Office of the President
Bulldog Straight Talk
August 10, 2006
Bulldogs, we are ready to rock and roll. The energy level on this campus is picking up incredibly. I wanted to catch up a little bit on what's going on, so here's my opportunity.
We're a very few hours away, now, from thousands of young men and women showing up on the campus and starting to move into their new digs. In many cases, they are new digs. We're delighted to be opening up another dormitory. It's going to house a large number of our freshman and then in January we're going to open up another dormitory and even house more of our freshman in those great rooms.
But the energy level is starting to build. And here's the good news for all of you who plan on showing up some time this fall for a football game; the roads are open.
It's been an incredible summer; the biggest issue around the campus has been how you get across the campus. But I consider that good news in a sense. We have had streets closed and lots of construction going on. And, actually, the construction is going to continue, but the streets are all open.
The 31st of August is going to be an incredible day as we open up on ESPN and we'll have our grand opening at the junction. For all of those of you who have been there, you know what I am talking about; for those of you who haven't been, please stop by, come by. It's going to be a great day.
I want to take a few minutes and catch up on where we are relative to our strategic plan, so let me see if I can outline where we are because many of you will have, I hope, a chance to comment on it frankly. The statement that we are going to announce on the 15th of September and go very public with is called FutureSTATE 2015. And I have talked to you in the last couple of opportunities I've had on Straight Talk to tell you that we're doing a bottom up review.
It's done. So we are fully informed now by the good work of literally hundreds of people from across the campus. Your faculty, your staff, the downtown community, our alumni have been involved in it, our student association has been involved in it, so I am really pleased with the amount of energy that has been focused. What we've come up with is well over a hundred recommendations that will take us forward. So we're moving from 2006 to 2015 in drawing away points as we speak.
Here's what we've planned to do. It's still a draft. Future state 2015 is still a draft. I'm going to hang it on a website probably next week and allow anybody who wants to comment on it effectively to comment on it. We are still looking for good ideas that we have missed. I will be surprised if we haven't covered the water front in a great many areas. But I don't want to miss some good ideas before we go final. So it will be available for your review; it will be available for your comment. There'll be a website address that you can pick up and put your comments in. We'll take those, take about a week and see if we've missed something here that we should have been paying attention to. And then this document, this strategy for the next decade is going to go to press. We'll have the big opening ceremony if you will around the 15th of September and then leap off.
The good news is, I've mentioned before, is the great number of ideas that matured early because the faculty and the staff came up with some really great plans that we have already pulled the trigger on.
For instance, one of them was our Promise Program where we have offered the opportunity for young men and women who wouldn't be able to come to school otherwise to join us this fall. As of yesterday we had 98 Promise scholarships that we had given out to young men and women who, a great many of them, would not have been able to go to school with us here at the people's university had we not offered them that opportunity.
We have also stood up our leadership honors program and it is going well. We are actually starting to mechanize that if you will. We have identified a program advisory group that will get us started this fall. We have started to identify those students who we think are emerging leaders and entice them, if you will, to come into this organization. I don't think that is going to be a problem. We have had a number of students who have asked me personally, "What's a mechanism that allows us to participate in this leadership program." So, I'm really pleased.
There will not be a lot of big surprises to you relative to our goals. Let me see if I can outline those to you and give you a little preview where I think we will end up on the 15th of September.
Our number one goal won't surprise you. It's student development. Read that academic development, read that character development, and read into that social development. Those are the issues that we think we would like to pursue with some vigor. Many of the programs and the recommendations that have come out of our bottom up review are oriented toward the broad statement of student development. So it allows us to not only provide for academic excellence—the foundation of what we do around here—but it allows us to do things like enhance our character development programs. And I have talked to you about this before, but I am really pleased that we are down the road now to a minor in leadership. I think that's a really good thing toward character development. We have drafted up an honor code that we're staffing around now to make sure we've got buy in on that. And I think that's another good step toward character development. And of course our leadership honors program that I mentioned earlier. And so academic excellence and character development, and then there's the social aspect of coming to the great bulldog nation. The passion of associating with your peers, people you are going to know for the rest of your life. Many of us are still calling friends that we made when we were in college. And many of our students will do the same thing. So I want to continue that development as well. So student development is probably our number one goal.
Coupled with that is financial stability. We have a goal of achieving financial stability so we don't go through turbulent years, if you will, where our budget changes in a dramatic way and impacts all the things that we want to do. I have talked about this a couple times and I am still enlisting you to help with this. Part of our financial stability involves what I call "measured and manageable growth." And so I would like to ask you to be our recruiters. I am going to talk about recruiting every opportunity I get because I think it's fundamental to what we do as the people's university to be accessible, to be available. And it's also fundamental to our financial stability.
