Welcome Back from the President
August 23, 2010
Dear Campus Community:
While the start of the school year is always meaningful, the beginning of the 2010-11 school year is even more personally meaningful as this marks my final year at Western Illinois University. As in years past, it is my pleasure to welcome new and returning students, faculty and staff to Western for the new school year. As Elaine and I begin our ninth and final year at Western, I want to express our sincere appreciation to the campus community for its continued support and dedication.
I want to first share the exciting news that Western, for the sixth consecutive year, is ranked among the top tier of best Midwestern regional universities and is one of only two Illinois public universities ranked among the top 50 in that top tier, according to U.S. News and World Report, and that Western is ranked 11th as a top public school among Midwestern Regional Universities. In addition, for the sixth consecutive year, the Princeton Review has named Western a "Best Midwestern College." In addition to the top tier ranking, Western is also recognized as a "best" institution by U.S. News and World Report for graduation rates; freshman retention rates; least debt (class of 2009); highest proportion of classes under 20; most international students; economic diversity; and racial diversity. I am so pleased that our efforts and initiatives have been recognized. I'd like to thank our faculty and staff for the work they do to make this a phenomenal educational institution and for their contributions to our students' success.
As we embark upon a new academic year, there is much to celebrate. I cannot list all of our accomplishments during the past year, but let me cite just a few. Numerous departments and programs have been granted accreditation and re-accreditation; a global social networks course has been created to keep pace with our everchanging society and its communication methods; and Western's newest degree, a Master of Science in Biology, with an emphasis in zoo and aquaria studies, begins at John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago this fall; and our new engineering and nursing programs are now available to our students. Our Jazz Studio Orchestra had the opportunity to play at the famed Carnegie Hall this summer; a rare flower bloomed not once, but twice, on campus during the summer months; and a new mascot joined the Western family in mid-May to further boost school spirit.
Work will begin this fall on the renovation and remodeling of Corbin and Olson halls, and construction has started on Building One -- and planning for Building Two is underway -- at the WIU-Quad Cities Riverfront Campus. Memorial Hall is expected to open during the 2010-11 academic year, and we are currently installing an elevator in the University Union to allow greater access to the Heritage Room. We will continue to seek the release of funds for our Performing Arts Center in Macomb.
While we are pleased with the capital funding for University construction projects, the current economic crisis continues to greatly impact our university. On July 1, Gov. Pat Quinn announced the higher education budget will be reduced by $100 million. Western's appropriated budget will therefore be reduced by approximately 6.2 percent to $56.2 million. In addition, we still have not been reimbursed by the state of Illinois for approximately $17 million of our FY'10 expenditures. I want to emphasize that our priorities are to provide quality academic programs and to support all current employees. Please also know that I appreciate all of the support and hard decisions that are being made during these extremely difficult and uncertain times.
This year's University theme is "Teaching and Learning for a New Era," which 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. Because of our commitment to the core values, in particular, social responsibility, Western was recently named for a second consecutive year to the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for its exemplary service efforts, and was one of 15 institutions in the U.S. selected as a best practice institution by the Southern Regional Education Board for increasing graduation and retention rates.
I encourage members of the campus community, as well as area residents, to take part in the outstanding educational, cultural and entertainment opportunities available at Western this year.
I would also like to invite new and returning students, faculty and staff in Macomb to take part in First Night Fun Saturday, Aug. 21 at Vince Grady Field. This is an outstanding 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 5-7 p.m. on the front lawn of Sherman Hall on Wednesday, Aug. 25. New and returning WIU-Quad Cities students, faculty and staff, as well as those from Black Hawk College and Scott Community College, are invited to attend the WIU-QC Society of Educators (SOE) Block Party from 4-7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 10.
Please know I am grateful to have been a part of the Western Illinois University community for the past nine years. I look forward to a successful 2010-11 academic year.