Dear Campus Community,
As an exciting new academic year is underway, I want to welcome new and returning students, faculty and staff to Western Illinois University. As Elaine and I begin our sixth year at Western, I cannot stress enough our appreciation for the campus community’s support.
Please know how much I appreciate the patience of Western Illinois University’s loyal and dedicated faculty, staff, administration and student body who awaited a final FY08 budget and who have accepted our decisions as we handle infrastructure challenges while continuing to keep our instructional mission as the top priority.
The FY2008 operating budget approved by the Governor provides a 1.9 percent increase of $1 million in state support. These funds and our prudent fiscal decisions allow us to develop, maintain and enhance programs such as the First Year Experience and our proposed nursing degree.
While we are still uncertain about a capital budget, we are pleased with the planning and progress we have made on many fronts. In particular, we have facilities master plans for both the Macomb campus and Quad Cities Riverfront Campus expansion. Architects are completing the designs and plans for the first building on the WIU-QC Riverfront Campus and the new Performing Arts Center in Macomb. We continue to work with regional community leaders to seek construction funds for these two projects. The renovation of Memorial Hall continues, while campus offices and departments from Memorial operate in temporary locations across campus.
Using fees approved by our students, improvements were completed to the student side of our football stadium in time for the fall season opener Aug. 30. The expansion of the Donald S. Spencer Student Recreation Center is well underway; another series of sprinkler systems was completed this summer in residence halls; and the site has been prepared for the new Multicultural Center to be located across from the University Union. Construction should begin in early spring.
We are pleased that U.S. News and World Report college rankings continue to place us in the top tier among Midwest comprehensive masters universities, and the Princeton Review has chosen Western as one of 150 best value institutions in the United States. The positive efforts we have made in providing an outstanding educational experience with the state’s only comprehensive Cost Guarantee Program for tuition, fees, room and board at the undergraduate and graduate levels continue to achieve national recognition.
I would like to welcome our second class of 10 Trustee Scholarship recipients to the University as we expand our efforts to recruit students based on their outstanding academic records and their community service. These students receive scholarship support to cover all costs during their undergraduate careers at Western. Working with the WIU Foundation, we continue to seek donations for additional scholarships, faculty resources, facilities and technology to support our goal of becoming the leading comprehensive university in the United States.
The University theme, “Global Challenges and Personal Responsibility- Environmental Sustainability,” will be incorporated into a variety of programs during the 2007-08 year, including lectures and public forums. Western was the first Illinois higher education institution to join the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), a member-based association of colleges and universities working to advance sustainability in higher education, and we are leading discussions on sustainability at the state level among universities and other state institutions.
We still face many significant challenges. We are evaluating campus safety and security procedures in response to the tragedy at Virginia Tech. We are implementing campuswide technology initiatives as we move forward with standardizing e-mail and calendar systems, creating a wireless campus and hiring a chief technology security officer. We are working with campus constituency groups and others to review progress and update our strategic plan, Higher Values in Higher Education. We continue to deal with problems due to the lack of state funding for deferred maintenance. The current challenge is the failure of air conditioning systems in several campus buildings, which prompted the need to rent portable chillers for Horrabin and Currens halls. We will again try to reallocate funds internally for deferred maintenance, and we will also continue to lobby the state for funds to help with the backlog of projects.
Please know I am so honored to be a member of this University community. I look forward to an outstanding new academic year.