2014 President's Spring Welcome
At the start of the New Year, I returned to find a warm and welcoming note in the President’s Dropbox. An administrative assistant in the College of Arts and Sciences wrote to say simply “thank you” for my work as the University’s President. Her warmly welcoming message, with her expression of support for a new University vision, made me reflect on the extraordinariness of our community.
As the heartbeat returns to campus, we begin anew with students and faculty filling the halls and quads. The holiday season was marked by many heartwarming stories—the overcoming of seeming tragedies because of hope; the development of little children's minds into great persons after rocky starts in life; and the passing of our elders who remind us of our heritage because of their extreme loyalty to this institution. Through our travels, many of us overcame the odds of snow and delayed flights to reunite with friends and family. We experienced the simple personal interactions that holidays bring us as we shared cheer with one another, celebrated lives well lived, and discovered new friends and colleagues. These are the things that can happen to us in the caring communities we call universities. The University of Redlands is one of those communities.
I hope you all realize what a progressive place this is! What are proofs of our progress?
- The Board of Trustees is revising its own work and governance to be ever more engaged, interactive, and efficient. They are planning for faculty to have even greater contact with trustees.
- Faculty, too, are envisioning a new senate form of governance, and we hope that can be soon achieved, as it is an essential part of shared governance.
- The new University Council on Comprehensive Internationalization is making progress, and details of their deliberations and plans will be forthcoming in their first interim report. Alissa (“Ali”) Klein, our new Director of International Recruitment, has arrived and you will soon want to see the enthusiasm and professionalism she brings to her role.
- Strategic planning is underway in the Office of Information Technology Services, the School of Business, and the School of Education.
- As you know, the silent phase of a comprehensive University fundraising campaign is underway, and because of hard work by our University Advancement team and spirited philanthropy from our alumni/ae and friends, our total is now nearly $70 million since I arrived and promised you we would start immediately.
- In this challenging era for the U.S. economy and higher education in general, it is an achievement that Fitch Ratings affirmed the University’s ‘BBB’ credit rating and has projected a “stable outlook.” This is really very good news. However, in order to maintain and/or improve this rating status, we will need to move in the direction of developing a break-even operating margin. Currently, the booked operating margin according to GAAP standards is approximately a negative 3%, which equates to an annual shortfall of approximately $3.5 million. Going forward, our budgeting will have to address with even greater determination adequate funding for “maintenance and replacement” if the University is to achieve a scheduled breakeven operating margin expected by Fitch and Moody’s in order to maintain its rating status.
- We’ll welcome 33 new students into the College of Arts and Sciences today for the start of the spring semester.
- We’ll welcome 213 new students in School of Business this month, the highest January enrollment period in the past six years.
- The School of Education started its first Rancho Cucamonga cohort of Education Specialist Credential students this week, marking the first time this credential has been offered outside the University’s main campus. For teachers who want to work in the K-12 setting with students in the mild to moderate disability range, this program is gaining momentum.
- The new Student Financial Services (SFS) office structure was implemented in November 2013. This new office combines all of the functions that were performed in what were formerly the Student Accounts and Financial Aid offices. SFS offers one stop for students to get all of their questions answered about costs, scholarships, financial aid, payment options, and billing questions. SFS is located in Willis Center. They look forward to serving in a new way.
- Our faculty, through their scholarly works, continue to achieve media attention. #
- Dr. Piers Britton, associate professor of visual and media studies, served as media source for the 50th anniversary of the internationally popular TV show Dr. Who, and was so spot on that six major media outlets were interested in talking with him or building their stories around his knowledge — LA Times (print and online), Forbes, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, Village Voice, and Huffington Post. Piers, who literally “wrote the book” on Dr. Who and who teaches an undergraduate class on the subject, earned the #1 spot for University media coverage for all of 2013.
- Dr. Karen Derris, religious studies professor, edited the book "The Heart is Noble" based on her experience with her travel abroad program to India, where students visited with and learned from His Holiness, the 17th Karmapa. Her work received media coverage that included local newspapers, a regional KVCR-radio interview, National Examiner.com articles, and an LA market broadcast with KCAL-9 News.
- Student Life has transitioned the work of the Student Leadership and Involvement Center to more specifically emphasize leadership. After 17 years, some portions of the huge job Ilaria Pesco had prior to her sailing away on the Semester at Sea program have been moved to an Activities Programmer. That job will be funded by ASUR and will allow the new Director of Leadership and Involvement, Denise Davis (formerly the Assistant Director of Johnston Center), to focus on leadership development in her work with students.
