A periodic update for faculty from President Robert H. "Doc" Foglesong
August 17, 2007
Budget priorities and new funding
This year's improved general support from state appropriations and the tuition increase approved in June by the Board of Trustees are helping us make significant progress toward our priorities.
- Faculty and staff received merit pay raises averaging 5 percent on July 1. We hope to do at least as well next year.
- An additional 33.5 faculty positions were created (21.5 tenure track and 12 instructor positions). The tenure-track positions include three in Kinesiology, three in Communication, three in Biological Sciences, one in African-American Studies, one in Human Sciences, one in Building Construction, one in Interior Design, one in Landscape Architecture, and 0.5 in Wildlife and Fisheries. Two new positions are allocated to a minority hiring pool, and five will be used to recruit Phi Beta Kappa faculty. Since funding was approved during the summer, there was not time to advertise and fill the full-time tenure track positions for the upcoming semester, but we have appointed the new instructors in the College of Arts and Sciences to help meet the need for additional sections of freshman classes this fall.
- General fund support for the library increased by $300,000 this year, to be used for additional personnel, addressing a major concern of the Association of Research Libraries as noted when we were last considered for membership. The Library will add two faculty, three professional staff, and four support staff. (We have also committed to the library, to be used for new materials acquisitions, a portion of indirect cost recovery funds generated by funded research. That amounted to $125,000 last year and $275,000 this year, with larger amounts scheduled for FY09 and FY10. The library will also benefit from a share of the commissions on our new dining services contract.)
- More than $760,000 is being used to fund faculty research start-up packages in support of 40 faculty members. Other new funding supports a new center focused on Family Business in the College of Business and Industry, the Center for International Security and Strategic Studies, and additional support staff in sponsored programs and research compliance.
- State-funded graduate assistantships have been increased by an additional $1,000 this year, building on the progress we made last year. The university is also granting a $200 credit toward university-sponsored health insurance for students who choose to purchase the plan.
- We continue to strengthen our recruiting and retention programs, and we're seeing the payoff from those efforts.
Enrollment will be up this semester. The newcomers will include the largest freshman class in university history. They're also among the best prepared, judging from their average ACT score approaching 24. Enrollment results for MSU and other universities won't be formally announced by IHL until September 10, but we hope to be up overall by several hundred students.
Alumni across the country have pitched in to help boost our numbers. Thirty-two chapters in seven states have sponsored send-off parties for MSU freshmen this summer, and a national network of alumni recruiters is being put into place this fall.
Increased enrollment is good news for our financial stability and our ability to ensure the quality that our students deserve. More students bring more tuition revenue, and both enrollment and student credit hour production generate state support under the IHL distribution formula.
This year we will continue the practice of returning to the colleges and departments most of the increased tuition revenue that results from enrollment growth. Recruiting and retaining students is an institutional priority and a responsibility we all share. At the department level, growing enrollment and increasing student credit hours is an avenue to increased support for faculty development and other priorities.
Student Credit Hour production for summer 2007 was up by 673 SCH from last year, based on our preliminary figures, totaling 50,137 for Maymester, Summer I, Summer II, and the 10-week term. The new Maymester, which enrolled more than 930 students, appears to have shifted some enrollment away from the traditional summer terms, but the net effect on SCH production was positive.
Retention is a key component of enrollment growth and also translates into a higher graduation rate, which is a common barometer of institutional academic performance. Our freshman-to-sophomore retention has risen to a respectable 82.4 percent, and the six-year graduation rate for the 2000 cohort of entering freshmen was 58 percent.
But a dramatic difference appears when comparing graduation rates for students who have class absence problems as freshmen with those who don't. In the 2000 freshman class, the graduation rate was only 34 percent for students who had 10 or more total absences during their first semester, or six in one class, versus a 62 percent graduation rate for other students.
The Pathfinders program, which focuses on improved retention through early intervention with freshmen who show a pattern of missing classes, has helped increase retention rates and freshman-year GPAs of students contacted. The effectiveness of that effort has increased as more faculty have begun reporting freshman absences to Pathfinders. Please keep up your support for that initiative.
A new Absence Reporting link in the OnCampus (Banner Web) system allows faculty and authorized departmental staff to easily report student absences and have that information automatically forwarded to Pathfinders.
Distance learning will likely make up an increasingly important segment of our enrollment as more working adults and other part-time students seek college opportunities that accommodate their schedules and locations. Questions about the academic credibility and effectiveness of on-line instruction have been generally laid to rest in recent years, with major research institutions such as the University of Maryland and the University of Illinois investing in this approach on a large scale. Unless we make distance learning an integral and substantial part of our curricular offerings, we risk finding ourselves out of step with our peer institutions and out of contention for a large segment of the student population of the future.
