President Benjamin's Fall Address

September 13 2006

(Prepared remarks)

Good afternoon and thank you for coming. It has been a near flawless start to this academic year on all counts. Move-in day went smoothly, the laptop distribution to our scholarship winners was well received. The positive comments from students and their families were gratifying. Ed Kinley and his staff delivered on a concept and the impact has been recognized across the state.

I would like to welcome faculty, staff and EAP personnel who are new to the Indiana State University community. I look forward to meeting you and learning about your interests. This is a university on the move and we look forward to your contributions to our growth.

Together with me on the stage this afternoon are the representative leaders of our university community - the student government association, the university faculty senate, and the support staff council. At this time I invite each of them to say a few words on behalf of their constituents.

I'll call first upon professor Steven Lamb, chairperson of the university faculty senate. He will be followed by chairperson of the support staff council Kelly Hall, and, then, A.J. Patton, president of the student government association. Colleagues, following your remarks please feel free to take seats in the audience, out of the glare of the bright lights. Steve. . .

(Following remarks by Lamb, Hall, and Patton)

Thank you, colleagues for your comments.

This past year has been a challenging one, but there were many accomplishments that should be shared and celebrated by the entire campus.

For example, our faculty increased the number of grants and dollars raised to a historic level. External funding through grants and contracts grew by 10 percent, totaling $17.2 million while the number of submitted proposals grew from 267 to 279. Congratulations to all of our faculty and staff who have worked to secure these funds.

One example is the $284,000 grant received by assistant professor of chemistry Richard Fitch to obtain a new nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer. This powerful instrument will enhance reseach, teaching and learning not only for Indiana State University but for students and faculty at Rose-Hulman and St. Mary-of-the-Woods as well.

We also have exceeded our incremental goals related to experiential learning and community engagement as we continue to work on increasing these opportunities for our students. Our faculty members are working to find ways to engage our students in active learning (or new learning modalities) in research and service.

Earlier this summer, one such project focused attention far and wide on our university. the research conducted by Dr. John Ozmun, professor of physical education, and master's student Lee Robbins on the use of weighted toys to increase the physical activity of children and help fight childhood obesity was covered by media outlets throughout the world ranging from the Bob and Tom Show to NPR's morning edition and the Paul Harvey show not to mention the Los Angeles Times and other major newspapers. However, you really know you have created a stir when you see your research featured in a major comic strip where the character Sylvia debates other ways to implement it.

Another student's efforts, the play Leavesakes written by Rachelle Martin, received national recognition as the recipient of the student playwriting award from the association for theatre in higher education and the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival playwriting competition. The play was directed by theater department chair Arthur Feinsod.

Congratulations to these students and the faculty who mentor them for these accomplishments. These are only two examples of the outstanding work being done.

We are also on track in utilizing the Lilly grant money to advance our strategic initiatives. Last fall, we awarded fellowships to 26 students and faculty through the alliance for excellence through engagement and experiential learning headed by Dr. Joe Tenerelli.

These included:

- Four graduate assistantships who received an $11,250 stipend plus a tuition waiver to work closely with faculty to complete community-based projects or to co-author publications or research presentations.

- Fifteen undergraduate students were awarded $5,000 fellowships to participate in faculty-directed projects, research or community-based service and outreach experiences.

- Six faculty members received fellowships averaging $5,000 for the faculty member with an additional $5,000 for his or her department to serve as advocates for excellence in experiential learning and to provide resources for experiential learning and community engagement projects.

In addition, we have identified the first two classes of promising scholars whose pictures you will see on the screen. Each has received a grant of up to $15,000 to support their research and provide opportunities for our students. My vision when this was created was to attract top faculty to ISU by providing extra support early in their careers in order to help them be successful. So, we look forward to your continued success.

The academic side of the house has worked to identify our distinctive programs which we will be announcing in the near future.

The entire campus has been involved in increasing our community engagement and the center for public service and community engagement, directed by Nancy Rogers, has played a critical leadership role in coordinating these efforts.

I was particularly impressed with the effort that went into the habitat house project. Kelly Hall, Roxanne Torrence and their support staff colleagues did an amazing job in raising funds for the construction of the home our university sponsored, setting a new habitat record locally for a single fundraising event. Faculty, staff and students joined in the effort supporting the project financially and physically. The result was an emotion-packed ceremony in which we turned the keys of the new home over to Holly Wolfe and her three children. This family will never forget the caring assistance that Indiana State University provided. Congratulations to everyone involved.

We also had a group of 35 students, led by Al Perone and Jessica Bush, who spent their spring break reaching out to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi and Louisiana. I commend you for utilizing your break from classes in this fashion.

