaged for several years in the Division I certification process, our student athletes have earned cumulative GPAs of 3.0 or higher among all sports for 10 consecutive semesters, and our staff and coaches have fielded teams who have represented us well. Last spring, I commissioned a group of 43 faculty, students, staff and administrators to prepare the self-study, now posted online on the chancellor’s home page. The upcoming certification visit on Oct. 11-13 will be very important to our future as NCAA officials examine the results of SIUE’s self-study, confirming our commitment to both academic and athletic excellence. The support we received from the campus and the community has been invaluable to this endeavor, and we expect to be certified as an NCAA Division I institution by July 1, 2012.
National recognition cannot be achieved without a well-established identity or brand. The public can only recognize you for what you are if they know who you are. In 2004, I pledged to position us appropriately in the marketplace of ideas by developing “a carefully fashioned campaign to communicate who we are.” In the fall of 2005, we initiated the “e” brand, consisting of the letters SIU followed by a bold, edgy, vibrant and energetic red “e”. This contemporary brand ties well to our quest for and commitment to excellence. We are now in the seventh year of our brand, and it has successfully been established as representing SIUE and expressing who we are. We expanded our brand in 2007 by establishing a new Cougar logo, timed to the initiation of our NCAA Division I certification process; and last year we introduced the Eddie the Cougar mascot and a new SIUE fight song composed by our own faculty, which will be played on campus as we develop new NCAA Division I traditions. The success of the SIUE brand is now apparent, and is not only popular in our own bookstore, but is found widely in retail establishments throughout the region on racks next to articles identifying other major universities. Our recent brand perception audit confirms that our regional business and opinion leaders are increasingly more familiar with SIUE. Civic Progress, the most prominent business development group in St. Louis, and the Executive Committee of the Regional Chamber and Growth Association of St. Louis, added me as an ex officio member on their boards to represent you on matters that directly reflect on the growth and development of our region. And SIUE has won the Top 50 Award from the St. Louis RCGA for the last four years, in recognition of our contributions to the region.
Our alumni are also enhancing our recognition for their accomplishments as professional and community leaders nationally. Take for instance Paige St. John who received a bachelor of science in mass communications in 1986 and recently won the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting; Joyce Slocum, a 1978 sociology major who is interim president and CEO of National Public Radio; Bill Plaschke, a 1980 graduate with a bachelor of science in mass communications who is a member of ESPN’s Around the Horn program; or, Fernando Aguirre, a bachelor of science in business administration and marketing graduate of 1980, who is president and CEO of Chiquita Brands International. These remarkable alumni work alongside many other productive SIUE graduates, all of whom see the value of their degree increasing every year as SIUE’s national reputation for excellence grows.
These alumni feel strongly about their connection to SIUE…and are willing to serve as our ambassadors (Aguirre and Mercurio). Let’s take a look.
Our journey to national recognition has also focused on our physical facilities. Since 2004, we have constructed the School of Pharmacy, Evergreen Hall, the Student Success Center, the Student Fitness Center addition, the School of Dental Medicine Clinic Extension, the secondary computer center, and the Early Childhood Center addition. Further, we have renovated Peck Hall, Lovejoy Library, Korte Stadium, the University Bookstore, the Baseball Clubhouse and Locker Facility, and the Environmental Resources Training Center. Buildings under construction include the Science Building, the Art and Design Building, the Engineering Addition, the Lukas Athletics Annex to the Vadalabene Center, the Indoor Softball Practice Facility, and the dental simulation laboratory. We have also designated a 380-acre nature preserve on the campus and significantly developed the 30-acre Gardens at SIUE, in addition to making numerous infrastructure improvements in roads and in buildings in which we work. These improvements total more than $250 million. As we have grown, the economic impact of SIUE on the region has increased. We published our first economic impact statement, and instituted our first SIUE Day to enhance community support in 2005. Our economic impact on the region increased from $356 million per year in 2005 to $471 million per year in 2010. And for every state dollar spent, we generate $7 of economic impact in the local economy.
