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State of the University 2003

August 19, 2003

Good morning and welcome to our new academic year. Please join me in thanking Craig Purdy, Assistant Professor of Music, for his performance of “The Hot Canary” by Paul Nero.

I am proud to join you as one of your newest colleagues. Thanks to all who have been so gracious in welcoming me to campus and in helping make the transition such a positive experience. Kathy and I are both thrilled to be part of the campus family and feel privileged to be citizens of Boise. The people of Boise have been so gracious in welcoming us to town and we are particularly impressed with the breadth and depth of support that Boise State enjoys from the local community.

Others join us today who are also new to key leadership roles. Please join me in welcoming our new Dean of the College of Engineering, Dr. Cheryl Schrader, and the new Dean of Extended Studies, Dr. Michael Stockstill.

I also want to acknowledge new faculty and staff who were successfully recruited and who we are so fortunate to have join the Boise State family. Would you please stand to be recognized?

As we gather on this day in anticipation of the new fall term, there are two gentlemen present who remind us of what our work is all about. This year, the Boise State student body is ably represented by Mr. Ali Ishaq, President of the ABSCU, and Mr. Jim Wolfe, Vice President. As I have come to know these student leaders, especially over the last few weeks, I have been impressed by their enthusiasm, bright ideas and positive contributions. Please welcome them.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the administrative team that has played such a critical role in helping me assume my new duties. A special thanks to Dr. Daryl Jones, our Provost; Dr. Peg Blake, Vice President of Student Affairs; Dr. Buster Neel, Vice President for Finance; Dr. John Owen, Vice President of Research; and Dr. Rick Smith, Vice President of University Advancement.

I have been asked to use this occasion to call to your attention events that will help us kick off the new academic year. You are, of course, all invited to the University Picnic scheduled for tomorrow evening at 5:30 at Julia Davis Park. Kathy and I look forward to seeing you there. There is also the campus-wide barbeque on Saturday, August 30th at the Union Patio beginning at noon.

It’s an interesting challenge to deliver remarks traditionally named, “the state of the university” when I have no more than six weeks on the job! It gives new meaning to the word, “presumptuous.” What I would like to do this morning is update you on the latest developments as they have unfolded over the last few months and address a number of issues that will challenge all of us in the months and years to come.

First, let me share the latest information on enrollment for the fall semester. When the official census is taken on September 8, the University should shatter every enrollment record at Boise State and at our sister institutions in Idaho with a headcount likely to exceed 18,000 students. As record-breaking as that number is, our enrollment would have been even higher if not for two factors. First, our higher undergraduate admission standards resulted in a total of about 500 applicants being denied degree-seeking admission to the university. Second, our lower-division classes have filled to capacity.

As you know, reduced state aid in the last couple of years has frustrated our ability to admit all students who stand in line for admission. This has forced Boise State to do what its peer institutions have been doing for some time. The admissions standards have been raised in order to give highest priority to those students who are most likely to succeed and statistics do show that students who fall in the lower ranges of the admissions index are more likely to fail or drop out during their freshman year. Redirecting these academically at-risk students toward better options will improve their likelihood of success. One of those options, which has become quite popular at institutions such as Boise State, allows students admission as part-time, non-degree seeking students. Once they demonstrate that they can handle undergraduate study at Boise State, they are admitted as full-time students.

There are a number of students who have registered late and are experiencing difficulties getting classes. If you know students who are struggling with their fall class schedule, encourage them to log onto Bronco Web over and over again this week to shop for classes that will be opening up. Because of the heavy drop-add activity that occurs this time of year, many classes that have been full for months will have openings. We will also publish in Update, our online faculty/staff newsletter, other tips to assist students with limited class availability. I encourage you to review those suggestions as well.

As you can see from the construction around campus, we are trying mightily to keep up with the increase in enrollment by providing more housing for our students. The Student Housing Office is in the midst of two very large construction projects, which will substantially increase our inventory of residence hall rooms and apartments. Near Chaffee, Morrison and Driscoll Halls, the new residence hall project will house 336 students in two buildings. The new halls include opportunities for faculty involvement with two seminar rooms, two faculty offices and two faculty apartments. This project is scheduled for completion in July 2004.

On the site of the old University Courts complex, our new (and highly visible) apartment project is comprised of two separate neighborhoods. 100 two-bedroom apartments will be located in an area primarily for families, and 76 four-bedroom apartments in an area designated for single students. Amenities include a convenience store, community center, and outdoor play areas. The first of these buildings is scheduled to open in February of 2004, and the final facility will open in July of 2004.

