Good afternoon. It is such a pleasure to be with you
today. Though my family and I arrived in Salisbury a couple of months
ago, this represents the first opportunity for me to come before faculty,
staff and students with the purpose of discussing our future as members
of the Salisbury University community.
It is a bit daunting to deliver a "State of the
University" speech at this point in my presidency: I am too new
to pretend to be an expert on our current status and I certainly dont
have all the answers as we look towards the future. However, I bring
to you today some first impressions, and ideas as to what our priorities
and commitments will likely be in the coming years. Further, I bring
to you a newcomers perspective on the challenges, issues, and
concerns facing Salisbury University. I have no definitive solutions
to offer today, only topics for continued discussion, as together we
will build the vision for SU in the new century.
Let me begin by sharing with you a quote from former
Super Bowl MVP Roger Staubach: "The new security lies in a willingness
to change; the new insecurity results from an unwillingness to change."
And another phrase spoken by Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen:
"To steer the boat youve got to move faster than the current."
In addition to these quotations, I ask that you consider my remarks
today in the context of several mega-trends that are driving changes
in higher education: demographics, technology, globalization, and the
financing of higher education.
Last week ended with good news for Salisbury University:
For the fourth consecutive year, SU was ranked among the top ten public
regional universities in the North region by U.S. News & World
Report. As you know, that ranking is based upon the institutions
reputation, SAT scores, retention rates, and a myriad of other factors.
Former presidents Bellavance and Merwin often spoke about the importance
of the Universitys achieving national eminence. Now that Salisbury University has been recognized in U.S. News, the Princeton
Review, and Kiplingers Magazine, perhaps it is time
to declare victory in the effort to achieve national recognition. After
all, our mission and vision should not be driven by the desire to do
well in the ratings game, though national recognition will ensue from
our achieving our institutional goals, doing our jobs well, and graduating
students who become successful, productive citizens.
One of our priorities in the coming year will be to
reassess our enrollment management strategy. We should begin a discussion
about whether to de-emphasize SAT scores as the primary criterion for
admission. Consider the following: The University System of Maryland
has just approved a new, ten-year strategic plan. The underlying premise
of the plan is that "growth is good." Not only is enrollment
growth good, it is seen as necessary given the demographics of the state
of Maryland and the needs of the workplace. New state resources will,
in the coming years, go to the campuses that are able to grow in accordance
with these needs. Further, the demographic growth largely will be in
the non-white population, a population that is disadvantaged by an admission
process that relies heavily on SAT scores. In short, I am suggesting
to you today that we should develop an institutional strategy whereby
we balance the need for high standards in admissions policies with a
commitment to student access and diversity. Make no mistake: To de-emphasize
SAT scores does not equate to lowering standards; it simply means we
look at class standing and other factors in determining whether a student
is admitted to SU.
Members of the University community have talked about
the importance of achieving diversity for a number of years. Yet the
African-American student population has remained steady at 8%. We simply
must do more to ensure that our campus is representative of diverse
populations, consistent with our states demographics. Salisbury University risks losing key accreditations if we cannot bring
more African American and Hispanic students here. The students and new
dollars will flow to the campuses that grow and that can accommodate
the growing minority population. College enrollment nationwide will
swell by some two million students over the next fifteen years, with
Hispanic, African American, and Asian American students accounting for
80 percent of the growth. The demographics of our state is the most
important factor impacting traditional enrollments. Further, this particular
mega-trend will in part determine the political climate within which
our institution must operate.
Currently, 25% of Maryland residents have a baccalaureate
degree, the second highest rate in the nation. Yet we are being asked
to increase that to 40%. Off-site enrollments and outreach will be very
important in achieving that goal. The University System of Maryland
is also asking that we more aggressively seek out-of-state enrollments,
in order to meet the workforce needs of our state. In particular, we
are being directed to make special efforts in areas of critical shortages:
Teacher preparation, information technology, health careers, science
In meeting statewide needs, we should continue to build
upon our reputation for excellence. SU can be seen as a selective university
that also cares about access and serving the needs of the state and
region. To continue to make progress as an institution we should focus
on how to enhance both our undergraduate and graduate programs. If our
undergraduate enrollments rise, we can expect to increase graduate enrollments
as well; in turn, our graduate programs enhance the quality of the undergraduate
I have heard it said again and again that Salisbury University does not have room to grow, that our physical limitations
make growth difficult. A closer look reveals that we rather easily could
expand our campus to include the area where the Allenwood Shopping Center
currently sits, the other side of Rte. 13, and along Camden Avenue.
