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2012 State of the University Address

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    President Jake B. Schrum delivers his 2012 State of the University Address. (Photo by Lucas Adams)
    Lucas Adams

August 23, 2012

Welcome to the 2012-2013 academic year. I would like to begin today by sharing some of the news you may have missed over the summer as well as a preview of the coming year.

A recent ranking by Forbes magazine has validated what we have known for a long time – that Southwestern University is an outstanding investment.

In its latest ranking of America’s best undergraduate colleges, Forbes ranked Southwestern second among all colleges and universities in Texas – both public and private – and among the top 100 colleges and universities in the United States. The only Texas school to be ranked higher than Southwestern was Rice University.

The Forbes ranking looks at colleges the way a consumer might look at them, with an emphasis on factors such as teaching quality, four-year graduation rate, success after graduation, and the amount of debt that students graduate with.

In July, we also were proud to learn that our Career Services Office was included on a list of the 20 colleges with the Best Career Services published by Best Colleges Online.

The quality of the education we provide at Southwestern also was validated in May, when we learned that we were one of 47 colleges selected to participate in a $50 million science education initiative sponsored by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. We will receive $1.3 million dollars over the next four years to transform the curriculum in all our natural science departments. Chemistry professors Emily Niemeyer and Maha Foote are the co-directors of this exciting new initiative.

All in all, 2011-2012 turned out to be the 3rd best fundraising year ever in Southwestern’s history. Gifts and pledges totaled nearly $19 million dollars and the total raised to date in the Thinking Ahead fundraising campaign is now more than $136 million dollars.

Major gifts and pledges received in 2011-2012 included:

  • A $5 million dollar pledge from 1963 graduate Joe Seeber to reintroduce football at Southwestern as an intercollegiate sport in the fall of 2013 and begin women’s lacrosse as a varsity sport in the spring of 2014. San Antonio businessman Red McCombs, who also attended Southwestern and played football, pledged an additional $1 million to support the new programs.
  • A $3 million dollar pledge from the Cullen Trust for Higher Education to complete renovations to the Cullen Building.
  • $1.55 million dollars from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to reshape our Paideia Program, support NITLE’s Digital Humanities project, and support several presidential priorities.
  • $1.1 million from The Brown Foundation, Inc. for the new science center and student scholarships.
  • $500,000 pledged through the estate of a former Trustee and parent of a Southwestern graduate.
  • $450,000 from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation to support a new program for transfer students from Austin Community College.

And we are pleased to announce that we have recently received word from the U.S. Department of Education that our Upward Bound program will be funded for another five years. This grant is worth $1.25 million dollars.

Over the summer, we welcomed several new staff colleagues. Among these were Pamela McQuesten, who is our first Chief Information Officer and Megan Frisque, who is our new associate vice president for alumni and parent relations.

Longtime staff member Jaime Woody has assumed a new role as Dean of Students after Dr. Mike Leese returned to work at his alma mater, Tarleton State University.

This fall, we are welcoming two new tenure-track faculty colleagues:

Erin Crockett has joined us as an assistant professor of psychology. Erin received her undergraduate degree from Southwestern in 2005 and was a visiting professor here during the past academic year.

Valerie Renegar has joined us as an associate professor of communication studies.

And speaking of faculty, several of our faculty members have recently received honors:

Shana Bernstein, associate professor of history, is one of 25 scholars selected to serve as Distinguished Lecturers for the Organization of American Historians in 2012-2013.

Mary Grace Neville, associate professor of business and holder of the John Shearn Chair in Business, received a Fulbright Award to spend this year teaching at Ashesi University in Ghana.

And in June, Glenn Schwab, our head athletic trainer, was named the Division III Head Athletic Trainer of the Year by the National Athletic Trainers Association. Glenn was promoted to Associate Athletic Director & Director of Athletic Training Services over the summer after Ronda Seagraves was named director of athletics and wellness at Centenary College.