The expansion of the University Children’s Center is scheduled to open next week and will make daycare available to 40 additional infants and toddlers. The addition was funded entirely by private donors who recognized the need for additional infant and toddler care so student-parents can achieve their educational goals.

The remodeling of the Union Dining Room will be completed shortly and will offer new retail food service options, including a Sushi Bar and Mexican food concept.

One of the more impressive collaborations between student services and academic affairs is our efforts to focus on domestic abuse, drug and alcohol abuse and other threats to our students’ lifestyle and health that impacts student success. Thanks to the dedication and expertise of key faculty in Health Sciences, Psychology and Health Education, we have been able to address critical issues standing in the way of our students’ success. Among the programs benefiting from such collaboration is a new Campus/Community High-Risk Drinking Coalition; the development of the Sexual Assault Response Network; and the creation of the Socially Isolated Students Project.

I wish that I could come up with a segue from such a serious subject to an update on parking, but I’m not sure that’s possible. The addition to the Parking Garage is nearing completion and both portions of the parking structure should be ready for use on the first day of fall classes. Concrete for the bus turnout lane should be poured by this week. Both westbound traffic lanes should be open for the start of fall classes. Later this fall, 6 bus shelters will be installed on the BSU shuttle bus route and one bus shelter will be installed on the south side of University Drive in front of the Student Success Center. This project is funded by the Federal Transit Administration.

Over at Boise State West, I think it is safe to say that all is not quiet on the Western front, nor will it be in the years ahead. We can expect the frenetic pace of teaching and learning to accelerate as growth continues. Enrollment on our Canyon County campus has doubled in four years. Enrollment in adult basic education is up 79% and Applied Technology programs have also grown. The Center has served more than 6000 students in its short history. Enrollment could have been greater, but we have been limited both by space and by the number of faculty we can employ.

Last week we moved a giant step closer to dealing with the space problem. Governor Kempthorne joined us at the new Canyon County site for the ground-breaking of our new classroom building, a 65,600 sq. ft. academic building that will house 14 classrooms, three teaching laboratories, a computer lab, two distance learning classrooms, five student services offices, a bookstore, a study lounge and more. Thanks to the bonding bill passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor, Boise State will be able to expand its offerings to the growing number of students in Canyon County. As we move to the new building with our offerings from the core curriculum, we will be able to free up space in the existing center for an expansion of programs in the College of Applied Technology. With so much growth and development in Canyon County, Boise State will play a major role in meeting the workforce preparation needs of Canyon County and the Treasure Valley. Allow me to add a note of reassurance to those of you who have expressed concern over the extent to which Boise State West might dissipate resources on this campus. We will monitor our needs on both campuses closely so we do not distract from the programming on the Boise campus.

At this point, I would like to share with you some thoughts that I have on the progress that we have made at Boise State and comment as well on the challenges that lie ahead. I understand from listening to members of our campus family that this is not the best time to hear university officials announcing new additions to satellite campuses when faculty and staff are entering a third year without any increases in wages and salaries. When I delivered an interim progress report to the Board of Education last week, I shared with the members of the Board my concern that we stand to lose our competitive edge and thereby risk losing some very talented faculty and staff if the State cannot reverse the shortfall in state aid. I shared the same concern two weeks ago with our Foundation and suggested that perhaps the Foundation could find a way to recognize and reward outstanding performance in the classroom and across the university.

While we can agree that this city is a great place to live and work, I certainly do not presume that we do not have to work hard to keep good people in this day and age. I also know that you expect to be treated with respect and dignity in return for the dedication and commitment that you have made to this institution and to Idaho higher education. I must tell you that it is nothing short of inspiring to work with people who are as upbeat in the performance of their duties and demonstrate in everything they do a sincere love for Boise State and its students. But I also know that many of you are frustrated and that it is a tougher job keeping morale high when wages and salaries are not forthcoming.

I come to my position with no silver bullet to get us past these difficult times. I appreciate and admire the way you have dealt with the current situation. I pledge to do everything that I can in the short term and the long term to impress upon those who decide these things the value of your contribution and the consequences of not making an adequate investment in your work.

In the short term, I intend to work closely with our staff in the next few months to identify any possible means in our internal budget by which we can improve the financial position of our faculty and staff. In addition, I will advocate for funding levels from the state that reflect the quality of the education we offer here at Boise State, with special emphasis on the equity funding that the State has identified, but has not yet funded.

Our long-term goal is to become a metropolitan research university of distinction. To achieve this goal, we must be collaborative, entrepreneurial and competitive. Although there is plenty of history pitting one institution against the other here in Idaho, the general public who pays the bills for public higher education doesn’t understand the intramural fighting that oftentimes results in duplication of effort, programming and resources. The State Board of Education feels so strongly about duplication of resources that it passed a new policy last week providing a framework for the statewide coordination of the delivery of education. The Board’s new policy encourages a planning process among Idaho’s institutions and creates a mechanism for institutions to cooperate in the development and delivery of academic programs.

