December 15, 2009
Dear Faculty and Staff,
As 2009 winds to a close, I want to say thanks for your hard work and steadfast commitment to our university throughout the year and to wish you a joyous holiday season.
Despite serious financial challenges, Mississippi State has had a great year.
- Our enrollment reached a record high, and graduation rates and freshman ACT scores increased. Early indications are for continued growth next year, and we are working to ensure that our expanding student body continues to receive a quality education in a supportive environment.
- We announced a new four-year initiative called StatePride to raise $100 million in endowment for scholarships and faculty support, and first-year commitments of almost $30 million are in hand already. In conjunction with that effort, the Athletics Department pledged $750,000 a year for 15 years to match private gifts for scholarships, faculty development, and the library.
- Our research program continues to make significant strides that contribute directly to the economic development of our state. Two new vice presidents—for Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine and for Research and Economic Development—are focused on further strengthening our position as the state's flagship research university.
- Major renovations of Harned Hall and the Lloyd-Ricks Building got underway, and a new residence hall and a new multi-tenant facility in the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park are quickly taking shape.
- Winning the Egg Bowl last month wasn't bad, either.
On a personal level, 2009 has been especially rewarding for my family and me, as we began the year by returning to MSU. We are deeply grateful for the warm welcome and continuing support that we have received and more excited than ever to be here.
During the past year, I've traveled thousands of miles, crisscrossing Mississippi and the country, meeting alumni, friends, and prospective students from New York to Dallas. I have been continually impressed and encouraged by the breadth and depth of affection and respect for Mississippi State, and that is a tribute to your dedicated efforts.
Of course, this has also been a year of budget cutting. We are now implementing a 3 percent reduction in current-year funding that brings our FY 2010 budget to 8 percent below its starting point. We were able to hold cuts in the academic units to 1 percent during this latest round. While further cuts in FY 2010 budgets are likely to be announced next spring at the state level, the steps we have taken already hopefully will see us through the remainder of this year.
Although further reductions will be necessary in FY 2011 and FY 2012, we are well on the way to developing plans that will allow MSU to adapt to reduced state support while maintaining the integrity of our core programs.
The Select Committee on Efficiencies and Innovations is working hard, including weekends, to identify ways that we can be more focused and efficient without compromising quality. Our initial recommendations built on the work of this group representing faculty, staff and students will be ready to present to the Board of Trustees by mid January. We will also ask the Board and the Legislature to acknowledge our significant efforts to economize by allowing us increased flexibility to generate new revenues and better manage our costs.
The next couple of years won't be easy, but I am convinced that we will emerge from them as a strong and efficient institution better prepared than ever before to serve our students and our state, thanks to the creativity and commitment of our faculty and staff.
To allow us to take advantage of significant savings by implementing our holiday energy conservation plan a full three days earlier than planned, at 5 p.m. on December 18, the university will be closed on Monday, December 21.
From our family to yours, have a blessed and safe winter break, a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.
Mark E. Keenum, President