Faculty & Staff Institute: Beginning New Academic Year
August 24, 2009
Greetings and Welcome to the 2009-10 Academic Year! I hope you had a great summer and are eagerly anticipating a great new year.
This new year, as did previous ones, presents us with wonderful new challenges and opportunities. The Maryland economy is still struggling. The unemployment rate just rose from 7.2% to 7.3%. During the summer, the University System of Maryland (USM) cut $37.7 million from its budget. For BSU, this meant $1.3 million--$633,000 from the operating budget and $745,000 from the fund balance.
We were able to meet the requirements by cutting vacant positions, reducing some non-degree program budgets, and reducing our fund balance. Even as this cut was being implemented; however, it was understood that the Governor would need to cut another $150 - $200 million from the state's budget. Initial indications were that this cut could be as high as $41 million for USM which would translate into $1.4 million for BSU. As noted in a recent Presidential Update, I have put together a budget advisory group to help me think through the appropriate strategies for BSU to address this and likely future budget cuts. The group's composition is consistent with our shared governance policy. During the first meeting, we agreed to collect more data so that we can make informed decisions about the best retrenchment approaches for the university. With shrinking budgets, we clearly cannot be all things to all people. The pace of our progress, in at least some areas, has to be slowed. In some cases, we will have to eliminate objectives. We are forced to be more selective in those activities and endeavors in which we will strive for excellence. I.E. we will have to eliminate some things. As we go through this process, what should we keep? What should be our focus?
We will return to that line of thought in a few minutes. For now, let's turn to a moment of reflection on the year that is past and some of the things that we were able to achieve in spite of the budget challenges.
a. For the third year in a row, we met our FTE enrollment target.
b. We graduated over 1,000 students for the year!
c. We successfully upgraded to PeopleSoft 9!
d. The College of Business was successful in their quest to have their accreditation reaffirmed by the ACBSP.
e. We put new roofs on several buildings.
f. We made tremendous strides forward in our comprehensive marketing effort.
g. We have a revamped Emergency Management Plan.
h. We had a successful launch of the BIG campaign.
So there is much to celebrate and for which we are thankful. By the first of September, my annual report will be published on-line and I refer you to that for a fuller accounting of the university's progress last year. I thank all of you for contributing to the success of last year--beginning with the university's leadership team. They are extremely capable and extraordinarily committed to the advancement of BSU! [Introduce them: Newson, Brockenbrough, Travis, Lucas, Valbuena, Thomas, Shaheed, and Creek.] This university is great because of the men and women who work here and I want you to know that I appreciate your commitment and dedication. In addition to my cabinet, I especially want to thank leaders of our shared governance organizations, Dr. John Organ, Mr. Kevin Pothier, Ms. Kelechi Anyanwu, and Ms. Tamisha Jackson. Focusing on this year, all of you should know that I am counting on your help as we address the challenges of FY2010 and work to position Bowie State University for a long and prosperous future!
One of my responsibilities as President is to position the university for success five, ten, and fifteen years into the future. Hence, I spend time collecting data and forecasts about the future so that we can plan and prepare appropriately. This summer, I came across one such document titled "The College of 2020: Students" (Chronicle Research Services) and I want to share some of the points made about college students of 2020. [Note that all of the following quotes are taken from that report unless otherwise noted.]
"The traditional model of college is changing, as demonstrated by the proliferation of colleges (particularly for-profit institutions), hybrid class schedules with night and weekend meetings, and, most significantly, online learning."
- "Students' convenience is the future. More students will attend classes online, study part time, take courses from multiple universities, and jump in and out of colleges. Students will demand more options for taking courses to make it easier for them to do what they want when they want to do it."
- ". . . the product colleges are offering is in greater demand than ever. But impatience over how slowly colleges are changing is perhaps higher than ever, too."
- "Colleges that have resisted putting some of their courses online will almost certainly have to expand their online programs quickly."