Once we have a new state-of-the-art science building, we will need to
renovate Devilbiss Hall as a multi-purpose classroom and faculty office
building. We already need more faculty office space and more classroom
space, so it is not too big a stretch to see the need for a new classroom
building. The Maggs athletic facility is limited, and many Division
III schools also have fieldhouses. While the recently completed Capital
Plan proposes that our campus remain essentially its current size, we
should take a hard look at that Master Plan and whether it will meet
the needs of SU and the goals of the USM Strategic Plan in the year
2010 and beyond.
The USM campuses in their ten-year enrollment projections
predict significant growth. Of all the Maryland public universities,
SU projects by far the lowest rate of growth at about 8%. These estimates
for SU look very conservative. A more realistic picture suggests that
by 2010 we could be a campus of about 6500 FTE students, a number which
we could achieve without changing the basic character of our campus.
Quality teaching and student success are, and will continue to be, our
passion. The interaction between faculty, staff and students will remain
critically important to the SU experience. In my short time here, I
have seen that most faculty are highly committed to student learning,
whereas at many universities today a faculty members own research
project can take precedence over teaching and learning.
This fall, without sacrificing our high admissions standards,
our FTE count is up significantly. We had projected a fall FTE of 5159;
as of today, we have 5574 FTEs. Our freshman class is the largest in
the history of SU at 943. Jane Dane, Dean of Enrollment Management,
likes to refer to this incoming group as the "Velcro class",
they have stuck with us once admitted. In effect, we accepted a certain
number of students expecting that a predicted number would decide to
go elsewhere; in the end, when we accepted them, they accepted us. This
is good news, but it does present challenges. I have heard some faculty
remark that many of our classes seem over-crowded as compared to last
fall. As one who has spent a career on college and university campuses,
let me share a newcomers observation: We have so many classes
of 30 and 35 students, that our classes feel "overcrowded."
Paradoxically, though, if we had a few large, introductory classes,
we would be in a better position to keep most classes smaller.
Every other university with which I have had experience
has some larger classes which help subsidize the smaller ones; not so
at Salisbury University. I know that there will be resistance
to the notion of some larger sections, but it is something we should
consider. There are pedagogically sound reasons for wanting to maintain
small classes in some cases, but I urge you to be open to ways in which
we might have more core faculty teaching lower division classes by combining
small sections of the same course.
Another of the mega-trends I mentioned earlier is technology.
When we in higher education first were told to embrace the new technologies,
the view was that our institutions would become more efficient. Increasingly,
the shift is away from making administrative processes more efficient
towards designing new processes to add value to students lives.
Many universities have combined the functions of the registrar, financial
aid, and bursar, thus reducing the numbers of lines students have to
stand in to get their needs met. Students are also increasingly able
to access their records via the Web. One of our institutional goals
should be to empower students by putting our administrative databases
to their best use.
Information and telecommunication technologies, most
notably the Internet, are altering our teaching, altering course delivery
mechanisms. Today, 90% of SU faculty have a Web page, and many are
incorporating the Internet into their courses. It is no longer just
the University of Phoenix which is using the technology to make inroads
in the higher education market; traditional colleges and universities
are also responding. Do we at SU have any interest in pursuing the
opportunities that distance learning offers? Can we afford not to? Can
we ignore the emerging market for technology-based instruction? I was
interested to learn just the other day that Mr. Fred Marino, who is
director of WSCL, our Public Radio station, is also our campus
director of distance learning. Should the leadership for distance learning
and all instructional technology initiatives not come from Academic
Affairs? We have approval for construction of a new Teaching and Learning
Center, a facility that will greatly enhance our current library facilities.
Is there an opportunity here to coordinate plans for the new Center,
Web-based instruction, and distance learning efforts? If so, should
we consider hiring an associate provost for information technology,
a position that would be housed within Academic Affairs?
The notion of lifelong learning is becoming increasingly
important with the accelerating obsolescence of knowledge and the changing
needs of the labor market. Are we currently effective in addressing
the publics need for continuing education and lifelong learning?
An academically-based IT division would promote ways for our campus
to meet the needs of adults who prefer to complete some coursework at
a distance, while providing support for those faculty wanting to incorporate
Internet-based activities into the classroom.
To offer a number of SU courses at a distance, for
example, as part of the Southern Regional Electronic Campus, would further
promote the reputation of the University beyond our immediate region.
We should build upon the current opportunities for distance education
in collaboration with Chesapeake College, and explore new possible ventures
with other institutions. Earlier I spoke of the possibility of revising
our enrollment projections upward; if we are effective in promoting
lifelong learning for adult students, some of our enrollment growth
would take place off campus.
I have spoken at some length about distance learning,
and would like to underscore the fact that most instruction at Salisbury University will continue to take place in more or less traditional
classroom settings. Still, we should offer a few courses and programs
at remote sites.
