It's been quite a week for us at Pittsburg State. Our campus is returning to normal following a strong storm that rolled through late Tuesday night. Thankfully, nobody was injured as a result of the storm, but several of our buildings did sustain damage.
As bad as it was for our city, I see the images of destruction from these storms as they moved through the nation and know it could have been worse.
I want to thank our students, faculty and staff for helping limit disruptions to our campus. I also want to thank our city partners and electrical crews for their hard work in helping our community return to normal so quickly.
As we approach the final days of 2011, it’s an appropriate time to reflect on what turned out to be an extraordinary year for Pittsburg State University and its students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends, and supporters. Certainly, I’m proud of the accomplishments of the Gorilla football team, the 2011 NCAA Division II National Champions, but I’m also proud of the many achievements that have been registered by faculty, staff, and students throughout the campus during this memorable year.
The 2011 football team reminded us of the importance of working as a team, the impact of leadership, the significance of setting and focusing on ambitious goals, and the role character and grit play in accomplishing extraordinary things. There is much to be learned from this team. Their efforts brought us together as a community in a way that few communities can replicate. As Coach Tim Beck addressed the crowd that gathered for the welcome home celebration following the championship game, he noted he was presenting the trophy to both the City of Pittsburg and to Pittsburg State University. What a statement that was. I’m proud of his leadership of our team. I’m even more proud of his recognition of the role this city plays in not only our athletic success but in all our successes.
On behalf of the university, I want to thank the community, city staff and leadership, the Chamber of Commerce, and the merchants for their tremendous and unwavering support of our students, faculty, and staff. Your support enables us to compete at the national level in athletics, host an international event like the Kansas SAE Baja competition, and be leaders in the “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” build in Joplin. We are embedded in this community and bolstered by its energy and spirit. We are seeking to build an institution that has national prominence, and we fully understand this community’s support and engagement is critical to that effort.
With 2012 fast approaching, we are excited about the opportunities that are sure to lie ahead. We look forward to working with our community to ensure that 2012 is as exciting and successful as 2011.
The campus is pretty quiet today, with no classes and Thanksgiving now less than 24 hours away. It's the perfect time to reflect upon what we are most thankful for as we enter the holiday season. I'm most thankful for family. The love I receive from my immediate family, and the love I share for this university with my extended Gorilla family. I'm grateful to be able to lead my alma mater at such a wonderful time in its history. I wish you a happy and safe Thanksgiving ... and hope to see you at Carnie Smith Stadium on Saturday to cheer on our Gorillas!
I had the opportunity to get a first hand look at the work many of our students have been doing at the Extreme Makeover:Home Edition build in Joplin. In a word, it was ... incredible. Every house had at least one PSU student and faculty member working together to finish the project.
It was a great moment because it reminded me of the wonderful connection our students enjoy with their professors and the skills they're able to develop in the classroom. An Extreme Makeover project manager may have said it best, "Everyone talked about how great these kids are ... and then you see them in action and you find yourself saying holy cow, I can't believe these guys are this good."
As I look out my office window, the trees are starting to turn colors, the leaves are slowly falling, and there's an unmistakable energy in the air ... it's Homecoming Week. Cathy and I attended "Yell Like Hell" Thursday night at Carnie Smith Stadium and the turnout was incredible. It's a reflection of the connection our university enjoys with its students, its alumni and its community. I'm always proud to be a Gorilla, but especially so during Homecoming week.
What a great day to be a Gorilla! It's something I feel everyday, but it felt especially true on Saturday at Arrowhead stadium. After the excitement of the victory began to subside, I couldn't help but think of how much we can learn from the performances shown by our student-athletes, coaches and fans. Things often do not go the way we plan them, but if you have the ability to keep your composure, the willingness to be flexible in your planning, and the strength to believe in yourself ... success is always within your reach.
I congratulate both teams on their efforts, and for making the Fall Classic just that .... a classic game that won't soon be forgotten.
It’s always nice when we’re able to talk about increasing enrollment on our campus. As the regents reported this week, our fall enrollment increased by 2 percent, and now stands at 7,275 students. I was especially pleased to also see increases in credit hour production, full-time equivalency and new freshmen.