- "The conversion to more convenience for students will multiply over the next decade. To some degree, those situations are already happening, and they will be amplified as time goes on:
- Students will increasingly expect access to classes from cellular phones and other portable computing devices
- They may sign up to take a course in person, and then opt to monitor class meetings online and attend whenever they want.
- Classroom discussions, office hours with a professor, lectures, study groups, and papers will all be online."
- "Colleges will need to offer those options in addition to the face-to-face instruction." "Colleges must be ready to offer all of these options."
- "The challenge will be to provide them simultaneously and be flexible enough to change the methods as the market changes. Faculty members must be flexible, too. The Internet has made most information available to everyone, and faculty members must take that into consideration when teaching."
- "Students now in elementary school are going to expect more connectivity and creativity from colleges."
- "There is very little that students cannot find on their own if they are inspired to do so. And many of them will be surfing the Net in class. The faculty member, therefore, may become less an oracle and more an organizer and guide, someone who adds perspective and context, finds the best articles and research, and sweeps away misconceptions and bad information."
- "By 2020, almost a third of respondents said, students will be taking up to 60 percent of their courses entirely online."
- "Community colleges and for-profit institutions should continue to thrive because of their reputations for convenience. The rest of colleges-regional public universities, small liberal-arts colleges, and private universities without national followings-can expect to compete for students based on price, convenience, and the perceived strengths of the institutions."
On top of all of this-the budget challenges and the changing higher education landscape-the pressures for increased accountability only become more widespread and intense.
- One example is an MHEC-led study involving Maryland's public HBCUs is being done to respond to a General Assembly directive that a report be submitted to DLS which highlights which best practices will be engaged by the institutions to increase graduation rates.
- Chancellor Kirwan and Board of Regents have mandated that all institutions develop and implement plans to close the achievement gap by 50% by 2015.
- I suspect that a key part of our approaching Middle States reaccreditation review will center on how well we are fulfilling our mission-another accountability measure.
But consistent with our core values, we must also hold ourselves accountable. How good a job are we doing? Personally, I am not pleased with our graduation rates and want to see us do much better.
- "The 6-year graduation rate for the System is 64%, and Bowie State's is 46%, a gap of 18 percentage points." (BSU Achievement Gap Plan, 4/30/2008)
- "Improvement of the graduation rates requires an improvement in the retention rates. Consequently, retention is another area of focus for the University as it works to close the graduation achievement gap for its African American students." (BSU Achievement Gap Plan)
- Our goal for 2nd year retention rates is 80% by 2012. (BSU Retention Study, 2008.)
- The 6-year graduation rate goal, consistent with our achievement gap plan and assuming that the USM rate remains constant, 55% by 2015!
In addition, the urgency of the need for positive intervention in the process of global warming remains! As an enlightened institution and a leader in this region, we must continue to set a good example as a responsible organization that is doing its part to improve the environment and save our planet! In fiscal year 2010, this year, we will continue to pursue our obligations made in 2007 when I signed the Presidents' Climate Commitment. We will continue our responsible march toward carbon neutrality for BSU.
With these realities in mind, I want to share with you the priorities that my leadership team and I have set for FY2010.
- Execute the Achievement Gap Plan and monitor results.
- Mount an intense campaign to improve our graduation rates! I want every unit and every individual to do all that they reasonably can to make the greatest possible difference.
- Improve academic program inventory to include course re-design and more online courses and programs.
- Realize savings through enhanced efficiency and effectiveness initiatives.
- Enhance strategic focus on marketing and outreach.
- Diversify funding stream through growth in grants, contracts, fundraising, and auxiliary enterprises.
In closing, I remind us all that this year-AY2010-is a new year, one that we have never faced before. It is simultaneously full of challenges and replete with opportunities. If we work together, faculty, staff, and students alike, conscientiously adhering to our core values, we can seize those opportunities and make tremendous strides in advancing the mission of this great university! In spite of the budget challenges, we can take a giant step forward toward becoming one of the best public comprehensive universities in America! We can improve our graduation rates and help to improve our environment! I sincerely and earnestly ask you to join me in giving my very best for Bowie State University and our students in FY2010!
Mickey L. Burnim