The center for public service and community engagement has also been instrumental in working with the career center to provide students with meaningful internship opportunities. As part of our Focus Indiana program, we have placed 135 students in scholarship-assisted internships with companies and organizations. along with our other extensive internship opportunities, we are providing student experiences that allow them to test their future careers and build a portfolio that will serve them well as they seek their first job or apply to graduate school.

Senior criminology major Katherine O'Dell has changed her career goals as the result of a Focus Indiana supported internship she completed this summer. Katherine worked at the Indiana women's prison in Indianapolis serving in the intake unit through which all women committed to the Indiana department of correction must pass. After being exposed to a wide variety of work including interviews with high-profile inmates and mental health evaluations, Katherine has decided to pursue a job at a prison after completing her degree this year.

The Focus Indiana program has also provided grants to fund projects across campus. One of particular note, is the Gilbert Wilson memorial mural project which provided students an opportunity to work with a professional muralist to create public art works in our community. I would like to commend art professors Brad Venable and Nancy Nichols for their leadership in creating and implementing this project as well as all of our student artists who participated in the first mural. The second mural will be completed this semester.

Also this fall, we will be continuing our involvement in the American democracy project.

Pizza and politics, an opportunity for students, faculty and staff to share dinner and debate political issues, kicked off the activities. This will be followed by efforts to register students and get out the vote. We will also celebrate constitution day and banned book day. i encourage your participation and that of your students. I would like to commend associate dean Darlene Hantzis and associate professor Debra Worley for their leadership in driving our participation in this program.

We continue to grow our international partnerships and influence especially in China, Morocco, and Thailand through student and faculty exchange and research.

As CNN correspondent Jim Bittermann said in his speakers series address last week, it is vitally important to have international connections and to do everything we can to prepare our students to be citizens of a global society. I would like to recognize especially Gaston Fernandez and El-Houcin Chaqra for expanding our horizons through these programs. I would also note Janice Halpern's interest in helping students study abroad.

The impact of our international efforts has been extended to Indiana k -12 schools through efforts led by Dr. John Conant and Dr. Jay Gatrell. Last spring, they led a 30-member delegation of principals, superintendents and other administrators from six k-12 school systems on a 10-day journey to Beijing, Shanghai and Dalian. Accompanied by representatives of the Indiana economic development corporation and the Indiana department of education, the delegation laid the groundwork for future faculty-student exchanges among elementary and secondary schools in china and Indiana.

As we paused earlier in the week to remember the horrific events of 911, the importance of building awareness and understanding of our global society is more urgent than ever.

All of these efforts are paying dividends, many of which we may never fully comprehend. They also are garnering attention.

Indiana State was once again selected by the Princeton review as one of the best of the Midwest and was also named a best value college. The latter recognition is particularly gratifying as only 150 of the nation's more than 3,000 colleges and universities were selected based on a combination of excellent academics, generous financial aid and relatively low costs.

And this summer, we were among an elite group of universities to be invited to apply for a special Carnegie classification designating our institution as a community engagement university. We are very pleased to be among the 150 outstanding institutions receiving this consideration.

We have also moved forward in a historically significant way by launching the first comprehensive fundraising campaign in Indiana State's history. I am proud to have been able to lead the foundation to the point of committing to this campaign. We have assembled a stellar group of alumni volunteers to serve on our campaign steering committee headed by trustee Michael Alley, and they are enthusiastically working to advance us toward our goal.

This is the quiet phase of the campaign, a time when fundraising professionals work alongside our volunteers to secure a sizable portion of the campaign goal before announcing it publicly. The five-year campaign will elevate our fundraising efforts to a new level thereby providing the resources to raise the university to new heights as well.

As part of this effort, the foundation has restructured and is launching a search for an experienced fundraising professional to serve as the president of the foundation. We are exceedingly grateful to alumnus and former trustee Tim O'Neill for his leadership as interim president during this transitional period.

The physical campus also continues to grow and reflect the good stewardship of our staff in plant op's who worry about the condition and appearance of our facilities.

This past year we reopened a wonderfully refurbished Stalker Hall and dedicated the Michael Simmons facility as a new home for two of our most treasured traditions - the trike and tandem races.

This fall, a fully renovated Burford Hall opened to great response from the students who now enjoy air-conditioned rooms with private baths and wireless access throughout the building.

Renovations have started on the federal building which will become the new home to our College of Business and groundbreaking on the Cherry Street multi-modal facility will take place next month. That means the results of the seed money we generated - $6 million for the federal building and $8 million raised in cooperation with the city for the Cherry Street transportation facility will now become evident.