It’s clear that students and parents continue to find Pittsburg State a great academic and financial value. I appreciate the efforts of everyone on campus and in the community who help attract students to the university. Each of us has an important role to play in the recruitment and retention of students, and the fall enrollment numbers clearly show there is widespread understanding that we must work together for the university and our students to be successful.
It’s hard to believe we’re nearly halfway through the first week of classes. As I write this, the Community Fair is underway in the oval. More than 60 businesses and organizations from throughout our community are here to let our students know more about the many opportunities that Pittsburg has to offer.
It’s another example of the great relationship Pittsburg State enjoys with its community. Our students are supported both on and off of our campus. Our community truly cares about the success of our students, and that support is on display today.
It’s amazing how easily summer can slip by you. July is now nearly complete, and it won’t be long until our campus again fills with students beginning a new semester. In all things, we must have balance and this includes the time we set aside for our families and for ourselves.
In the final weeks of summer, I encourage you to enjoy the company of your family and find a few moments to relax. The fall semester will soon be upon us. It’s important to be prepared to be refreshed and ready for the challenges that await us.
In the academic world, the Fourth of July is the half-way point of summer. Our second session of summer courses will begin next week, and it won't be long until students begin to return to campus to prepare for the fall semester. Over the past two weeks, we've received a sneak preview of our newest class of Gorillas, thanks to the Pitt C.A.R.E.S. program.
For the past 15 years or so, we've offered this program to our newest students and their parents. They have the opportunity to meet university advisers, complete their paperwork and learn more about what it means to be a Gorilla. In all, 976 students took part in this year's program and from what I saw, we have a great new class of students coming to campus. I want to thank our Admissions staff for another wonderful C.A.R.E.S. event and welcome our newest Gorillas.
I hope you stay cool during this heat wave and I wish you a happy and safe Fourth of July
As we prepare to enter the new fiscal year, I wanted to update you on how the FY 2012 state budget, recently signed into law by Governor Sam Brownback, will impact Pittsburg State University. As you well know, over the past several years we have seen our state funding reduced to the FY 2006 allocation, even though our enrollments and credit hours continue to be at record levels.
We find ourselves once again in a similar situation for FY 2012. The university’s state general fund allocation through the block grant has been reduced by nearly $600,000. In addition, our required expenditures will increase by approximately $730,000, a number that includes a $608,000 increase in the group health insurance premiums that the university pays for its employees. These numbers, when coupled with the loss of federal stimulus funding, will result in a total budget gap of approximately $2.1 million for FY 2012. No matter how you look at it, that’s a significant amount of money.
As I have said many times, regardless of the funding situation, we must stay committed to maintaining the quality and integrity of the institution, ensuring our students have the same great experiences we’ve always provided. In good times or bad, that is our obligation, but clearly, these state funding cuts are creating real challenges for us.
While state funding represents more than 50% of the university’s total income, tuition is playing an ever-increasing role. After carefully considering campus needs and the impact of state budget decisions, our tuition proposal for FY 2012 was developed and presented to the Kansas Board of Regents in May. At this week’s board meeting in Topeka, the regents will take final action on our proposal. As you are probably aware, the proposal includes a 6.8% increase for in-state students and a slightly more modest increase for out-of-state students.
The decision to increase tuition by this amount was not an easy one. I applaud the tuition committee for developing a responsible and thoughtful recommendation. It should be noted that even with these increases, we will still experience a gap of about $300,000. Because of this, we will need to continue our efforts to reduce expenses and seek opportunities to become even more efficient.
The state budget for FY 2012 did not include funding for longevity pay for classified staff. However, we will use university funds to provide this payment for those who qualify. This year the total of all longevity pay is $150,000.
I am well aware and very disappointed that the fourth year of the classified staff market adjustment program was not funded by the legislature. We’ll continue to advocate for its funding in the coming legislative sessions, but I am concerned that once suspended, it will be challenging to get the program restarted.
