President Goldfarb's Welcome Letter
August 18, 2004
Dear Campus Community,
I want to welcome new and returning students, faculty and staff to Western Illinois University. While these continue to be challenging times, there is much for which we should be thankful.
First and foremost, we need to express appreciation for our outstanding faculty and staff. Let meas I have the previous two years-- again thank each of you for your understanding and support this past fiscal year. Westerns loyal and dedicated faculty, staff, administration and student body has exhibited a willingness to make and accept difficult budget decisions, improve efficiencies and keep our student instructional mission as our top priority. Such decisions have allowed us to avoid significant reductions of course offerings for our students and massive layoffs during the past 3 years as well as to provide 3.5 percent pay raises this year.
We begin the fiscal year with state funding at the same level as at the start of FY04. I am extremely appreciative that the governor and legislature did not reduce our general revenue funding this year and that there is also an agreement protecting higher education against a rescission. In addition, the FY05 budget contains $300,000 in new funds for faculty and staff in the Quad Cities. We are very fortunate to receive any new appropriated dollars in such dire fiscal circumstances.
As I indicated last year, we are also fortunate to have additional income fund support due to growing enrollment, even as we continue our innovative, well-managed Cost Guarantee program which freezes tuition, fees and room and board rates for incoming students at levels appropriate for those entering the University. This remarkable program has brought us statewide and national attention again during the past few months, including articles in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. And we are now the only university in the state to offer the cost guarantee to graduate students.
We are thankful that our freshmen enrollment will probably again increase for this fall and last year our graduation rate increased by 5 percent. Our new enrollments were so strong, that for the first time we had to close admissions by August 1. Due to our campus wide commitment to new recruitment initiatives, this year we have a more diverse student, faculty, and staff population.
I am very excited that we have completed national searches for an associate provost to oversee the Quad Cities and extended studies and academic deans to lead the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Fine Arts and Communication and Education and Human Services. We also had a successful internal search for our interim dean of the College of Business and Technology. I know you join me in welcoming our new academic leaders to the campus. I look forward to working with all of them.
We are also thankful for the progress we have made on campus facilities projects. We have opened a new residence hall and partnered with the credit union for a location for their new facility. Funds for the Memorial Hall rehabilitation have been released and we should do intensive planning for that project this year. Our entrepreneurship center, along with many related activities, has moved off campus to partner with MAEDCO and we have received statewide recognition for moving so quickly in this area.
While we have not received funds for our new Quad Cities Riverfront Campus, the governor has indicated that this is a top priority for economic development in that region. We are hoping that $1.5 million will be allocated for architectural and engineering work at the November veto session. And, of course, we will continue to politic for the release of the planning funds for our Performing Arts Center. The project has received strong support from the Illinois Board of Higher Education and we are hoping that an improved economic climate will lead to the start of that project.
I am also thankful for all of the hard work that has gone into creating our campus theme for this year, Civic Engagement, which will be incorporated into a variety of programs, including academic discussions, public forums and reading groups. Our pilot first year experience, which we are testing with our incoming Honors students, will incorporate many of these activities. In addition, we are continuing to participate in the American Democracy Project, which will strive to find ways of encouraging civic engagement among our students.
And I am most thankful that we have completed our strategic plan: Higher Values in Higher Education. I know that the plan will be a road map to future success and excellence at Western Illinois University. We will soon be putting together implementation teams and developing mechanisms for reporting progress to the campus. I hope you will join us as we enter this new phase of the process.
It is hard for me to believe that I am entering my third year as President at Western Illinois University. I am so honored to be a member of this university community. Please know I look forward to an outstanding new academic year.