Our faculty researchers attracted $186.5 million in external funding for FY 2006-07, up from about $155 million during the previous year. This funding supported 1,691 sponsored projects in FY 2007.
Based on the latest rankings available from the National Science Foundation (for FY 05), MSU ranks 7th in the nation in agricultural sciences research expenditures and 44th in engineering. Last year MSU faculty and staff disclosed 80 new technologies resulting in three new start-up companies, nine licenses, and 22 patent applications. MSU now holds 77 patents.
Faculty have moved into the new Band and Choral Rehearsal Facility and the newly expanded and renovated McCool Hall. The new Agricultural and Biological Engineering Building is to be finished in October.
The Colvard Student Union renovation will be finished by the end of fall semester, with the new dining options scheduled to be open by Nov. 1, including a Chick-fil-A, Sbarro Italian restaurant, Miso Noodle and Sushi Bar, Zoca Mexican Grille, Bleeker Street Deli, a full-service Starbucks, and a C3 convenience store. Opening on Monday, Aug. 20, are a full-service Burger King in the Roberts Building and an Einstein Brothers Bagels outlet in the Food for Thought shop in Mitchell Memorial Library.
We broke ground in July on a new Athletic Academic Center.
We've paved additional parking spaces on Hardy Street, widened and resurfaced Stone Boulevard, and re-routed President's Circle, among other street improvements. A sidewalk renovation program is under way.
Our major capital improvement needs for the next several years are primarily repair and renovation projects. Major renovations of Harned Hall and Lloyd-Ricks are in the design stage. We're seeking state funding for major upgrades next year of Lee Hall, the YMCA Building, and the Wise Center, along with pre-planning funds for renovations of Howell, George Hall, and Magruder Hall. We're also requesting almost $18 million for critical deferred maintenance, safety improvements, and infrastructure improvements. New construction during the next several years will be limited in scope as we focus on enhancing and protecting our billion-dollar investment in existing facilities.
Congratulations and thanks for your help in realizing significant savings in energy expenditures last year. We targeted a 14 percent reduction in energy consumption over FY 2006, and achieved 12 percent for the year. Our three-year goal called for reductions of 14 percent, 4 percent, and 2 percent. To get on track toward meeting that target, we'll strive to cut usage this year by a further 6 percent from the 2006 level.
Thursday night football
The 2007 football season begins with a nationally televised home game versus Louisiana State University at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 30. All classes will meet as scheduled that day, unless individual instructors and their students make other arrangements.
Athletic Director search
The search for the university's next director of athletics is under way, with a goal of having the next AD in place by July 1, 2008. Dr. Vance Watson chairs the 13-member search committee, which includes faculty representatives Bob Wolverton, Sr., and Allison Pearson, along with students, staff, and alumni.
Michael Barnes of the Forest and Wildlife Research Center is a new Fellow of the Society of Wood Science and Technology, recognizing his work in wood preservation and durability, wood treatment and treatment effects on wood properties.
Donna L. Clevinger is the new dean of MSU's Meridian Campus. She was previously associate dean of Ohio University's Zanesville campus, and has led theater programs at Hardin-Simmons University in Texas and Blue Mountain College in Mississippi.
Joseph Fanguy is the new assistant director of MSU's technology commercialization office. He had been a licensing associate in the office since 2005, and was a research scientist at the former Diagnostic Instrumentation and Analysis Laboratory.
Frank Howell, sociology professor, will serve on the National Opinion Research Center's Technical Advisory Board for the Data Enclave Project, a program to balance security of information legally mandated for privacy with allowed access by scientists and scholars.
Mark Lehman, associate professor of accountancy, is the Mississippi Society of Certified Public Accountants' 2007 Outstanding Educator. He joined the faculty in 1984.
Bruce Leopold, head of wildlife and fisheries, was elected vice president of The Wildlife Society and is in line to become president in 2009 of the 10,000-member group.
Stephen Middleton, a historian, is director of the new African-American Studies Program, coming to MSU from North Carolina State University, where he was a professor from 1989-2007.
Classical guitarist Michael Patilla of our Music Department is a 2007-08 Fulbright Scholar. He will teach at the National Autonomous University in Honduras.
About 100 new faculty members are joining us this fall. Please join me in welcoming our new teammates to the Great Bulldog Nation.