We are working with state officials to secure the release of funds to begin work on the new student recreation center as well as to renovate university hall as the new location for the college of education. The state's budget problems forced a delay in these projects, but I believe we are close to seeing the release of approvals and funds.

Work has also progressed on a facilities master plan which will be finalized once we have completed the program prioritization process.

Over the past two years we survived a $5 million cut in our state appropriation during the current budget cycle coupled by a loss of tuition revenue, and we did it without having to lay off any individuals. The proactive planning that included the implementation of a hiring freeze allowed us to minimize the pain of these severe cuts. I want to thank my cabinet, the deans, chairs, budget heads and campus community for being willing to help do what needed to be done in order to make this happen.

And despite our budget challenges, we were able to deliver on improvements to our benefits program including a significantly enhanced dependent tuition waiver and the elimination of the waiting period for our health benefits program to cover pre-existing conditions.

Finally, we turned a major corner on enrollment. For the first time since 2001, we saw an increase in our new student enrollment. And they are coming to us better prepared than ever before. We also continued to grow our graduate enrollment which set a record for the third year in a row. We have put a lot of work into the recruitment of high achieving students, and I am delighted to see evidence that it is beginning to take hold. This year approximately 94% of our freshmen have completed core 40?that is up dramatically over the past five years.

To make enrollment job one, I established an enrollment management task force last fall and asked a tremendous group of individuals to serve people who care about ISU and want to make a difference in its future. This group worked on a number of initiatives, among them:

- We brought clarity to our scholarship program including the creation of "guaranteed" scholarships which drew the attention of the high-achieving students. We promised students that if they met our criteria "they earned a merit award" no lengthy application process or delays in knowing.

- I am pleased to announce that we will continue the laptop scholarship again this year. Spread the word about this program. We will become the first public university in Indiana to require entering freshmen to have laptops next fall. We intend to change the way students and faculty use technology to enhance teaching and learning and be recognized as innovators. I encourage all faculty to explore ways to utilize this technology in the classroom.

- We increased our stipends for graduate students in order to be more competitive and coupled that with more aggressive marketing and recruitment strategies.

- We are continuing to build our already strong partnership with the Ivy Tech Community College system, especially the Wabash Valley campus. This relationship has extended beyond 2 + 2 programs to include an innovative project allowing dually enrolled students to reside on our campus and take courses from both institutions.

- We have expanded our marketing efforts to new audiences including the rapidly growing Hispanic market. While maintaining our traditional advertising efforts, we have invested in many new methods to build awareness and increase our enrollment yield.

- We created a volunteer coordinator position within admissions to more fully utilize our alumni, faculty and staff in our recruitment efforts.

- And we have worked to build international student enrollments through new exchange programs and the recruitment of plus students who receive assistance from their home governments as well as the state department to study in the United States.

- We also witnessed increased recruitment and retention activities in the departments and colleges.

The result is an increase in first-time students and a much lower than expected overall decline in enrollment. I express my sincere appreciation to everyone involved in these efforts. This is a university-wide challenge which demands and has received university-wide support.

I would especially like to thank Dr. Rebecca Libler who has served as interim associate vice president for enrollment management. Dr. Libler has spent the past four years dealing with incredible pressures and challenges. She frequently had to bear the brunt of a campus tense, worried, and full of advice.

She handled that with grace and professionalism. And she built a good team of individuals to move us forward. She also provided enrollment services with the technology we will need to succeed such as laptops for admissions counselors working in the field and the talisma system to manage and track contact with prospective students. I thank her for her hard work and dedication and wish her well in her new role in the college of education working with its new dean Brad Balch.

While improved, our enrollment challenges are not yet conquered. This is an area that will continue to require even greater collaborative efforts throughout campus. To assist us during this period of transition, Provost Maynard, with my concurrence, asked Kevin Snider to assume the role of interim associate vice president for enrollment management. Kevin is well equipped to provide leadership for this extremely important function as we transition to a new structure. I appreciate his willingness to take on this task.

Due to the critical importance of enrollment management and the marketing of our university to prospective students, their parents and others, I propose combining the areas of enrollment management with integrated marketing and communications. This area of enrollment and marketing will be led by a new vice presidential appointment. We will begin a national search to fill this cabinet-level position this fall.

There will be continued emphasis on enhancing prospective student services. I do want to commend Thomas Ratliff and his staff in financial aid for significantly increasing the amount of student aid processed in a timely fashion. Our students have noticed the difference as evidenced by an increase of 15 percentage points in the satisfaction our senior class members expressed with the office of financial aid. Congratulations.