One of the mega-trends I mentioned is the financing
of higher education. In the spirit of shared governance, throughout
my presidency I will promote a consultative budget process. So that
we might begin to grasp the challenges before us, let me briefly mention
several areas needing our attention. First, we must resolve the issue
of the status of contingent employees. We must devise a plan to ensure
that all Contingent II employees who have worked at SU for two or more
years have medical benefits. I have put a moratorium on the hiring of
new Contingent IIs until a plan is in place. Next fiscal year we will
convert another seventy Contingent IIs, and within three years there
should be no Continent II employees that do not have benefits.
Another major item that will impact our budgets will
be the changes to our Optional Retirement Plan; specifically, I expect
that the proposal to increase state and employee contributions will
be phased in over a two year period. Further, we must continue to make
progress towards increasing faculty and staff salaries.
This legislative session we hope to gain approval for
a change in our institutions name. In the national arena for universities
with our history, the word "state" still connotes a focus
only on the education of teachers. While we have an outstanding School
of Education, we also have three other flourishing Schools. We also
believe that the name change will enhance our prospects for both increased
public and private support. Yes, I, too, am already tired of the "Salisbury
steak" jokes! We have already budgeted a campus signage project
for next year; ideally we could implement the name change at the same
As you may know, SU is required to submit a Performance
Accountability Report to the University System of Maryland and the Maryland
Higher Education Commission. What you may not know is that, for all
our much-touted success in the U.S. News rankings, our institution
has been cited as having fallen short in several critical areas: the
number of off-campus credit enrollments; the percentage of African-American
full-time students; the percentage of faculty and staff from underrepresented
groups; our insufficient progress in outcomes assessment; and the percentage
of lower division credit hours generated by core faculty. As mentioned
earlier, we are beginning the process of 5-year review by the Middle
States Association. The MSA visiting team will be looking at our campus
efforts in these same areas: Diversity, outreach, and assessment of
student outcomes. Understanding that not all of the four Schools have
made equal progress, there is a need for the faculty to assume the leadership,
design and implementation of an institutional student outcomes assessment
plan. The assessment effort must be led by the faculty and supported
fully by the administration. I will work with the Provost and the Faculty
Senate to form an assessment committee, which will be chaired by a member
of the faculty. The Office of Institutional Assessment, Research and
Accountability will provide appropriate support to the committee and
the institution in fulfilling our outcomes assessment goals.
I mentioned globalization as one mega-trend affecting
higher education. On the occasion of the most recent campus planning
day last April, international programming was identified as one of a
number of major campus priorities. A coherent and coordinated international
education strategy is needed if we are to prepare our students for the
global environment in which they will spend the rest of their lives.
Global change demands new knowledge, better ways of working with individuals
from cultures different from our own, and an international outlook.
How can we ensure that our graduates are prepared for the new globalism?
The Office of International Education needs greater visibility, and
our current study abroad opportunities need better coordination. I would
encourage the faculty to continue the discussion of an international
requirement as part of general education.
In facing the many challenges and opportunities that
lie ahead, as your president I must have a role that is increasingly
external. The search will soon be underway for a new provost, and other
key searches, such as the dean of the Perdue School of Business, will
soon commence. We will either search for a new dean of libraries or,
perhaps, take the opportunity to reconfigure the position as an associate
vice presidency for information technology. I hope to have the now-vacant
assistant to the president position filled in October. My energies are
needed in Annapolis and Adelphi, time is needed with legislators and
also with the many friends of the University throughout the state. We
will continue to make progress with our fund-raising efforts in support
of the Capital Campaign. Salisbury University must be more successful
in increasing the number and amount of scholarships for students if
a college education is to be affordable. Additionally, increased funding
is needed for faculty development. Although a robust state economy has
produced budget increases for us in recent years, the margin of excellence
in our academic programs will largely depend on our ability to increase
funds that come from grants, corporations, and individuals.
Too often, colleges and universities are seen as being
inward-looking, and in the past have often been criticized for their
"ivory tower" culture. At Salisbury University, our
growing reputation is based on the strong academic preparation of our
graduates, and also what experiences students have gained outside of
the classroom. With the advent of the new Scarborough Student Leadership
Center, SU students will have increased opportunities to develop leadership
skills. Through the Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement,
students can become involved in civic projects at the local and state
levels. During their time at the University, our students will have
opportunities to engage in service learning and volunteer projects.
SU graduates have a solid academic preparation, and are also good citizens.
Our faculty, too, are involved in partnerships with business and civic
As a new academic year begins, and a new president begins
her tenure, it is a time to celebrate new beginnings, new hopes and
dreams. Let us leave today with a sense of satisfaction that our outstanding
institution has again been acknowledged by a national publication. But
more importantly, let us together look forward to building an even stronger
University, one that cares deeply about quality, and that stands ready
to meet the needs of our changing society.