Office of the President
Bulldog Straight Talk
Bottom Up Review
July 10, 2006
Bulldogs and bull pups, another chance to sit down and catch up on what's been going on in the last month or month and a half and get you rebased along with the rest of the community that we work with here on the campus routinely. And see if I can give you some idea where we are going and a little bit about where we are in our bottoms up review.
I think it would be a good time to update you because we are rapidly reaching a conclusion that I am pretty happy about. Before we do that I want to talk to you about team work and the motto we have: 'One State--One Team.'
Let me tell you my perspective on that; so bear with me here. I am big into tribes. I think tribes are powerful statements about organizations.
I was a member of a fighter pilot tribe in the United States Air Force. We had bomber pilot tribes, maintenance tribes; we had support tribes all over the institutions and they were very proud of what they did. They exhibited a lot of camaraderie, they protected themselves, and they took care of each other. Their strength was their character, in a sense. However, at the end of the day all the tribes came into the tent and the tribal chiefs, if you will, would--for the better part the nation itself--would come together and we would go out with one mission in mind I guess is the best way to describe it.
So, while I am very happy to be part of that tribe and will be forever, I was even more happy at the end of the day that the master organization that we all worked for was so successful; it was very well respected and very well thought of globally. So I am into tribes and let me give you an up-close and personal view here at Mississippi State of the tribsemanship that I am talking about.
I am little sore this morning because I just finished running wind sprints with the football team. And here is what I discovered about the football team, the football team has tribes as well. There is a line tribe, there is a back tribe, a linebacker tribe, but at the end of the day we all got in the middle of the field, at the end of wind sprints and put our hands together and said the Lord's Prayer--kind of a nice thing, by the way--and put our hands on each other. So we all came together as a team and those different tribes that were all intermingled together and we were all thinking about one thing-the successful football season we are going to have this year. And we were all thinking about helping each other. So, I am into tribes.
On our campus we have a number of tribes that are very powerful, in fact. We have the faculty tribe that is very powerful, in fact they may be the most important tribe that we have. We depend on them to do incredible things to help develop our students. Then we have the research tribe that is kind of intermingled with some of the faculty for a matter of fact. They do incredible work. We're probably going to have more research done at this land grant school than we've ever done before this year - so I'm really proud of that tribe as well. We have a staff tribe which tries to pull together--all the administrative things, the physical plant, and those kinds of things. And that tribe does great work for us, but at the end of the day we've all gotta come together here on the campus and make sure that we are all headed in the same direction. So that's where the motto "One State–One Team" comes from. I want us to all kind of be in the same script.
Now you pay me to make sure that happens. I'm the connecting tissue, if you will, between the tribes, so that's what you can expect me to do.
We have other tribes that are incredibly important to us. Our alumni, a great tribe, over 100,000 people, and I'm going to circle back on this statement in a little while, that tribe is very important. We have a local community that represents a very strong part of our tribe that we also count on very much. We have supporters that are part of our relationship around the state and nation--mostly parents, by the way, that have become kind of a subtle tribe that we count on. So, at the end of the day it's my job to try to get all of those tribal chiefs into the tent, so to speak, so that we are all thinking about the same thing.
So here's the message that I want to tell you; it may look like and even feel like to you, you who are members of the tribes out there, that you're not getting exactly what you want in your tribe in order for the institution to be successful. Look at it like this, there are times when we're going to ask the running back to stay back in the back field and protect the quarterback. He probably doesn't want to do that, because that's not a good thing. He's back there doing what he doesn't normally get paid to do which is pick up a lot of yardage and score touchdowns. But, we're going to ask him to sacrifice in a sense and be back there to defend the quarterback so that the quarterback can throw a pass, so there are times that the running back tribe will be less satisfied than they would like to be, but it would be better for the team. So that's part of the "One State--One Team" philosophy that I would like to ask you to help with.
There will be times when I will ask you to bring forward what is best for your tribe. I mean, you will know better than anybody, if you are a tribe member, what's best to make sure that you are all that you can be for your organization's all it can be. But at the end of the day, I'll ask for you to think a little broader about that and work with me on this to make sure that what we really end up doing is what's best for the University. I'll thank you in advance for the help on that, and I know it will take a little broader thinking than sometimes we are accustomed to, but stick with me on that one, that's how we're going to become the most respected land grant school in the southeast; by bringing together all the different capabilities that we have and going forward.
