Pittsburg State University President Steve Scott opened the university’s 111th academic year with a positive assessment of the year just past and an optimistic picture of the year ahead, urging the campus to tackle and embrace the change he sees on the horizon.
Scott, addressing the traditional opening meeting of faculty and staff, looked back on his first such address four years ago in the midst of a painful national recession.
“At that time,” Scott said, “I offered two rules: No whining and no hunkering down. I urged everyone to commit to growing through the recession, both as individuals and as an institution. My assessment of the situation is this: We did it!! Just a review of the past year confirms that this institution has continued to move forward -- not stumble forward, not drift forward, but assertively moved forward in every category you’d want to measure.”
Scott gave credit for that success to everyone in the room.
“Together, we constructed this day and this moment where we can now reflect on our accomplishments,” Scott said. “It’s really pretty amazing!”
The president listed numerous achievements over the past year including Higher Learning Commission reaccreditation, a fall enrollment record, increasing student diversity, beginning construction of the Center for the Arts, a strong partnership with the City of Pittsburg that included an investment in the planned Indoor Event Center, course redesign activities, construction of the Student Success Center in Axe Library, progress in the $22 million housing expansion and renovation program, and more than $8 million in private giving.
Looking to the year ahead, Scott said continuous and considerable change is on the horizon.
“We’ve got to continue to look at doing things differently, better, and I’d say even distinctively,” Scott said.
He expressed confidence that the university could make the changes necessary.
“I like what Charles Darwin said about change,” Scott said. “He said, ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.’”
The president listed several areas of change, beginning with the Kansas Legislature and state funding. He noted that over the past three years, the university has received nearly $4 million in targeted enhancement funding, including money for the construction program and polymer chemistry. Those actions, he said, added $1.75 million to the university’s base funding, but other legislative actions have reduced it.
“We can’t let (the Legislature) give up on us,” Scott said, “and we sure can’t give up on them.”
Another change that could be on the horizon, Scott said, is an expansion of the already strong relationship between Fort Scott Community College and Pittsburg State.
“Today, I want to let you know that Pittsburg State University and Fort Scott Community College have been engaged in discussions that have the potential to take our partnership to a completely different and higher level,” Scott said. “Over the past few months, senior administrators from both campuses have considered what that partnership could look like, and now we want to engage both campuses and both communities in that discussion.”
The president said the goal is to create a partnership that enhances access for students, creates more streamlined pathways for them and generates greater economic efficiencies for both campuses.
“We believe our talks could lead to a new model for postsecondary governance that others will want to replicate,” Scott said.
Other changes the president noted included the university’s tobacco policy. Earlier this year, the Tobacco Policy Task Force recommended that the campus be tobacco free.
“This thoughtful proposal has generated a lot of interest, and I’d even say, excitement,” Scott said. “Upon review by the President’s Council and by me, there is clearly an interest in accepting this recommendation and moving forward with its implementation.”
Scott said PSU/K-NEA leaders believed and the administration agreed that the policy could only be adopted through the meet-and-confer process. He said the administration had asked PSU/K-NEA to immediately begin conversations about how the policy can be advanced.
“Clearly, our belief in shared governance and our respect for the importance of the contract with the faculty drove us to arrive at this decision,” Scott said.
The president said changes are also coming in areas such as course redesign “as we respond to the changing nature of how students learn, and how they access, and process information,” and in the attention paid to research and grant writing. He noted the ongoing work of the University Support Staff Study Group and the need to replace the GUS system, which is the core electronic system of the university. He also talked about the university’s new strategic planning model.
“We will strengthen our strengths and we’ll be better for it and better for taking on these challenges,” Scott said of the changes ahead.
President Scott concluded his remarks with words of appreciation for the faculty and staff in the room.
“I am so honored today to serve as your president -- to work in support of your efforts, to represent you, to tell your stories, and to serve as your leader, colleague, and friend,” Scott said. “Thank you for allowing me this incredibly special opportunity.”
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