We have two new head coaches joining us this fall.

Matthew Grosso has joined us as our new head women’s lacrosse coach and R.J. Thomas has joined us as our new head baseball coach.

This fall we will be rolling out a new graphic identity for our athletic teams as well as a new athletics web site.

Last weekend we welcomed more than 400 new students to campus – 360 first-year students and 41 transfer students.

Nearly 1,000 other students are returning to campus this fall, so we are expecting a total enrollment of about 1,400 compared to 1,347 last fall. This will be the most students we have ever had at Southwestern.

Thirty percent of the students in the first-year class are students from underrepresented groups – our highest percentage ever.

Many exciting things will be happening in the coming year.

Later this month, we expect to be one of 40 colleges to be included in an updated version of the book Colleges That Change Lives. Members of our admission staff will be promoting this as they begin to recruit next year’s class.

We also expect to be included in a “Road Trip” feature in U.S. News & World Report’s annual education issue, which is due out next month.

Next month we will begin work on a new field house, practice fields and track for our athletics teams.

The Alumni Relations staff is hoping to break yet another attendance record at this year’s Homecoming and Reunion Weekend, which will be held Nov. 2-4.

Playwright Suzan (“Susan”) Lori Parks will be the 2012 speaker in the Writer’s Voice Series sponsored by the A. Frank Smith, Jr. Library Center on Nov. 13. Many events are planned in conjunction with this lecture, including a performance of some of the plays from Park’s series called “365 Days 365 Plays.”

Psychology Professor Traci Guiliano (“Jewel-ee-AN-oh”)is coordinating Southwestern’s 35th Brown Symposium, which will be held Jan. 28, 2013. The symposium is titled “Sex Talk – A Symposium With Benefits.” Outside guests who will participating in this symposium include Dan Savage, author of the popular syndicated column titled “Savage Love.”

And today we are delighted to announce that world-renowned primatologist Jane Goodall has accepted our invitation to be our 2013 Shilling Lecture speaker. Jane will be here on campus April 2, 2013.

In the coming year we also will continue work on the bold initiatives that were announced last September.

The first of those initiatives was to integrate the A. Frank Smith, Jr. Library Center and Information Technology Services. As mentioned earlier, Pamela McQuesten has joined us as the new Vice President for Information Services and CIO with responsibility for the library and ITS. She comes to Southwestern from Occidental College and is looking forward to meeting with faculty, students and staff while doing lots of listening. Throughout this year, Pam seeks to engage the campus community in thoughtful discussions and planning focused on the impact of digital information and technologies in teaching, learning and the administrative work of Southwestern.

The second initiative was to involve all students in our Paideia® program and make it a more substantial element of the overall educational program. We plan to do this through our new Quality Enhancement Plan, or QEP, which is a required component of our 10-year reaccreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. We have made “interdisciplinarity” the theme of our Quality Enhancement Plan, which offers an exciting opportunity to further develop the interdisciplinary aspects of our curriculum and incorporate the tenets of Paideia into it so that all students are engaged.

Beginning in the fall of 2014, new students will be introduced to the concept of Paideia in their First-Year or Advanced-Entry Seminar – the very first course they will take at Southwestern. Following their First-Year or Advanced-Entry Seminar, students will be introduced to an array of themes from which they will choose their “Paideia Cluster” − a series of three interconnected courses culminating in a fourth course that will be known as the “Paideia Seminar.” Throughout this Paideia experience, students will have the opportunity to participate in civic engagement activities, intercultural experiences and undergraduate research projects that enable them to apply their liberal arts education to essential questions facing the world around them. Several of our faculty members have already submitted proposals for pilot “Paideia Clusters” that will be offered next fall.

Representatives from the SACS Commission on Colleges will be here on campus Oct. 30-Nov. 1, and we need to make sure that everyone on campus is aware of our new QEP and what it involves.

