Clearly our transition to become the second largest campus in the Texas Tech University System (TTUS) has been of overarching importance. Our campus hosted the TTUS Board of Regents retreat in September, allowing us to showcase our extraordinary instructional and research facilities. The Board was especially taken by the close relationship between the university and the San Angelo community. While the transition is an ongoing process, several new academic initiatives under the leadership of Provost Coers, will soon become an integral part of our marketing and imaging campaign.
Second, we are actively aligning our planning against the central definition for our university, which is that we are a residential campus. The University Center has extended its operations, including the food court, to a seven-day-a-week operation. Plasma screen TVs, along with Thursday afternoon ice cream sodas join to create a welcoming atmosphere for all members of our campus community. Our more than 70 different student organizations are now being provided with budgets so that they can engage in activities, both on and off campus, reflective of a residential community.
We are also moving forward on several critical building and infrastructure projects. Centennial Village is on schedule to greet the class entering in the fall of 2008. The University Police Department will be moved adjacent to campus as the current police station building is demolished later this year. As I noted in my convocation speech, our facilities must mirror the values that we cherish as an institution. Thus the renovation of the Hardeman building into a ‘one-stop’ shop for student services has been expanded to include a new Center for International and Multicultural Studies.
Based on recommendations from Provost Coers and Vice President Meyer, we have also begun to align our operations and staffing to meet existing and emerging campus requirements. Several new positions have been created with funds previously set aside for that purpose and we have begun an equity review of salaries for staff and faculty. As I indicated in August, “no transformation can succeed without the institution attracting, retaining and valuing its faculty and staff.” I understand that not all of these realignments will be uniformly well received, but I pledge that they will occur only after inclusive, transparent and open discussion.
We continue to have challenges. The class entering in 2006 was the largest in ASU’s history, until the class entering this fall surpassed it. Unfortunately the class of 2006 suffered the same unacceptably high level of non-returning students, as seen over the past 7-8 years. The TTUS Board of Regents has identified very aggressive growth goals for each of the system’s three institutions. The Board is making every effort to ensure that ASU meets its goal of 10,000 students. As a campus we must all revisit what we do, individually and as a community, to support the vision of the Board for ASU and the TTU System as a whole.
The declining level of support from the state continues to mirror national trends and is not likely to ever reverse itself. While ASU prides itself on remaining affordable and accessible, especially to our large number of first-generation students, there is a cost to ensure a rigorous academic experience. We must be very candid in reviewing our programs and policies to ensure that we are directing our resources, both people and dollars, toward the outcomes which will make our graduates competitive and successful after graduation. The planning which is now taking place within our various ‘pods’ is simply the initial step in this process.
Finally, let me close with some observations after five months at ASU. Over the past few weeks I have hosted alumni events in Austin and Houston. The quality of our graduates is stunning, as is their uniform love for this institution. Thanks to the hard work of many on campus and in the community, we are well on our way to having Physical Therapy named as the first doctoral program for the university. Our students, faculty and staff continue to be recognized by regional, state and national organizations.
We have a superb base to build on as we move into the newly charted waters described by Thomas L. Friedman in his book The World is Flat. Friedman is clear that all of us must “face the fact of globalization and the need to compete in a new world.” I remain firmly convinced that together as a community we can be successful in that emerging new environment.
Joseph C. Rallo