Defining Excellence – The Campaign for SIUE, our first capital campaign, was initiated in 2007 to support the realization of our vision. Our growth has been challenged as state funding has declined from 46 percent of our operating budget in fiscal year 1999 to 26 percent in fiscal year 2011. To compensate for the state funding shortfall, the University’s tuition increased from 17 percent of our total costs to 30 percent, substantially raising the financial burden on our students and their families. Private gifts solicited by the Defining Excellence campaign increase funding for scholarships, endowed professorships and other programs to help attract the best students and faculty. We officially kicked off the public phase of the campaign to raise $50 million last spring and to date, we have received $29 million.
Let’s watch this video where members of the SIUE family are saying “yes” to our Defining Excellence campaign.
Our journey to national recognition for the excellence of our programs and development of professional and community leaders has borne significant results. Recently G.I. Jobs ranked us among the top 20 percent of universities nationally for our military friendly programs. And the Corporation for National and Community Service named SIUE to the 2011 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with distinction, largely for student services performed in conjunction with our Kimmel Leadership Center. Last year, Washington Monthly magazine included master’s universities in its national rankings for the first time. And both last year and again this year, SIUE landed in the top 50 (2010, 46th, and 2011, 48th) out of 553 private and public master’s universities nationally. That’s in the top 10 percent! What’s remarkable about the rankings is that if one considers just universities in Illinois, SIUE is ranked number one out of all 20 public and private master’s universities. The Washington Monthly analysis is the only one of which I am aware that compares all public and private masters’ universities nationally in the same category. The Washington Monthly rankings are substantially different from the U.S.News and World Report rankings which I will discuss later. Here is what Washington Monthly says, “……. our rankings have posed a different question: What are colleges doing for the country? Higher education, after all, isn’t just important for undergraduates. We all benefit when colleges produce groundbreaking research that drives economic growth, when they offer students from low income families the path to a better life, and when they shape the character of future leaders. And, we all pay for it, through hundreds of billions of dollars in public subsidies. Everyone has a stake in how that money is spent. That’s why one-third of each college’s score on our rankings are based on social mobility: How committed are they to enrolling low income students and helping them earn degrees? Our second category looks at research publication and success at sending undergraduates onto Ph.D. degrees. Finally we give great weight to service. It’s not enough to help students look out for themselves. The best colleges will encourage students to give something back.”6 I should add that SIUE is ranked number one in the nation in work-study funds spent on student service.
With regard to U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges of 2012 Rankings, for the eighth consecutive year SIUE is listed among the top 15 master’s comprehensive public institutions in the Midwest region. And for the third consecutive year we are listed among only 46 up-and-coming institutions in the entire nation for innovative changes in academics, faculty, student life, campus and facilities. We are tied for fifth in the Midwest.
How is it that SIUE does well in the Washington Monthly rankings that emphasize service and contributions to the success of students and the U.S.News and World Report’s rankings that are based more on resources and reputation? I believe that it is our unique sense of community as an institution that has enabled this recognition, as we continue to work together to do the right things well. Consider for example the current initiative termed the SIUE Experience, borne out of a collaborative effort between Student Affairs and Academic Affairs. The goal is to promote a common experience for all SIUE freshmen. The Experience seeks to expand our sense of community and connectedness for residential and commuter students and cultivate student values using classroom and experiential learning activities; providing opportunities for guiding student reflection; developing a common language for faculty, staff, and students to understand and subscribe to our values, supporting the “We are One” campaign. Along with the rest of the University, students must promote and foster a climate of openness, valuing and respecting all members of our community regardless of their backgrounds. The main avenue for achieving this SIUE Experience will be the restructured Freshman Seminar courses designed to meet the expectations of the Lincoln Plan. To enable this, a core group of faculty and staff, committed to the goals of the new freshman seminar courses, are currently engaged in conceptualizing course materials and activities that will enhance the freshman experience. It is anticipated that this initiative will also contribute to our efforts to improve retention and graduation rates.