We at Boise State take this policy very seriously and expect to fulfill our role as the designated institution within the primary service region of Boise with a statewide mission of public service as well. We expect our sister institutions to play by the same rules promulgated by the Board and truly honor the spirit and the letter of this new policy. As you know from accounts in the media last week, Boise State recently invited Idaho State to join us on our campus by building its graduate nursing facility alongside a new Nursing building that we have planned. Although ISU is exploring other options at the moment, I want the offer to be understood by all as my own personal commitment to collaboration and Boise State’s willingness to work with our education partners across the state. I believe that our plan places students first and provides them with a campus setting that affords them easy access to our library, student union, housing, food service and other amenities.

It is also imperative that we be entrepreneurial in our approach to educating our students. Please know that my own educational roots cling firmly to liberal arts education. I believe the university’s most important responsibility is to teach our students to think critically, to compute accurately, to communicate clearly and concisely in oral and written form, to know themselves through an appreciation of literature and to know the world in which they live by a command of history and the physical and social sciences. But we must understand the nature of the higher education marketplace in which we find ourselves in the 21st century. Gone is the monopoly that public higher education once enjoyed in the last century. Here in the Treasure Valley alone, independent colleges and universities, both not-for-profit and for-profit, have moved into our service region and are slowly gaining market share in this changing educational environment. There may be room for everyone at the higher education table here in southwestern Idaho, but we should be sure that the structure and the quality of our programming across the board is simply the best that students can access. They deserve no less.

Online or virtual universities have made their presence known in the Treasure Valley as they have nationwide. What oftentimes distinguishes their success in a community that already offers an abundance of courses is the flexibility of their offerings and the asynchronous nature of their online coursework. It may be useful for us to review our offerings and make sure that we are as nimble and responsive to students’ needs in Idaho as we can possibly be.

We must also continue to build on our graduate education programs. Again, our friends in the independent sector move into niche areas with specific graduate offerings that match workforce needs. Here in Boise, with our corporate partners in the technology sector, we have a highly educated workforce that is a niche for specially designed programming.

Perhaps the best example of our responding to such needs is our new Materials Science master’s degree that we will offer this fall for the first time. Our Master’s in Raptor Studies is also a great role model for future programming that links our academic offerings to the environment in which we live and work. I challenge and welcome your ideas for coursework and institutional focus that will help position Boise State as a nationally ranked university with significant research and graduate programming.

Finally, we must be competitive. You may ask, isn’t competition the enemy of collaboration? Not if you’re competing against yourself, not if you’re competing against past performance. Let’s just make every effort to improve on the quality we offered last year in everything we do. This is especially important to those of you who provide services to our students. Whether it’s financial aid, advising and counseling or food service, quality in these areas contribute greatly to the campus experience. No matter where we work or what we do, each of us in our way contributes to the reputation of Boise State as a student-centered university.

There is one line that no new president likes to hear:–“that’s how we’ve always done it.” It may well be that how you have done it is the best way, but let’s never assume that going into a meeting to solve a problem. We will not reach our final destination if we keep looking in the rear view mirror. That will do nothing but distract us from focusing on where we should be going.

And I have no doubt, by the way, where Boise State is going. We are fortunate enough to be situated in a metropolitan region with a diverse economy anchored by the technology sector that has enormous potential for growth. There is a symbiotic relationship between the Boise region and economy and Boise State University. The Boise economy is dependent on the resources of a large, metropolitan university with a proud tradition of teaching excellence and a girder of research expertise that supports and nurtures the discovery process in the marketplace.

In keeping with the vision of Boise State as a metropolitan, research university of distinction, your Provost, Dr. Jones, and I asked the Board of Education recently to allow us to amend our list of peer institutions and substitute the University of Louisville, the University of Cincinnati and Wayne State University, institutions, like Boise State, with missions and roles which are deeply rooted in the history, politics and economies of their respective metropolitan communities. Although it is unclear to me at this time just how the Board will use those peer institutions, Daryl and I wanted the Board to understand the context in which we view our growth and development and what expectations. others should have of us as we position Boise State in the state’s higher education system

Too often in higher education, especially in the past, we assumed that we had to choose between a research mission and a teaching mission. Boise State University can and must do both. We must never lose our commitment to excellence in teaching and personal attention to students that has characterized Boise State from its early days as a junior college. But, on the other hand, we must support and encourage our faculty engaged in the discovery process, especially in those areas where we can build linkages between the research of our academic departments and the economic activity of the region.

