State of the University Address - Founders’ Day 2006
President Al Goldfarb - September 25, 2006
This year’s State of the University address is a bit more emotional and meaningful for me. As I recently announced (and to my amazement, it was covered in the media across the state), I will soon be undergoing surgical treatment for prostate cancer. I remain optimistic that I will return to work at the start of the spring semester ready to resume all of my presidential duties. I want to thank you personally for all of the good wishes Elaine and I have received. Please know that I cannot express fully my gratitude for everyone’s kind words, thoughts, and prayers.
My illness has made me again realize the great strength of Western Illinois University: its sense of family and community. Everyone at Western is a cherished member of the University and I have realized that the words of kindness are not because I am the president of Western but because I am a visible member of the University, Macomb and Quad Cities families. For that I am truly touched and honored.
This year will also be more meaningful for the entire University community because on June 25, 2007 – just 9 months away – we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Western Illinois State College becoming Western Illinois University by an act of the state legislature. The accomplishments of the past year and the goals for the coming year build on the great foresight of the faculty, staff, administrators and students who were on this campus half a century ago. They believed that Western Illinois would flourish as a university and provide even greater educational opportunities to its students. We have the responsibility to assure that we continue to build upon their dreams. And I believe we have.
This has been an outstanding year for Western. We have accomplished many of the action items found in “Higher Values in Higher Education,” and the key has been in our strength: strength in our commitment to accomplishing the goals within our strategic plan and strength in our passion for our university. And, as I will point out, we will continue to work on the actions within our plan in the coming year.
Demand for a Western Illinois University education is strong. On both campuses, we saw increases in student enrollment. We also saw increases in the number of minority students and international students. At Macomb, we set a target of 1,900 freshmen and exceeded it by about 20 students. At the Quad Cities we targeted growth, and there too we were successful. I want to thank the Admissions staff, everyone who traveled around the state for our winter open houses, and those served on the University committees focused on enrollment management. Please know how much I appreciate all of your hard work in our student recruitment efforts. It has paid off. In the coming year, we will continue to work on our planned growth, hoping eventually to have 12,500 students enrolled in Macomb and 3,000 students on our new campus in the Quad Cities.
Recognition for Western Illinois University remains strong nationally and regionally. We recently again received significant national recognitions from U.S. News and World Report and the Princeton Review. In keeping with our strategic plan’s vision, we want to be recognized as the leading master’s-granting public university in the United States. And we are not that far off; we continue to see increases in how our peer institutions as well as our students, and their families perceive our quality. Also, in over half of the 2006 National Survey of Student Engagement quality indicators, Western is above the national average of peer institutions.
Our institutional quality is reflected in our high-achieving, diverse student body. Today I want to start a new tradition and introduce you to some of the highest achieving freshman at our University. Beginning this year, Western implemented 10 new, four-year, all-inclusive Board of Trustees Scholarships for tuition, fees, room, and board. These scholarships are reserved for new students selected for not only their academic excellence but also for their leadership and contributions to their communities; these students reflect the values of Western’s Macomb and Quad Cities campuses. We will continue to add 10 new scholarships a year for the next three years until we have 40. Please join me in welcoming the scholarship recipients who are with us today. We know that you had many choices, and we are honored that you chose Western Illinois University.
It is clear that all of our outstanding students, faculty, and staff deserve premier facilities. Through our campus master planning activities, under the leadership of Assistant to the President Joe Rives and Assistant Director of Facilities Management Bill Brewer, and with great support of both campus communities, we are undertaking a number of facilities initiatives that will impact our campuses for years to come.
We received the architectural and planning funds for our new Performing Arts Center in Macomb – with the architectural firm Pfeiffer & Partners approved by the Capital Development Board two weeks ago – and for the first building on our new Riverfront Campus in the Quad Cities, where we continue to work with Peoria’s PSA-Dewberry. In Macomb, in the coming year, we will develop the plans for the new Multicultural Center and begin the addition to the Donald S. Spencer Student Recreation Center as well as the renovation of the student side of Hanson Field. We began installing fire sprinkler systems in our residence halls this summer and will continue to do so as quickly as possible. And the $12 million rehabilitation of Memorial Hall is fully under way.
In the coming year, we will lobby for the release of construction funds for the Performing Arts Center in Macomb and our first building on the new Riverfront Campus. We will also lobby for a statewide plan to restore funding for operating and maintaining our current facilities.
In keeping with “Higher Values in Higher Education,” we have undertaken a number of initiatives in order to improve sustainability on both of our campuses. We continue to utilize more energy efficient buses for GoWest. We expanded recycling on campus and established a Student Litter Patrol. We were the first public university in the state of Illinois to join the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. In the coming year, we have agreed to seek Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for our first building on the new Quad Cities Riverfront Campus, and we will apply LEED standards to new facilities in Macomb. We will also work on a plan for a centralized cooling system for the Macomb campus, and seek funding for its implementation and for other permanent improvements.