Another initiative was to collaborate with The Methodist Hospital Research Institute in Houston to create a Master’s Degree in Translational Medicine. Several of our faculty members have been working closely with representatives from TMHRI on this and we hope to announce some more news soon.

Closely tied with this initiative is our plan to build a new science center. We now have raised nearly $6 million of the $24 million needed to fund this project.

Last fall we also announced plans to enhance our varsity athletics program with the addition of football and women’s lacrosse. As you know, Joe Austin was hired last spring to be our head football coach, and he now has most of his coaching staff in place. photo Thirteen students who enrolled this fall did so in hopes of playing football for the Pirates next year. Coach Grosso will be recruiting players to launch women’s lacrosse in Spring 2014. After careful consideration, we have decided not to pursue a Masters of Arts in Teaching Degree at this time, but a task force formed under the auspices of the Academic Affairs Council is evaluating offering a January Term in January 2014.

In the coming year we also look forward to more achievements on the part of our students. In December, for example, senior education major Kelsey Lee Welden will be recognized as one of the best teacher candidates in the state by the Texas Association of School Personnel Administrators, or TASPA. This is the 13th year in a row that a student in Southwestern University’s Teacher Certification Program has been recognized with a scholarship from TASPA.

And senior international studies major Cheyenne Wooldridge will be studying in China this fall thanks to a Gilman International Scholarship. Cheyenne is the 7th Southwestern student in the past two years to receive one of these highly competitive scholarships.

For all these reasons and many more we eagerly anticipate another successful year for Southwestern University.

I would like to thank ALL of you for your role in recruiting our new class. As just one example of “how it takes a village to recruit a class,” I want to share a story that came to my attention over the summer.

Last spring, a woman with two daughters who were prospective college students saw Provost Jim Hunt and his wife at the Austin airport. The couple noticed that Jim had a luggage tag indicating his affiliation with Southwestern, and they chatted about the school. It turned out that one of their daughters had been accepted to Southwestern, but had several other universities to choose from and was still uncertain of her final decision.

Jim ran into the family again at the end of their flight, and he gave the daughter a copy of our magazine and offered to provide her with any assistance she might need in the future.

This gesture greatly impressed the girl’s mother, and she wrote Jim over the summer to let him know that her daughter would be entering Southwestern in the fall with a challenging schedule and a bright future.

This mother went on to add that all of their visits and phone calls to the University had been positive experiences. She said the people working on the campus (our Physical Plant staff) had been helpful and courteous, that Denise Barnes had gone out of her way to make them feel welcome when they wandered into the Athletic Department on Pre-Advising Day, and that Dottie Turner in the Admissions Office had been patient and very informative during each of their phone calls.

The mother ended her letter by noting how such small gestures can go a LONG way (with LONG in capital letters).

Thank you all for the gestures you make that help families like this one feel good about choosing Southwestern. This is a responsibility, I know, ALL of us take seriously.

RETIREMENTS

Several of our colleagues will be leaving in the coming year, and I wanted to share those with you.

History Professor Daniel Castro is retiring this month after teaching at Southwestern since 1996.

As you may have heard, Lynne Brody will be retiring as dean of library services after this year’s Writer’s Voice event. Lynn has done a superb job organizing this event as well as running our library for the past 22 years, and we will miss her.

Frank Guziec, professor of chemistry and holder of the Herbert and Kate Dishman Chair in Science, will be retiring at the end of the academic year. Dr. Guziec also has taught here since 1996, as has his wife, Lynn. We will miss both Lynn and Frank.

Ken Roberts, professor of economics and holder of the Hugh Roy and Lillie Cullen Chair in Economics, will also be retiring at the end of the academic year. Dr. Roberts has taught here since 1981.

Computer Science Professor Suzanne Buchele and her husband, Steve, have decided to return to Ghana as missionaries. Suzanne will teach here through December 2013 before embarking on her new venture.

