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President calls past year ‘extraordinary,’ looks to good year ahead

August 16, 2012 12:00AM

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Pittsburg State University President Steve Scott said Thursday that the university’s accomplishments over the past year can be summed up simply.

“Overall, my assessment of this past year can be captured in a single word: Extraordinary!” Scott said.

The president recapped the past year and discussed the opportunities and challenges of the coming year before a standing-room-only crowd at the university’s annual Opening Faculty Meeting. In addressing the faculty, the president continued a tradition that goes back to the university’s founding in 1903. The university’s 110th fall semester begins on Monday, Aug. 20.

Scott listed some of the major accomplishments of the past year and reminded the audience that the university’s successes were the result of a team effort.

“When looking back at last year, there is not a better place to begin than an update on our progress toward constructing a Center for the Arts,” the president said. “A year ago, I reported that we had $12 million for a project that is expected to cost about $30 million. Today I am happy to say we have nearly $29 million in pledges and cash on hand. We’re nearly there!”

Scott said plans for the building are being reviewed by the State Architect’s Office in Topeka. When the plans have been approved, the project will be ready to go out for bid.

The president praised PSU students, who voted to contribute $7 million toward the center.

“What a legacy this group of students will leave,” he said.

Private giving

The president said the past year was a record one for the university’s fundraising efforts.

“The overall total for the year was $17,834,364. It was the highest ever in our history,” Scott said. “This year nearly 30 new scholarships were created.”

Legislative support

The president said the university was successful in garnering legislative support last year, pointing to a $750,000 allocation for the School of Construction and a $500,000 allocation to create a new degree program in polymer chemistry.

Enrollment

Enrollment continues to rise, the president said, noting that spring 2012 was a record. One interesting fact, President Scott said, was that from 2006 until 2011, minority enrollment grew almost 90 percent. One factor in the university’s enrollment growth, the president said, has been the PSU’s reach into northwest Arkansas through the Gorilla Advantage Program.

“In the fall of 2009, we had five students from northwest Arkansas,” Scott said. “This fall we anticipate that number will be 62.”

Sustainability

The president praised the university’s ongoing efforts in sustainability.

“In the spring, I signed the Presidents’ Climate Commitment, demonstrating our intentions to reduce our carbon footprint,” Scott said.

Since then, the university has implemented a system that monitors and tracks energy use in all buildings. The university is also making progress on reducing waste. In the most recent four-month period, Scott said, PSU’s recycling efforts have kept 12 tons of paper, 3 tons of cardboard, 435 pounds of plastic and nearly 300 pounds of aluminum from going to the landfill.

Housing

President Scott noted that University Housing has just completed the renovation of Tanner Annex as part of a multi-year, $22 million plan to renovate all of the university’s residence halls.

“They reached a milestone this year, by completing the north campus renovations and expansion,” Scott said. “They now turn their attention to the south campus, in what might be the most difficult phase of this enormous effort.”

Athletics

President Scott said he couldn’t talk about successes of the past year without mentioning Intercollegiate Athletics.

“They had a pretty good year as well,” the president said. “We earned our fourth all-time national championship in football, women's basketball enjoyed its best year ever with our first Elite Eight appearance, men's basketball advanced to the championship game of the MIAA Postseason Tournament, women's cross country and men's outdoor track & field teams secured MIAA Championships, and women's softball matched the school record for consecutive victories in a season.”

But as important as victories on the field are, Scott said, it is even more important to note that two student-athletes received NCAA Elite 89 honors and three student-athletes earned Capital One Academic All-America honors. Those achievements brought PSU's Academic All-American total to 92 honorees in the past quarter century, he said, giving PSU the highest total among NCAA Division II institutions.

The president’s list of accomplishments also included: record numbers of students studying abroad, comprehensive efforts on course redesign, the successful transition to new e-mail and course content systems, and dramatic increases in the use of Facebook and YouTube as communication tools with alumni and constituents.

“What do you think? Did we make progress this past year?” Scott asked the audience. “I think you’ll agree the answer is a resounding ‘yes,’ and these are just some of our many accomplishments.”

The president said PSU’s successes were the result of a team effort.

“The most important thing to note here is that we achieved these outcomes by working together,” Scott said. “They are university accomplishments and should be shared by all of us.”

Looking to the year ahead, the president said it would be one of multiple opportunities and challenges. Those include moving the university forward on approximately $60 million worth of additions to the campus.

“We need to begin construction of the Center for the Arts, we need to complete the design of the renovation and expansion of the Overman Student Center, and we need to secure the funding for the completion of the Weede renovation and expansion,” Scott said. “If we move those three projects forward in such a way as to meet these goals, we’ll have had another extraordinary year.”

The president said in the months ahead, the university will discuss an important issue advanced by students last year. That is the possibility of making PSU a tobacco-free campus. He noted that 562 campuses across the U.S. have already taken that step and entire systems in Oklahoma and Arkansas have already acted.

President Scott observed that some Americans are beginning to question the value of a college degree.

“It is up to all of us to make the case for what we do,” Scott said. “We need to communicate the value of a college degree and of the college experience.”

Scott said faculty and staff needed to share that message with policy makers, including regents, legislators, the governor and the public as well as with students and parents “so that they understand the value of a college degree and the impact it can and will have on their lives.”

“Clearly, we have some huge challenges in front of us,” the president said. “What I do know and understand quite well is that our record of accomplishment and progress over the past few years -- years that were very challenging and difficult -- should give us confidence that we can and will elevate our ourselves to continue to build a bright future for Pittsburg State.”

The president concluded his address by repeating words that he first spoke during a campus legislative update in the spring.

“If we want stability, we can’t count on it being delivered from Topeka or Washington, D.C.,” the president said. “We’ll have to create it ourselves. If we want a bright future for our students, our university, and for ourselves, then we’ll need to work together, to envision it, to build a plan for attaining it, and then working to make it happen. It’s really up to us.”

©2012 Pittsburg State University