One of the other things that I want to talk to you about today--and I mentioned it last time--is the recruiting retention program. I want to enlist all of you once again in helping with that. We are probably going to be, I'm guessing it's a little premature, flat is the best way to describe our enrollment this year. We're not sure that we're going to go up or down. More to follow on that as the fall unfolds for us. But that's not a good thing. We should be showing measured growth, in my opinion. I mentioned before to many of you that I don't want to change our standards. I think we have great standards here. I want this degree to count for something. I want the people who leave this school to have credible diplomas so that when they walk into the work force they will be able to get jobs and become leaders in those jobs. So I don't want to change our academic standards but I do think we are in a very competitive environment out there and one of the ways that I've found for us to achieve a little more financial stability is to increase our enrollment in a measured way.
I couldn't stand, as I mentioned before, catastrophic success right now. If we had 1,000 more students, right now, it would be difficult because the biggest problem I have is I don't have enough faculty to that.
What I'm going to ask you to do is join with us and each of you become a recruiter, if you will. If you see some young man or young woman out there who is trying to decide where to go and you think they are the right kind of caliber and have the right character to come to the great Bulldog Nation here, let us know. We are going to mechanize our processes a little more user friendly for you. We are going to provide you information.
And for all of you alums who have a chance to hear this, make sure our alumni office knows how we can get a hold of you. We can give them a call and say this is my email or this is my address so that it makes it easier for us to get back to you the information that will be useful to you and interesting to you, I hope.
I hope what we can tell you will not only make you increasingly proud of your institution here but will facilitate your discussion with young men and women that you will run into in various communities. I'm committed to come around and help you. I'm committed to my senior staff to come around and help you and we're putting together a team so that if you want to put together a small group or larger group of young men or women who are potential candidates to come here; we can talk to them about what's important. Things like continuing their education, things like going to a university that has lots of opportunities, then we're cocked and ready to go, we'll be out there if you ask us to come. I think with all of us working together we can kind of turn around this decreasing or flat enrollment that we have had for the last several years and get ourselves on a glide slope that makes sense while we maintain our standards at the same time.
We just brought in a new crop, if you will, of tenured faculty members, you'd be incredibly proud. I reviewed all of the records and, boy, do we have some great faculty members here and so I was delighted to sign all of the letters offering tenure to all of them. I hope to be able to do something later on this fall and recognize them because they are the next class of, if you will, the next generation of our faculty that will be leading us forward in academic excellence. So, congratulations to all of them if any of you are listening out there. I'm really proud of what I saw in that group; we were very fortunate to have brought them on board.
Our bottoms-up review is nearing completion. We have actually had over 150 recommendations. Some of them are a little more difficult to do than others simply because it takes resources to do that. But all of them are good ideas and we're going to start nudging our way through them and what we're in the process of doing now is prioritizing those recommendations in a way that gets us the maximum bang for our buck, if you will. It looks like the logical way forward.
What I had hoped to do was have a covered document that will describe our strategy for the next decade.
I will tell you if you make decisions based on a strategy that only goes out for two years they will be different from the decisions that you will make if you think in the long term for the institution. So, my goal in this is not think a year ahead or two years ahead of time, we should be trying to figure out where we want to be in 2015 and then put the waypoints along through there and measure ourselves to see how we are doing to get there. In some cases there were new ideas that I hadn't thought of and other cases we've already started pulling the trigger, actually, on some of these ideas that you and I have thought about earlier.
We are very much interested in student development, as you might imagine; it is one of our chief goals. Now, that covers a wide spectrum of opportunities, all the way from academic excellence to doing things like ensuring that we offer leadership opportunities and character development opportunities as well for student population. That means we have to continue trying to recruit and maintain good faculty. Like the faculty members I just told you about. We have to provide them with opportunities to expand professionally. We have to keep nagging away, if you will, at trying to increase our opportunities to develop our student population. Probably the most fundamental thing that we do, if you think about it, is to develop our student population so that they become the next generation of leaders in the state and across the nation.
Another goal that I'm sure is going to flow out of our bottoms up review is our desire to be a little more financially stable. I mentioned last time that we will get our fair share of money from the state, I'm confident of that. I'm very pleased with the enthusiasm and the energy that I hear from the governor and our legislature about continuing to work with us across the state in higher education. I think that is a very positive step for us right now. But there are other ways that we can look at helping ourselves to be a little more financially stable. Not the least of which is this recruiting and retention campaign that we are about to start on because that offers you a degree of financial stability since just a little less than 20% of our revenue comes from tuition. So it you have a decreasing enrollment, you have a decrease in revenue base, is what you have.