Another goal that is coupled in two ways here is enhancing our opportunity for economic development for the state because while we are Mississippi State, this is really about the state of Mississippi. So I think reaching out and doing what we can in economic development which is coupled to our research is a vital part of where we should be going over the next decade because those two things are hard for me to pull apart. We have a great opportunity here to provide practical research which then transmits pretty quickly into productive research, what I would call research that has now turned into actual production and enhances economic development in our communities. So those two, economic development and research are kind of coupled together as our third goal.
And then a fourth goal, if you will, that I think will kind of penetrate through all the things I have talked about is all the other things that impact life on the campus, things like our student association, things like our Greek system, our athletic department, the great morale, the enthusiasm that is generated by the athletic events that we have. I would like to enhance our ability to provide that kind of enthusiasm for our students and that kind of opportunity through our student associations, for our students to realize their potential in leadership roles and to expand their capabilities to step out of this university and into society and immediately assume roles that involve leadership.
So I am really pleased with where we are. So stand by for Future State 2015. It's coming down the path, and it's going to be an exciting time. There are some challenges, with out any doubt. Some of the issues, I said that wrong, some of the opportunities that are going to come out of Future State 2015 will involve funding and we may have to faze some of that in. Some of it will require fairly reasonable amounts of revenue. And so we may not eat all that elephant in one bite, we may eat it one bite at a time. But as we proceed down this path, we will have a logical plan, and then every year a part of one of the annexes in FutureSTATE 2015 is a procedure that allows us to revisit what we've done over the previous year to ensure we are moving down the glide slope in the direction we want to go and that we haven't missed something or something comes out. I believe—and the numbers may change—but I believe right now we've identified five centers of excellence, about 12 emerging centers of excellence, and 4 or 5 potential centers of excellence. And so next year we will review those and see if perhaps some of those emerging centers of excellence have moved up or some of those potential centers of excellence have become emerging centers of excellence or we have other areas that we are about to become nationally known in and we think ought to become an emerging center of excellence. What this allows us to do, of course, is to budget. If these are centers of excellence, emerging centers of excellence, or potential centers of excellence, somewhere in our budget you should see a line that supports those centers of excellence. So I think this is a pretty well thought out document, but I will also acknowledge that we won't be so rigid as to preclude other opportunities to help us to remain relevant as the great bulldog nation moves forward over the next decade.
So that is where we are. I want to take a couple minutes and talk about rumor control here. And this is pretty simple stuff today. There is a rumor out that I have been cut from the football team. And that, in fact, is true. I am disappointed to tell you today that after running wind sprints with the football team for five weeks, we have now started organized practice, and coach has decided to cut me. What can I tell you? I am keeping my day job, and I kind of knew this was coming all along. But here's what I will tell you, there's incredible excitement out on that practice field. I think this is going to be a great season for us. I'm not going to tell you what I think our record will be because I don't know. I know this; I know they are going to be better than they were last year. These young men have really worked hard; they are passionate about what they are doing out there, and they are going to bring a level of excitement in. In a sense, I think I am glad I am cut because I sure wouldn't want to line up across from these guys. They're pretty tough this year. But that rumor is true, and by the way, you ought to be happy that I got cut because if I made the team it would be real indicative of the kind of talent we have. So I think this a pretty easy decision to make. So that's where we are with the football team and the rumor control there.
There's another rumor out that we have a new band that we're putting together called BARK, and that rumor is true. That band is going to have its debut on the 31st of August at the big opening of the junction. The band has three alumni members in it, I think, two faculty members, a couple spouses, and I am one of the vocalists. We're not good and we're not bad, so we're going to sing old time rock n roll, and country and western music. And for those of you all out there who have heard of the Eagles, Lynard Skynard, and Jimmy Buffet. It's the kind of music that you'll like. So if you get a chance, I want to encourage you to swing by on the 31 at the junction, and you can be apart of the great break out there. And I am also keeping my day job after that, just for the record.
So, kind of a short Straight Talk this month, because I have talked to a lot of you in many different areas over the last week or so. We have had an incredible opportunity to go out to 37 different locations. The alumni association did a wonderful work with send off parties. I was out every night this week, and I can tell you the enthusiasm amongst the great bulldog nation is incredible. I am absolutely delighted with the direction that the team is moving. I will tell you this, my hat’s off to all the hard work, and all the different alumni associations that put together these events. Not only did we send off our upcoming freshmen and welcomed them on board, but we had an incredible number of rising seniors who showed up. And I think that is a healthy thing for us. They have all been captured early. These bullpups will turn into bulldogs next year when they show up on the campus.
So let me finish by saying that it's going to be an exciting fall. You are invited over, please stop by and see me. I'll be disappointed if you get over and you don't swing by. I live in the people's house, and so you are welcome to stop by anytime. I'm there about eight hours a day, but you can always catch me somewhere on the campus.
So thanks bulldogs. I appreciate all the work, all the passion and the compassion you show.