- We have enhanced our outdoor opportunities with the new intramural and athletic practice field available especially to intramurals late into the evening. Where formerly groups such as Ultimate Frisbee, intramural teams, and club sports had no lighted field with enough hours (or any hours for that matter) available to them, we now have a wonderful new facility which provides for the needs of athletic practice and recreational sport.
- We will be further enhancing outdoor opportunities with a new disc golf course, which will be located on the south end of the campus. It is designed to be a course played in the dirt, with baskets located strategically throughout the southern ten acres.
- Among the Greek social organizations, all except one have now achieved a cumulative GPA above 3.0. Greek organization members now comprise 18% of the College. A new agreement stipulates that any group with a new member process will not offer opportunities to first-year students. Additionally, Greek organization women have decided they will only have one rush period (fall) unless a group falls below minimum numbers.
- Community Service Learning continues to provide wonderful opportunities for our students that benefit the community. The Sustainable University of Redlands Farm (SURF) produced its first harvest of the year, 15 pounds of lettuce, which was given to Family Services of Redlands. Other highlights from the fall semester include our strong showing with a 120-member team for the “Believe Walk” and our onsite service agency fair designed to connect our students with some of our best community partners. This semester, Community Service Learning will expand Jasper’s Corner Homework Help Club, currently with one site on campus and one at the Boys and Girls Club. Two new locations will open soon—one at the Redlands Community Center and the other at the Mustard Seed Tutorial Center.
I hope you also realize our increasing visibility and reputation in the region and in higher education. We generate close to 5,000 media stories a year about faculty, students, alumni and their achievements. Our friends and colleagues, Jim and Deb Fallows, just posted in The Atlantic more than a dozen essays on Redlands that referenced the University and town/gown collaboration. Find their writing online and see what the nation is reading about us.
But also realize there are corners of this University about which we don’t hear enough, yet they acknowledge even international excellence and attractiveness. On Sunday January 12, an extraordinary program on our world-class Cassavant organ in Memorial Chapel was performed by visiting internationally renowned concert organist David Higgs, an early student of Fred Swann in his days at the Manhattan School of Music. The music, the artfulness, and the generativity of student/mentor encapsulate much of what we are about—teaching and excellence, the informed mind, and awe-inspiring beauty.
We enter a new year beginning again with the budget cycle for FY 2014-15. Budget challenges remain a reality as the economy begins to recover, yet sputters. We will continue to implement those intentional austerity measures begun previously, in order to establish more prudent financial practices. Because we are holding ourselves to new disciplines of accountability, self evaluation, and prudence, I am extremely confident of our future. Change is inevitable to survive. I embrace change, and I hope all of you do as well at the very same time we hold to the most cherished traditions that have allowed us to thrive for more than a century, to perform noble service to society, and to produce outstanding citizens of the world. Part of change is reinventing who we are and how we organize ourselves to achieve our mission.
This past year we reorganized responsibilities within the President’s Cabinet, and the outcome has been excellent. I hear that some people on campus have wondered about recent staff departures. I assure you that change in the Academy is always with us. It is natural and expected, a form of steady evolution. We should always wish well our colleagues who are able to use our great University as a springboard on their career path. We congratulate those who leave us at the same moment we welcome the opportunity for those who join us in this great community. And so I can report that the structural reorganization of the University leadership has succeeded. Financial and academic leadership are both essential to a great university, and neither alone is sufficient. Cory Nomura as the Vice President for Finance and Administration and David Fite as Interim Provost will be “first among equals” and provide the leadership we need in new times. They will cover the campus whenever I am not immediately available. I assure you that even in my absence to secure the resources and reputation this University deserves, I am always available to you and in constant contact.
We are moving in a new and right direction. We are a university with a rich history, and it is our energy and imagination that will move us forward. We can make progress together with emerging united vision. We can make progress if we work with greater alacrity. What will not serve us well is “ready . . . aim . . . aim . . . aim.” If we choose to make ourselves more progressive in domains where we have demonstrable excellence and where others are simply struggling, we can achieve success on several levels — visibility, reputation, recruitment, and financial security. This is how Redlands will become a “hot” university, the destination, the place to be.
I know this in my heart, because Redlands is an exceptional place to work, learn, teach, and grow. Let's envision together a university that is moving forward and a great place to be.
All the best to you in the new year ahead,