And so the things that we want to do, the things that we want to enhance student development will require resources, will depend to a degree on whether we will be able to sustain and grow our revenue sources.
We want to continue down the path of being the state's research university. Our reputation is growing every day. We have some great researchers here. We need to continue looking for opportunities to expand our research and take advantage of the capabilities that we have on the campus and look for new ideas. We shouldn't be stagnant about this. If you want to remain relevant in the research business, then you really want to look beyond what you are doing and try to visualize what's the next round of research that will be important for this state and the nation; so that is something that we will take on as a task, as well.
I want to continue to diversifying our student population. That is going to come out of the bottoms up review as well. We need to continue working our international student program and continue working our diversity in many ways, not only in our student population but with our faculty. So I think that part of our recruiting campaign--in essence target minorities and target our international program-is to see if we can robust that as well.
Successful athletic program: I think that will be part of our goals that will come out of our bottoms up review. It only makes sense that we want to win. I have said this before, and I can tell you after running wind sprints with the football team that they want to win. Their enthusiasm is incredible and I know that the enthusiasm of the great Bulldog nation for us to win is incredible, also. But I want to do that with character and I want to make sure that we win with character and I don't see those things as inconsistent.
As I have said before, I think we can be winners and I think that we can be winners with character. So I think that will be one of our goals as well to try to ensure that we are nationally competitive. That does a number of things for us, it gives a lot of great publicity, for instance, and it is a great recruiting tool as well.
I think there are a number of goals that we will see that will flow out of our bottoms up review. And I spent some time last week working through my mind with what looks like a logical approach for how to unfold this. My goal remains as I mentioned before, to try to have our bottoms up review done and on the streets so everybody will know where we are going by the time the fall semester starts. So more to follow on that the next time we talk. I'll have a little more information for you. We will keep you updated on this. It is important that you know what we are doing because we are enlisting you now as one of those tribe mates that I talked about earlier. And so the more you know the better off we will be here as we are trying to pull the trigger on the number of initiatives that will involve you and your assistance.
One of things we are doing to help ourselves out a little bit will be a challenge. As I mentioned a number of times before, our utility bill has doubled effectively. From last year to next year our utility bill is going to effectively double. We have already done some work to try to get our rate changed and have been successful at that, I'm delighted to tell you and that will help us some. We are about to undertake an energy conservation plan that sets some finite goals that I hope will allow us to save a significant amount of money. The reason that's important, of course, is because if the departments are able to save money on the utility bills they are better able to go out and help us with that shortage of faculty members that I talked about earlier and other equipment and supplies that give our faculty a little better opportunity for the professional development that we hope to provide for them. So, I think part of our energy conservation plan will be enlisting everybody who is involved in consuming energy, and the last time I looked that was about all of us, just to be aware--in the back of your mind--that there are things that we can probably do to help ourselves out.
We're going to go on a campaign where on the weekends and on the holidays and times like that we can either tune down or tune up the temperature in many of our buildings and I think that will help us a little bit. Then we will probably have to invest some more in computer opportunities to centrally control all we do with our electrical resources and utilities. More to follow on that, but I'm reasonably optimistic that we can help ourselves a good bit there and so I'm pleased with all of that.
I don't have a lot of rumors to kill for you today; I always like to finish up with rumor control. I was in Jackson last week and I had three people walk up to me and say, "We're hearing you're not going to stay around a long time, Foglesong." So I wanted to spell all of those rumors right now and tell you that I'm a registered voter here; I have my driver’s license here; I'm paying state taxes here. I have no ambitions to go anywhere but be Dog One. So I don't know where those rumors are getting started but I'm here to help to dispel them today and tell you that I'm here as long as I can productively lead the great Bulldog Nation. I have been here for three months now and I'll share this with you: I told my wife this the other day, "I haven't had a bad day yet. I have enjoyed getting up and going to work everyday."
I actually just went into a music appreciation class. Now, that ought to scare some of you, by the way, that I went into a music appreciation class because I don't know much about music, but it was a very nice experience for me to go in and find out what's going on in music appreciation and talk with some of the students. So everyday I discover new things and I'm running into new things and I'll tell you, if I'm here for 10 years I'll still be discovering new things about this university.
So, let me finish up by saying thanks for all of your help. I have had an incredible number of positive emails. I have had some great suggestions from many people out there and in fact I'm actually pulling the trigger on some of those suggestions. I know there is a lot of interest in moving forward and becoming the most respected land grant school in the southeast and so I appreciate your effort in all of this.
Once again, happy to be with you and happy to be part of the great Bulldog Nation and I will see you again next month.