President Sends Fall Welcome Letter
August 16, 2006
Dear Campus Community,
As we prepare for the excitement of the new academic year, I want to welcome new and returning students, faculty and staff to Western Illinois University. As Elaine and I begin our fifth year at Western, I cannot stress enough our appreciation for the campus communitys understanding and support. Western Illinois Universitys loyal and dedicated faculty, staff, administration and student body have accepted difficult budget decisions, engaged in efforts to improve efficiencies and have kept our instructional mission as the top priority.
In the recently concluded fiscal year the outstanding accomplishments of our University community have been recognized in a variety of positive ways. Governor Rod Blagojevich released $4 million in planning funds for the proposed Performing Arts Center in Macomb and awarded $2.4 million in Opportunity Returns planning funds to renovate the 60,000-square-foot former John Deere Tech Center, which will serve as the first building at our WIU-Quad Cities Riverfront Campus. We look forward to working with community leaders in the region to seek construction funds for these two vital projects.
We also look forward to undertaking a number of other facilities projects. There will be improvements made to the student side of our football stadium starting at the conclusion of the fall season. Plans are underway for the expansion of the Donald S. Spencer Student Recreation Center, installation of sprinkling systems in residence halls and construction of a new multicultural center. And we appreciate the cooperation of those involved in the renovation of Memorial Hall as many campus offices and departments are in temporary locations until the remodeling is completed.
The FY2007 operating budget approved by the General Assembly and Governor provided an $800,000 increase in state support, the first significant increase in several years. These funds and our prudent decisions allowed us to develop, maintain and enhance programs such as the First Year Experience, which was recognized as a statewide best practice by the Illinois Board of Higher Education. At the close of FY2006, we provided salary equity adjustments for many civil service and administrative professional employees and a 4.5 percent pay raise for FY2007.
We are pleased that the Princeton Review has chosen Western one of 150 best value institutions in the United States to be included in its Best Value publication. The positive efforts we have made in providing an outstanding educational experience with the states only comprehensive Cost Guarantee Program for tuition, fees, room and board at the undergraduate and graduate levels continue to gain national recognition.
We are proud that Western is 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, encompassing human and ecological health, social justice, secure livelihoods and a better world for all generations.
This year we welcome 10 new trustee scholarship recipients to the University as we expand our efforts to recruit students for their academic records and their service to the community. These are the first students who have been provided complete scholarship support for the entire time they enroll at Western. Working with the WIU Foundation we will seek donations for additional scholarships, faculty resources, facilities and technology to enhance the resources needed to support the goal of our Higher Values in Higher Education strategic plan to make Western Illinois University the leading comprehensive university in the United States.
The University theme, Global Challenges and Personal Responsibility- Cultural Diversity, will be incorporated into a variety of programs, including academic discussions, public forums and reading groups. Our freshman First Year Experience will utilize Class Matters, a portrait of society compiled by correspondents of the New York Times. These, along with our continued participation in the American Democracy Project, demonstrate Westerns commitment to an educational experience reflecting our core values of academic excellence, educational opportunity, personal growth, and social responsibility.
We still face many significant challenges. We have spent the summer working on upgrading technology to maintain the best security measures possible to avoid any future breaches. We will be upgrading equipment, standardizing e-mail and calendar systems, and hiring a security specialist. I have asked Assistant to the President Joe Rives to coordinate our technology administrators and users group to develop a strategic plan for institutional technology which supports the Universitys mission. We are also confronting significant problems due to the lack of funding for deferred maintenance. We experienced a facilities crisis this past spring with the collapse of a section of Stipes Halls façade. I want to thank all of the vice presidents and Physical Plant for their willingness to work together to resolve this issue immediately. 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.
We are moving forward on our campus master plan, co-chaired by Assistant Director of Physical Plant Bill Brewer and Assistant to the President for Planning and Budget Joe Rives in coordination with our strategic plan, Higher Values in Higher Education. I appreciate the progress we have made thus far toward the goals outlined by the 19 implementation teams. Rives will, with our governance organizations, continue to advance the strategic plan and the master planning process with and encourage participation in its implementation by all members of the campus community.
Please know I am very honored to be a member of this University community. I look forward to an outstanding new academic year.