David Stones, who has been our Registrar for the past 12 ½ years, will be leaving at the end of December. On January 1, the former Registrar’s Office will be merged with the Center for Academic Success, creating the Center for Academic Success and Records. Kim Murphy will provide leadership for this center as Assistant Dean for Academic Success and Director of Records. This merger will streamline many of the day-to-day transactions that students and faculty perform, as well as allow both offices to more effectively serve specific populations. For example, a new Academic and Transition Advisor will work specifically with transfer, veteran, and exploratory students. We will make additional details about this transition available to the campus community over the coming months.

Other staff members who will be retiring this year include Karen Purdy, who is leaving at the end of December after serving Southwestern just over 25 years; and Mike Rossman, who is leaving next May. Mike, who everyone knows, has dedicated just under 40 years of his life to Southwestern.

MUNDY AWARDS

As we do at this event each year, I would like to announce this year’s recipients of the Joe S. Mundy Award for Exemplary Service, which was created in 2002 as a memorial to the leadership of former alumnus and Trustee Joe Mundy. This award honors faculty and staff members who have demonstrated exemplary service to Southwestern.

Will John Chapman please come forward?

As you know, John retired last spring after teaching at Southwestern for 45 years – longer than any other faculty member. Throughout his time at Southwestern, Dr. Chapman was a model teacher/scholar, mentor, and department chair. He also supervised the peer tutoring program for the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science for many years, and colleagues say it will take at least two of them to fill this role now that he has retired. Dr. Chapman also has been active in the Georgetown community and has served on several local boards and commissions.

Will Dana Hendrix please come forward?

Dana has been the head of collection development and acquisitions at the Smith Library since 1991. While that is her official title, she does much more than that. Very few people realize how much Dana does behind the scenes to enhance our students’ academic experience through library instruction and extensive committee work, including the Feminist Studies Committee. Dana also is an ardent supporter of our faculty in the classroom and in their own scholarly research, and she is a huge force in providing the rich encounters we all benefit from through the annual Writer’s Voice series.

Will Mike Leese please come forward?

Dr. Leese left Southwestern in June, but he has come back today to let us present him with this award. Dr. Leese joined Southwestern’s Student Life staff in 1993 and served as dean of students from 2003 until he left in June to return to his alma mater, Tarleton State University. Throughout his 19 years at Southwestern, Dr. Leese worked 24/7 to help our students. He nurtured them, mentored them, and not just changed lives, but actually saved lives. Students and parents alike have provided testimony to Dr. Leese’s outstanding and critically important work. Dr. Leese was also known to buy doughnuts and fruit for the student life staff and student workers every Friday morning. We are glad Dr. Leese could come back today for this well-deserved honor. Will Scott Sandoval please come forward?

As an undergraduate at Southwestern, Scott was a student employee in the Admission Office and was mentored by John Lind. It was there that he discovered the impact that admission work could have on a student’s life. In the nearly 20 years that he has been working at Southwestern himself, Scott has worked tirelessly to recruit and retain some of our best students. On countless occasions, Scott has driven to bus stations and/or airports to pick up students or prospects who don’t have cars. Numerous students have told us that without Scott Sandoval, they would not be at Southwestern.

The names of these four individuals will be added to the plaque with the names of all those who have previously received the Mundy Award that is located in the Bishops Lounge in the McCombs Center.

Finally, I am announcing today that I will be retiring from Southwestern on June 30, 2013.

It has been, and continues to be, a joyful privilege to serve as President of my alma mater. It is a rare opportunity for which I will be forever grateful.

In 2000, I told the Board that I would serve at least ten years; it has now been 12, and in this last year, I hope that we can bring our $150 million campaign to a successful completion, have our accreditation reaffirmed by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and continue to rebuild the confidence we had in Southwestern’s destiny before the great recession of 2008.

I hope you know how much I appreciate you and your efforts to advance Southwestern for the betterment of our students and, ultimately, humankind.

Thank you.