Let me frame this with a lesson from history. Agricultural development in the United States, as we know it today as the most advanced in the world, owes its status, to a large extent, to the land grant mission of our state universities and, more particularly, to the research and extension activities of our flagship institutions in the states. What an interesting parallel, albeit in a new century and in a metropolitan rather than a rural setting. Here we are, positioned in a growing metropolitan region with the foundation of our economy grounded in the technology sector, but with sophisticated partners in health care, state government, the arts, service and retailing industries, light manufacturing, and tourism. From computer science to Shakespeare, the Boise region is a treasure trove of research opportunity for our faculty interested in adding to the knowledge base of their disciplines and society in general.

And to those who are concerned about the quality of our teaching suffering at the hands of a research mission, I refer you to our nation’s flagship, research institutions, who, with the help of the Kellogg Foundation a few years ago, re-examined their undergraduate missions and discovered more effective ways of teaching undergraduates that complemented rather than competed with other aspects of their missions. It’s a delicate balance, but it can be done.

The reduction in state aid to higher education makes a strong case for ratcheting up development efforts at public universities and developing fund-raising strategies once thought to be the exclusive preserve of private colleges and universities. Just two weeks ago, Dr. Rick Smith introduced a new college-based fundraising strategy that engages and supports our Deans and their faculties in building financial support for their programs. With this newly decentralized approach and the assignment of development staff to the Colleges, I am confident that we are going to take fundraising to new heights here at Boise State. One thing I know for sure. I will personally dedicate the time and effort required to distinguish Boise State University in university advancement, alumni relations and development work.

Just before I arrived, Boise State announced the new Campaign for Students that will provide increased scholarship money for our students. The Boise Industrial Foundation kicked off the campaign with a $1.5M donation. A few days after the initial announcement of the Campaign, we received an anonymous gift of $280,000. When you examine the return on the investment of a university education over a lifetime and you examine our peer institutions’ tuition and fee levels, Boise State’s fees are reasonable. What must accompany our recent hikes in fees, however, is a companion commitment to raise funds for students who struggle to make those payments and who cannot borrow more than they already have.

I am looking forward to working closely with the Boise State Foundation in identifying new friends of the University, revisiting old friends who have been generous and asking for their help in significantly increasing our endowment at Boise State. As we concentrate on ways to support research and teaching on our campus, I intend to raise funds for more endowed Chairs and Professorships as well.

During my interviews as a presidential candidate, I often heard that Boise State’s story is yet to be told. The history of Boise State is truly a remarkable one. If you were to survey comprehensive universities who have reached beyond their liberal arts and teacher education roots to develop a College of Engineering, a 1-A athletic program of national repute, and a Ph.D. in Geosciences, how many would you find? Not many, I assure you.

It is now time for Boise State to tell the rest of its story, but in order to do so; we must have information about the accomplishments of our faculty, staff and students. I understand that many of you have worked with our Department of Public Relations in sharing the good news of your work. Today, I encourage you to double your efforts in reporting on academic and professional honors, awards and achievements that would be noteworthy to our statewide and national audience.

I have already met with staff responsible for the design and maintenance of our website and they are excited about the prospect of re-designing it and working with our campus community on providing more information and improving its design as well. We will leave no stone unturned in our search for more effective ways of getting the Boise State story out for all to see and hear. Please contact us if you have thoughts on how we can position our university.

I will be playing my own role in marketing our campus, its faculty, staff and students. I will host a radio show, New Horizons in Education that will air on KBSU at 3:30 on Friday afternoons. My guests will be newsmakers, dignitaries, authors, faculty, staff and students, discussing important issues of the day. The goal is high quality, interesting radio. But the most important outcome, I hope, will be to showcase Boise State in yet another venue as a metropolitan, research university of distinction and to enhance our reputational currency.

Speaking of reputational currency, by the way, we should all congratulate the football program for getting that headline on the front page of the Sports section in USA Today: “Boise State raises the bar.” Not bad, huh? Our thanks to Coach Hawkins and Gene Bleymaier.

Let me conclude with one final thought. Notwithstanding the challenges we face with funding, I really think it’s important that each of us feels a strong sense of community on the campus. It is so important that we trust one another, especially in times of crisis or difficulty. That trust factor must be as strong as the thickest gauge of steel and that trust must depend on candor, honesty and an open system of communication at all levels of the organization. It is equally important that we foster a collegial and inclusive working environment and I will do all I can to make it happen.

To the Vice-Presidents, Deans, Chairs, faculty and staff, I thank you so much for your good work. I am honored to be your President. Have a great day, have a great year and I look forward to seeing you at the picnic tomorrow.