There are more steps forward in our journey toward national recognition by 2015. We will increase our commitment to international studies to promote faculty and student exchanges. We will also soon make decisions about new residence facilities. We had a wait list of 277 students whom we could not accommodate in residence halls this fall, and we need to consider fraternity and sorority housing, a desirable part of campus life for more and more of our students. We also must continue to develop our honors program to make it more competitive with other premier metropolitan universities, as well as increase the number of online courses and programs consistent with providing differing learning environments suitable to the needs of our students. Focusing on student retention, we need to develop new baccalaureate degree programs in the health and human sciences and in integrative studies for those who do not have a path to graduation, should they not pursue one of our professional degree programs. We will also construct a nursing building to accommodate growth in the nursing program. Additionally, we must prepare for the coming emphasis on performance based funding, by continuing our planning and commitment to continuous improvement through retention initiatives that foster student success.
Despite the economic pitfalls that the United States’ economy and the Illinois economy have experienced in the past several years, SIUE has been able to grow and flourish. And I believe our journey for national recognition will continue unabated. For the United States to be competitive, emphasis is being placed on producing more associate degrees, more baccalaureate, and more advanced degrees nationwide, reflecting a desire for a better educated country. In the knowledge economy, thinking is working. The intellectual environment of universities both reflects and affects society and thus contributes to American democracy. That is why residential campuses, including those that also serve commuting students such as SIUE, will continue to exist. And it is why the public, through state and federal support, must maintain a great public university system in America. SIUE will continue to be part of that system and a beacon for the region we serve, gaining national recognition for the excellence of our programs and the professional and community leaders weproduce.
All of you here contributed to the journey I have benchmarked today. I will ask you all now to stand. In this speech, I have not named individuals for specific recognition. Today I want to recognize everyone!
Thanks for all you’ve done. The journey continues!
Over the course of my career, I have worked closely with many colleagues who reached the point where they faced decisions about the next phase in the journeys of their lives. I’ve often said on those occasions “life has its transitions.” Now as I contemplate my 65th birthday and consider the paths I’ve taken in higher education since I began in 1974, I realize just how fortunate I have been. To have worked in a profession dedicated to the fulfillment of human potential, to be part of adding value to people’s lives, and to have helped educate some of the last two generations of citizens of our great democracy, has been a tremendous privilege and honor for me. In particular, to have been part of this great University, to not only have been afforded the benefit of appreciating all of its component parts, but to actually have been given the responsibility to effect change toward the realization of its vision for national recognition is something I would never have imagined possible earlier in my life. All of this and much more has been granted to me. By you!!! I sincerely thank each and every one of you for the support you have afforded me in our journey together. For the times I let you down, I apologize. Where we were able to work together to advance SIUE, well, I appreciate all you did. And thanks, too, for doing all this while living the five values of SIUE and believing in the sense of community that is the hallmark of our University.
I also want to thank Sue for always believing in me and for supporting SIUE so well as our First Lady. So, I have reached that point in life where there are transitions for me as well. I will now follow my six chancellor predecessors to become one of SIUE’s biggest supporters. Having been here for the celebration of the 50th anniversary, and on our way to the 100th, I know the successes of SIUE have only begun. And I know there is a leader out there who, as I have been, will be most fortunate to be your chancellor – a leader who will work with you to enable SIUE to rise to the next level of excellence. You’ve often heard me say since my arrival: “if Sue and I are lucky, we will retire from SIUE.” Well that good fortune will begin July 1, 2012. But we will always be with you. And we will always be Cougars!!
Go Big e - Go Cougars!!!
1Excerpt from University Mission Statement (adopted 2002)
2Excerpt from Illinois Board of Higher Education Focus Statement (approved 1997)
3Chicago Tribune, August 31, 2011 edition
42010 Freshman Survey Cooperative Institutional Research Program Higher Education Research Institute
5, 6Washington Monthly, September-October 2011 edition