Dear Campus Community,
As we prepare for the 2008-2009 school year, I would like to welcome new and returning students, faculty and staff to Western Illinois University. As Elaine and I begin our seventh year at Western, I cannot emphasize enough our appreciation for the campus community’s dedication and support.
As we begin a new school year, it is especially exciting to note the many new academic offerings at Western. New undergraduate and graduate programs in liberal arts and sciences and a new master’s degree in museum studies are now available at our WIU-Quad Cities campus. At the Macomb campus, a bachelor’s degree in religious studies is now offered, as well as the bachelor of science in nursing, which provides additional education to registered nurses who have completed an associate degree or a three-year diploma program. Students at WIU-Macomb also have available a new integrated undergraduate/graduate computer science program, which allows allow students to complete both a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master of Science degree in just five years. We’re also pleased that, at its June meeting, our Board of Trustees approved a four-year nursing degree program and a bachelor’s degree in engineering. We will request approval from the Illinois Board of Higher Education this fall so these new programs can begin as soon as possible. We also had our first doctoral student in educational leadership complete his dissertation defense this summer.
We hope you also notice the positive impact our construction projects are making on our campus. The new “green” Multicultural Center, directly south of the University Union, is progressing and we anticipate hosting a grand opening celebration in late Spring 2009. The center will house the Women’s Center, Casa Latina, Gwendolyn Brooks Cultural Center and the International Friendship Club. The expansion of the Donald S. Spencer Student Recreation Center, which will provide enhanced recreation facilities to our campus community, is expected to be completed during the fall semester.
We also anticipate continued work this semester on the Memorial Hall renovation.
For those of you who are returning to the Macomb campus, you will notice that Lake Ruth has been beautifully restored. Physical Plant staff worked during the summer to improve the lake, and WIU biology professor Tim Spier and his students will continue to maintain the lake as a class project. The teamwork and cooperative efforts across many departments and units made this project a success, and has dramatically improved the appearance of our campus landmark. At the WIU-QC campus, three electronic classrooms were upgraded this summer and new computers were installed in the WIU-QC Library.
While we are making great strides in improving campus facilities, it is still our hope that the state legislature and the governor pass a capital bill in the very near future so we can move forward with the Performing Arts Center for the Macomb campus and with the Riverfront Campus expansion in the Quad Cities, as well as take care of many deferred maintenance projects. Despite the wait for a much-needed capital bill, I am pleased that we enter the school year with an operating budget that includes a $1.6 million increase in state support. These funds allow us to begin budgeting for our new degree programs in engineering and nursing, as well as help to support a 3.5 percent pay raise for non-negotiated employees.
We are proud of what this University has accomplished in the past few years; most recently, Western received “Best Practice” recognition from the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity as one of only 13 institutions nationally for the retention of first-generation and low-income students. Our Cost Guarantee for students also continues to receive national attention. By providing a quality education that is accessible and affordable, we serve as a model for other universities in the United States.
This year’s University theme, “Health and Wellness: Challenges and Responsibilities,” will be incorporated into a variety of programs, including academic discussions, public forums and reading groups. The Universitywide theme illustrates our commitment to our core values of academic excellence, educational opportunity, personal growth and social responsibility.
I encourage members of the campus community, as well as area residents, to take part in the outstanding cultural and educational opportunities available at Western.
I would also like to invite new and returning students, faculty and staff in Macomb to take part in First Night Fun Saturday, Aug. 23 at Vince Grady Field. This is a wonderful opportunity to meet new people and get together with old friends. Please also join the University and Macomb communities for the annual Community-University Partnership Program (CUPP) block party, which will be held from 5-8 p.m. on the front lawn of Sherman Hall on Wednesday, Aug. 27. New and returning WIU-Quad Cities students, faculty and staff, as well as those from Black Hawk College, are invited to attend the WIU-QC Society of Educators (SOE) block party from 5-8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 5.
Please know I am very grateful to be a member of the Western Illinois University community. I look forward to an outstanding new academic year.