We are currently creating an admissions welcome center in Erickson Hall that provides an attractive first impression for students and their families when they visit Indiana State and brings into one location vital services students and families expect. Thus, admissions and a satellite presence for financial aid are also now located in Erickson. Public safety will also have a satellite function there during peak periods. I would like to recognize director of admissions Richard Toomey and Melissa Hughes, especially for their leadership in driving our admissions process and vision in establishing this new welcome center. I also thank all of you who had to move on short notice - I think you have survived it.

We have asked Mark Frederick, assistant director of the Career Center, to lead a new training initiative, named I-care. It is designed to promote a student friendly and caring attitude across campus. During the pilot program, 60 employees completed this training which connects key campus initiatives with training in customer service, sales and management of interpersonal relationships. We look forward to the impact that providing this training to the entire campus will have. Delivering this program fulfills one of our tactical objectives of the past several years?to address student services and campus climate.

Kevin Snider and admissions are planning a number of concentrated recruitment efforts in the most highly populated counties. A small change in market share in these counties can result in a significant impact on our enrollment numbers. And, we will continue to build partnerships to increase our international enrollments.

Some other areas of importance this year include the development of a more comprehensive honors program under the leadership of Dr. Greg Bierly. During the past year, the task force on the first year (or the taffy group) has worked diligently to review policy, practices and management to determine how to better serve the needs of our first-year students. Special thanks goes to Dr. Bob Guell and Dr. Cathy Baker for their leadership in this area.

Another critically important area of emphasis for this year is academic advising. Taffy and the university academic advising committee are working together to look at strategies for improving advising during this current year. Academic advising is a critical component to helping students succeed, and so I ask that the campus give UAAC and taffy their support in fulfilling this important task.

We hope that these initiatives, coupled with the recruitment of better prepared persisting students will result in higher retention rates. This will have a positive impact on our enrollment, graduation rates and financial well-being.

This year we will also be implementing the program prioritization recommendations that will be forthcoming later this semester. I know that many of you have worked hard on this process. While not easy (it had to be done) I would refer to the last two north central association accreditation reports. I have promised the university we will not be adversely tagged yet again for failing to address this major problem. This difficult task of pruning will result in the bearing of fruits in the form of resources available for reinvestment. Done well--this can also be a time for creative thinking about organization, pedagogy, and interdisciplinary program development. The result will be a stronger ISU.

Again this year, we are facing the biennial budget process. Our challenges in this arena are also not over. Despite the tremendous cuts we have incurred, we still receive a higher appropriation per student than most of our sister institutions. We must continue to do everything possible to demonstrate our effectiveness to the state legislature and to improve our students? success. Anything that diminishes the reputation of ISU in the minds of state policy makers and the public damages this university and undermines the investments in time and resources we have all made to improve our reputation.

Lastly, the campus-wide efforts put forth to address our enrollment and budgetary challenges have produced a tangible dividend.

I am very pleased to report that the combination of our better than budgeted enrollment numbers coupled with savings generated by the hiring freeze and other budget reduction measures have generated a surplus in one-time funding.

When informed about this surplus recently, I asked vice president Floyd to work on models for sharing a bulk of these savings with you. He has prepared several options for distributing approximately $1.5 million in one-time payments to faculty, support staff and EAP.

I am asking PPARC, the president's planning committee which advises me on budget-related issues to examine these models and provide me with their input and advice. My office will distribute this information to the PPARC members as well as senate and staff support council to invite your suggestions in advance of our September 27th meeting. The recommendations will be directed to Mr. Floyd for discussion at PPARC. We plan to disburse these funds in early December.

These won't be tremendous amounts, but I am optimistic that we can offset some of the increased cost of living expenses.

I recognize that this does not solve the compensation issues we identified in the salary study conducted three years ago. We will continue to work to position the institution financially so that we can address this situation in a meaningful way. To do that means we need to grow enrollment, retain appropriate state support, improve efficiencies, and increase external dollars raised.

As I indicated earlier, I know that this has been a year of many successes and challenges. Three years ago in this address, I outlined the path we would follow to achieve pre-eminence. Together, we have made much progress toward our destination.

The pathway has not been an easy one as we faced boulders being dropped in our way in the form of a budget downturn and the evolution that is occurring in Indiana's higher education system. With all of the external forces impacting our institution, we must remain positive and do everything within our power to hold the course that is right for our university.

Thank you, again, for all you do for ISU.

Please join wieke and me in the reception in the heritage lounge and ballroom.

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Story Highlights

President Lloyd W. Benjamin delivered his annual fall address entitled "Progressing Toward Pre-Eminence."

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