There have also been significant academic transformations during the last year, reflecting our commitment to our core value of academic excellence and the strengthening of our curricula. We received recognition for our new First Year Experience; the Illinois Board of Higher Education cited the program as a statewide best practice. Our summer orientation program completed a successful second year, and we have our first class of doctoral students in Educational Leadership. Because of our commitment to access in Macomb and the Quad Cities, we were one of only 13 institutions nationally to be selected a best practice institution for the retention of first generation and low-income students by the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Education.
All of our academic programs on both campuses were reinforced by participation in the American Democracy Project and campus theme programming, focusing on global challenges and personal responsibilities. These traditions will continue this year as we focus on global challenges and personal responsibilities in the area of cultural diversity.
This coming year we will engage in the nationally renowned Foundations of Excellence as part of the assessment of our First Year Experience program, and we will implement new undergraduate degree programs in emergency management and telecommunications management. We also plan to have a new Nursing program proposed to our Board of Trustees by the spring. In addition we hope to complete planning for a new Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences, an Executive MBA degree, and a Master’s of engineering management/technology for students at Western Illinois University-Quad Cities. We will also continue to serve students outside our region through our commitment to a strong BOT/BA, which we hope to make available as a complete on-line degree program in the coming year.
We remain strong in our commitment to find new funds to support departmental and campus initiatives, as well as to enhance Western’s reputation. We had a banner year in fundraising – reaching almost $6 million – and have begun work on our new comprehensive campaign. We have spent the past year developing the personnel and infrastructure for this campaign. This coming year we will actively enter into the quiet phase and hope to have many fundraising successes to announce.
The FY2007 operating budget approved by the General Assembly and Governor provided an $800,000 increase in state support, the first significant increase in several years. These funds and our prudent decisions allowed us to develop, maintain and enhance programs such as the First Year Experience, which, as I noted, was recognized as a statewide best practice by the Illinois Board of Higher Education. At the close of FY2006, we provided salary equity adjustments for many civil service and administrative professional employees and a 4.5 percent pay raise for FY2007. Providing faculty and staff with salaries that meet and exceed the mean of peer institutions is the University’s highest priority, and we are making significant progress in this area.
These efforts are important. At the core of any great university are a strong faculty and staff dedicated to academic excellence and helping students achieve personal and professional goals. We continue to focus on making certain that all hiring decisions provide the instructional and service support for which Western is well known. We will continue to focus on instructional and student service needs to support our planned and controlled growth.
While our successes are many, we also had some significant challenges during the last year. Yet our quick responses to these challenges again reflect the strength of our university’s communities. This summer we had a security breach in our computer networking system. While we do not believe any information was accessed, we have added new security hardware and software and will hire a security specialist to work with all technology organizations. We are also completing a university wide technology strategic plan.
Western Illinois University can and will provide state-of-the-art technologies, infrastructure, and security to help the University achieve its vision and mission, as well as to support its daily operations.
We improved a number of the distance learning classrooms in the Quad Cities and Macomb and expect to improve all before the end of the semester. We are developing plans to provide wireless access to all academic buildings in Macomb, while planning for innovative technology at our new Quad Cities Riverfront Campus. We have expanded our fiber loop to provide better access and more redundancy. And we will also focus on ways of bringing our two campuses together through enhanced technology and fiber connections. We will research and implement standardized email, calendaring, and groupware solutions for University students, faculty and staff on both campuses. We will carefully and systematically roll out these changes in the summer of 2007.
Deferred maintenance continues to be a major concern on both campuses and statewide. We confronted and resolved a major structural problem with the concrete panels on the exterior of Stipes Hall, and I appreciate all of the support from those individuals who work in the building. While we have not received state funds, we continue to try to allocate funds for deferred maintenance projects. Examples this past year in the Quad Cities were the remodeling for additional office space – a seemingly annual task – and cleaning the exterior of our current building on John Deere Road. We will spend the coming year working on addressing other deferred maintenance projects through reallocation, and we will also lobby the state for funds to help with the backlog.
While I have listed many of our successes and challenges, the heart of my message today is really about the strength of our communities. All of our accomplishments could not have been realized without the support of all of the campus constituencies.
Together, we have worked hard to maintain our outstanding programs, enhance others, and develop new initiatives.
Together, we have worked to increase enrollments, improve facilities and enhance salaries.
Together, we have witnessed and accomplished strong achievements in both Macomb and Moline in economic, educational, and community development. Congratulations to the City of Macomb on being ranked in the top 100 micropolitans by Business Journal. We believe that our partnership with Macomb is one of the key factors that resulted in this ranking. Congratulations also to the City of Moline and Renew Moline for receiving an award from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) for our collective work in economic development along the Mississippi River Urban Technology Corridor.
We have remained strong – even in the most difficult of budgetary times – by always keeping in mind Western’s core values of academic excellence, educational opportunity, personal growth, and social responsibility.
And, together, we have engaged in making Western Illinois University a greater institution of public higher education, building on the dreams of those who 50 years ago worked to transform Western into a “university.”
I look forward to rejoining you in January to celebrate Western’s 50th anniversary as a university as well as to celebrate all of our past year’s accomplishments and to work vigorously on this year’s goals, as we continue to advance the vision, mission, goals, and priorities of “Higher Values in Higher Education.” Thank you again both professionally and personally for all that you do for Western and for the great compassion you have exhibited for Elaine and me.