Just as the university’s portion of health insurance premiums has increased, so has the portion that each of us contributes for our health care coverage. You can be sure that I recognize the negative impact this phenomenon is having on monthly budgets for all employees. A complicating factor is that the university does not control the compensation levels for everyone on campus. Classified staff members, as employees of the state of Kansas, have their wages and benefits set by the legislature and governor. With that noted, we are working again this year to provide a modest increase in salary for those employees whose salaries we do control. I wish we could do more, and more than anything, I wish our actions could affect all employees. As I’ve said many times, I will continue to work on advancing the compensation and working conditions of all employees through whatever mechanisms are appropriate and relevant, and I would ask everyone to be patient as we work our way through this extraordinarily challenging time.
As difficult as this upcoming fiscal year will be, some very positive news emerged from the state budget decisions and actions. After years of effort by the administration, corporate partners, alumni, faculty, and friends of the university, the legislature has authorized $750,000 in funding for a new School of Construction. This is wonderful news for the College of Technology and Pittsburg State University.
Because this funding is based upon a dollar-for-dollar match from the university, it does come with some significant challenges. However, this is an extraordinary opportunity for the university. For us to gain this additional funding from the state in one of the most difficult funding eras in history is truly remarkable. With our strategic focus on the Kansas Technology Center, this funding offers a critical step for the future growth of our university. I applaud our legislators for understanding the importance of this project. Their actions and the governor’s support indicate to me they understand the role the Kansas Technology Center can and will play in enhancing the economic vitality of the state. Their support also demonstrates a respect for and belief in the faculty and staff at Pittsburg State University.
Finally, I want to thank you for continuing to rise to the challenges presented by these extraordinary economic times. I recognize how difficult this is and that it daily has an impact on your work. Remarkably, our university continues to grow and develop despite the many challenges we are facing. I’m proud to work with such dedicated professionals who fully understand what it means to put students first. Thank you for your hard work and for continuing to make Pittsburg State University an institution that our students, our alumni, and our community view with great pride and appreciation.
As I write this column, I am filled with mixed emotions.
As you know, our neighbors to the east took a devastating blow on May 22, when a tornado ripped through the middle of Joplin. Pittsburg State University faculty, staff and students joined in the regional response to the disaster almost immediately. Our campus police, medical staff and Sodexho dining staff were on-site that night to offer relief and the Weede Physical Education building became a central storage site for supplies destined for Joplin.
In the days following that tragic storm, PSU offered housing to more than 200 trained Red Cross workers. These men and women offered relief to those whose lives had been turned upside down by this disaster. I want you to know that Pittsburg State will continue to be there for our neighbors as they begin the long process of rebuilding.
As badly as that week began, it ended on a high note with Pittsburg State University hosting the 2011 Baja SAE Kansas competition. More than 1,000 competitors travelled to our community to compete for the title of Baja champion. It was an outstanding event, and I want to thank the city of Pittsburg, our corporate sponsors, faculty members and the hundreds of volunteers who made it possible. If you weren’t able to make it to the three-day event, here’s a short video of what you missed.
Yesterday afternoon the city of Joplin was devastated by an extremely strong spring storm. This morning its citizens are working to begin what will be a long and challenging road to recovery. I know that members of the Pittsburg State family have been directly impacted by the storm, and I want them to know our thoughts and prayers are with them.
Later this morning, the university's senior leadership team will meet to discuss what steps we can take to assist those who were in the path of the storm. Whatever resources and assets we can provide, we'll make arrangements to do so. In addition, I hope each of you will find ways to act in support of these individuals. This tragedy will undoubtedly reveal the strength of the people of southwest Missouri, and it will remind us of how southeast Kansas and southwest Missouri are linked in innumerable ways.
As the campus begins to return to normal, I wanted to express my appreciation for the hard work, dedication and patience of our staff. This was one of the fiercest storms in recent history, and it presented us with a unique set of challenges.
Because of its timing, nearly all of the 1,200 students who live on our campus were on site for the duration of the storm. I want to thank all of you who worked tirelessly throughout the blizzard to make certain these students were cared for with regular meals, warm buildings and safe sidewalks. It's a reflection of the dedication of our staff and of the student-centered atmosphere of our campus.
