Wrapping Up the Academic Year, May 10, 2017
As we wrap up our last few days of the semester and head into commencement weekend, I want to offer a few parting thoughts to close out the academic year. (Ah … one year. Last year at this time, I was still joking about the inconceivable idea that the Cubs could win the World Series. Remember how that turned out?)
We end the year in a good place, celebrating the enormous successes of our students, graduates, faculty and staff. In the last few weeks alone, two of our students — Francis Commerçon and Kiloaulani Kaawa-Gonzales — received the prestigious Truman Scholarships, a rare occurrence for one university when typically only one student per state is selected. In their own national collegiate competition, our student landscape architects came out in the top 3, outpacing their peers around the country. Our student athletes had the top academic performance in the Mountain West Conference and surpassed the NCAA academic performance standard in every sport. And we appointed six new University Distinguished Professors, the highest honor accorded members of our faculty: Drs. Manfred Diehl, Don Estep, Alan Knapp, Keith Paustian, A.R. Ravishankara, and Ellen Wohl.
The Board of Governors met last week and approved our budget for next year, pending the signing of the state’s Long Bill and assuming no major changes to that bill going forward.
We’ll finalize the budget after the Long Bill is signed. It’s been a year of uncertainty around the budget at the state level, but our representatives worked hard to support higher education and keep tuition increases as low as possible while still maintaining the quality of our university, and also providing some funds to support our outreach and agricultural research activities statewide. Our priority in budgeting for next year has been to support student financial aid and student success programs, in addition to much-needed salary increases for faculty and staff. As always, funding will be tighter than we hoped, and we will be going through a reallocation exercise to ensure we’re not just adding in but also that our existing resources are applied to our highest priorities. While reallocation is never wildly popular, let’s keep in mind that via revenue-sharing agreements, all academic units will see a budget increase despite any reallocation, reinforcing our commitment to the academic core of the university. Overall, the budget has wound up in a better place than we were anticipating just a short time ago, thanks to leadership at the state level. Provost Miranda will be holding a final open forum on the budget this afternoon at 3 in Room 324 of the LSC to go over what our Board has approved and where we’re headed in starting to look at the budget for FY19.
We’ll begin the fall with a revitalized campus landscape, including a newly opened medical center, biology building, chemistry building, and stadium. We’ll also have new leadership in place in key areas, with Melissa Trifiletti and Kim Tobin taking on the roles of VP for Enrollment and Access and VP for University Advancement, respectively.
I expect that when most of us return in the fall, we will also be coming back to a campus that is continuing to grapple with perhaps the most pressing challenge facing colleges and universities today – the need to preserve freedom of expression, freedom to dissent, and freedom to fundamentally disagree in a climate that is grounded in respect for our differences, an openness to opposing viewpoints, and unwavering commitment to academic and intellectual honesty, integrity, and freedom. To uphold this ideal, while also ensuring that it is not just the loudest and most strident voices that get an airing, is no easy task, but it is our unending task as members of an inclusive academic community.
Finally, a special congratulations to the graduating Class of 2017! Yours is a generation with a big heart and soaring passion. We know for a fact, having watched you these last four years, that you’re not afraid to roll up your sleeves and get dirt under your fingernails. Some of you are veterans. Some of you are activists. Some of you are skeptics. All of you are talented and accomplished, and you have the will, the confidence, and the care to make a difference for our world. Do it – and as you do, remember to continue to stop, listen, and learn from one another along the way. Hear what others are saying. Ears really are an underrated organ.
A University is a complex and multifaceted place, but our mission is simple: To open the doors of opportunity, expand the frontiers of knowledge, and provide access to an exceptional education for talented students from all walks of life. Those students who graduate this weekend are our greatest achievement, and while we offer them our congratulations – I hope you will also join me in thanking and recognizing the University community that has made their individual success possible. I am, as always, grateful to serve this University and all of you.
Have a great summer!
Dr. Tony Frank
P.S. Speaking of the Cubs (I was, wasn’t I?) … I should mention that CSU’s Rams baseball team is a six-time national champion in the National Club Baseball Association World Series. Six times! Best wishes to them and all of our other teams and players who are wrapping up their seasons over the next few weeks.
P.P.S. Enjoy your summers. Be safe. Recharge your batteries. Catch up on your reading. We’ll all meet back up for the energy that infuses campus before convocation each fall. Be well.