I also want to thank those who battled the elements to make certain our streets and sidewalks remained clear during the heart of the storm. You were in constant communication with the city and private contractors to coordinate snow removal. Your efforts can be seen throughout campus.
Preparing a campus for the return of students takes time, and I appreciate the patience of those returning to work today. Although we continue to dig out, your efforts are helping us transition more smoothly back to normal operations.
Together, your efforts have made it possible for Pittsburg State University to reopen more quickly than many thought possible.
We're one week into the spring semester and the campus is again buzzing with the return of more than 7,000 students. As always, this time of year my attention turns to Topeka and the action taking place in the statehouse. We've received our first look at the Governor's proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, and so far the news is better than we expected. Governor Brownback is recommending a flat budget for the Kansas Board of Regents. This is welcome news for PSU, which has endured a 13% cut in state funding since 2008.
Much like an academic semester however, the legislative session is a marathon and much can change before we have a final state budget. I assure you that we'll continue to make lawmakers aware of the need for continued support of our students, faculty and staff.
As we close in on commencement weekend, you can almost feel the electricity in the air. Students are rushing to turn in their final projects, faculty are working long hours to finish their last-minute grading, maintenance crews are working diligently to make certain campus is picture perfect for our guests this weekend, and graduates are packing ... preparing to begin their careers after college. It's an exciting and emotional time for everyone involved.
Graduates, as you prepare to leave campus, I hope you will stroll through the Oval one final time and remember what Pittsburg State University has meant to you. I'm proud of your accomplishments, and confident that as Gorillas, you will make our world a better place.
Congratulations and ... Go Gorillas!
We're in the middle of what we often refer to as "banquet season" at PSU. Every spring, during the closing weeks of the semester, each college and various departments hold banquets to recognize student scholars, distribute scholarships and honor faculty. Cathy and I try to attend as many college and campus wide banquets as we can, because they are a celebration of our students' achievements and of the relationships we enjoy with the university's private donors.
While we're all completing a difficult and challenging year and you might think we would be a little weary at year's end, the successes of our students and our interactions with our donors energize us. They remind of us the importance of our work. I'm confident that the faculty, staff, and administrators who attend these events share this perspective.
I appreciate all the work that is done in preparation for the banquets, the attendance of our faculty and staff, and the participation of our individual and corporate donors. Spring at PSU isn't just about working on a beautiful campus; it's about honoring and celebrating another group of great students. It doesn't get any better than that!
As I look out my office window, I'm witnessing a post-card, perfect day at Pittsburg State University. Blue skies and sunshine are gracing our campus and it seems that every student has a little extra spring in their step.
It couldn't come at a better time, because tomorrow, more than 600 students from 15 different campus organizations will take part in The Big Event. Tomorrow morning, these students will head out into area neighborhoods to help people clean their yards, make minor home repairs and perform odd jobs throughout the community.
The Big Event kicks off National Volunteer Week. A recent study by the Kansas Board of Regents reports the volunteer efforts of those associated with Pittsburg State University has an economic impact of more than $7 million for our region. (The full text is available here)
As you enjoy this beautiful weekend, I hope you'll take a moment to thank one of the hundreds of students who are taking part in The Big Event. They are continuing the Gorilla tradition of making their community a better place to work, play and live.
The number and variety of activities underway on campus this time of year is quite amazing. Even so, this week's turnout at the budget forum was very impressive, and I'm appreciative of those who were able to attend. I understand those who could not be there due to other commitments and responsibilities may want to have the information we shared at the forum. Well, you're in luck. The Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology recorded the session and have worked with University Marketing and Communication to provide access to it on my budget website. I hope you'll take some time to review the video and let me know if you have questions or concerns about what was presented.
Although we have a long way to go in this legislative session, I'm encouraged that the governor has recommended no further funding cuts for higher education. I am confident that Pittsburg State University can be, and should be, part of the solution to the economic challenges our state faces, and I'll continue to work to promote the critical role we play in Kansas' future.