Founders Day 2007 Snapshots of Our Past Present Future David L. Eisler, president Ferris State University
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David L. Eisler, president
Ferris State University
On Thursday Aug. 30, 2007, I delivered some remarks to the Ferris community. This presentation is a shortened version of those remarks. To put this online, some of the visuals have had to be reduced in terms of their file sizes and may appear less sharp than in the original. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy this report on where the University is today, where we have been and where we will be in the future.
We are unique among public universities in Michigan by being named for our founders, Woodbridge and Helen Ferris. This gives us a sense of tradition and history that other schools don’t have.
Woodbridge taught the first class at what was then the Big Rapids Industrial school on September first, 1884. Ten men and five women were enrolled.
For many years the school day began with “morning exercises,” which consisted of communal singing and remarks from Woodbridge Ferris.
One of things I’m going to be talking about is how much things have changed. Here’s an example of what high-tech looked like in 1952.
Our Dining Services has changed dramatically over the years. This is a photo of our first cafeteria. Compare that to Center Ice or any of our other full-service dining areas.
I’m also going to touch upon the challenges we have, such as keeping a college education affordable. This flyer from the turn of the 20th century advertises that $125 would pay for living expenses, including room and board, lights and tuition for 36 weeks for students study the Commercial course, Telegraphy or Shorthand. Other programs were even less expensive.
As a university we often look more at shortcomings than our accomplishments. The measure of success for a university will always be its graduates. The learning that our faculty lead and the support we provide creates great graduates, people whose lives have changed from this experience and who are prepared to not only succeed, but to lead.
We have been increasing our admission standards even as we have been increasing our enrollment. This means we have better prepared students who are actively involved in the life of the campus and the community. When they graduate they are getting good jobs, even in Michigan’s current economic climate.
I’m very excited about our completely removed IRC building. Our renovation stresses making the spaces more learning-centered, and is designed to create possibility for education both inside and outside of the classroom.
We are working on upgrading many other sites through our classroom modernization project. Like the renovation of the IRC, the mission of our classroom modernization is to make our facilities user-friendly, technologically up-to-date and geared to the mission of learning.
Those who worked in Allied Health Building Room 420 politely described it as dreadful.
I taught my first Ferris class in SCI 117. In the “before” photo, note the immovable lab bench in the center of the teaching space and the high tech overhead projector.
Enrollment is one of our great success stories for this fall. For the first time in history enrollment is greater than 13,000! Accompanying this is an increase in credit hours. Enrollment is strong in Big Rapids locations, at FSU-GR and the Kendall College of Art and Design.
The Ferris Foundation continues to have strong support from donors. In the past five years, total assets for the Foundation have almost doubled. This has helped us increase scholarship support and support for resources for faculty and staff initiatives.
The history of Ferris is one of challenge. Whether it was the struggle to build the Alumni Building in 1929 during the Great Depression. The economic challenges of the 20s and 40s were such that at times bedsprings were sold from residences to cover costs. Then, of course, there was the great fire of 1950. Ferris is no stranger to significant challenges. One of our donors societies is called the Phoenix Society because this University truly did rise from the ashes. The challenges we face today might not be as immediately dramatic, but will nonetheless require the same dedication and perseverance.
- $4.5 million
This past year has been a worst-case scenario for state support. In June, the last month of our annual budget, the state reduced its support to us by $843,400. The governor and legislature then delayed our August payment of $4.5 million. Meanwhile, the state’s economy has yet to rebound.
The cost of a college education is increasing rapidly in Michigan. My hope is that for spring semester we be able to remove the $8/credit contingency fee added to help defray the delayed payment.
This last Spring we had a memorial for the shooting victims at Virginia Tech. That tragedy made it painfully clear that as a community we need to do everything we can to assure the safety of our students, faculty, and staff.
In 2003 I asked Public Safety Director Marty Bledsoe to lead a process to develop and implement an effective and comprehensive emergency management plan for Ferris State University on its campuses in Big Rapids and Grand Rapids. From that effort, Emergency and Safety Procedures Guides were developed and distributed to all employees.
Please help me with our emergency management preparedness. Find this brochure and read it. If you can not find it, please call Public Safety at (231) 591-5000 and ask for another one.
Over the past week I have read through the internal review at Virginia Tech (VT) of this tragedy. We already do a number of these recommendations. Today I will begin reading the external review released by Virginia’s Gov. Timothy Kaine this morning.
I am very pleased with the leadership of our emergency management team and find their excellent preparation validated by other colleges and universities who use our materials as a guide. This is an opportunity where can learn from the VT materials.
Because we live in a global, multi-cultural world, we need to create a campus that is home to all of the students who come here, and prepare all of our students to live, work and lead in a multi-ethnic culture.
To facilitate that goal, we are undertaking our first-ever University-wide diversity plan. Chief Diversity Officer David Pilgrim has talked to many departments already. As an institution, our conversations about culture, race, sexual orientation and disabilities will help to better understand each other and create a place where everyone can come to teach, learn and work in a welcoming environment.
At the end of spring semester with the assistance of the academic deans, a search committee for a provost was organized. This effort is underway and ably led by co-chairs Professor Robert Loesch and Dean Ellen Haneline. This is also the year to accelerate our preparation for the Higher Learning Commission Review in 2010-2011. I have asked Vice President Tom Oldfield and Associate Vice President Robbie Teahen to lead these efforts.
Change happens continually at our University. Because we are a part of it, we don’t realize how much is occurring. But when looking back over ten years, the results are stunning.
Our physical campus has changed greatly in the last 10 years. Here’s the Arts and Sciences building 10 years ago…
Our central campus has changed a dramatically in the last few years.
One of first buildings to begin to transform central campus was the National Elastomer Center. Like many of our other buildings, the Elastomer Center was built with significant help from industry.
One of the things I hear from alumni when they visit campus is, “where did you put that building?” While we don’t move buildings, we do change the roads. Here’s one example, the Ewigleben Ice Arena. Recently this facility was used to host both our Alumnus Chris Kunitz when he brought the Stanley Cup to campus. It was also where returning soldiers from Iraq were honored and reunited with family members. That road directly to south has been replaced by Wink Arena.
At an alumni meeting in Naples, Fla., last January I was able to show these slides to George Rapanos…
…who donated the obelisk for the Circle of Inspiration, which has helped transform the Bond Hall complex. Sadly, George passed away earlier this year.
The Michigan Art Walk has gone from concept…
…to reality. Now it would be hard to imagine campus with these public works of art that have been created specifically for their individual locations.
If you’ve been to Top Taggart Field during the past decade to attend football games you might want to look for yourself in this photo!
The Wheeler Pavilion has made a huge difference. For people who might first experience campus through an athletic event at Top Taggart Field, the pavilion makes an important first impression.
Many people – especially students and their parents – are likely to have their first significant experience of campus at the Timme Center for Student Services, formerly the Timme Library.
Like Wheeler Pavilion, the renovated Center for Student Services makes an important first impression in terms of its physical appearance, and the student services the renovation has allowed us to consolidate in one facility.
I think that every really great campus has an open area that serves as the heart of the campus.
The Quad between the Rankin Center and FLITE has become the heart of campus. A huge number of activities – both planned and spontaneous – take place on the Quad each year.
Of course, no building more than the Ferris Library for Information, Technology and Education has come to define the look of our campus
More than just being our flagship building, students make incredible use of FLITE. The library and quad together create an entirely different campus experience than what existed just ten years ago.
Taken together, these changes provide the resources we need to give our students…
…the best environment we have ever had to provide opportunities for learning.
But changes aren’t just in facilities. Look at the difference in our students. The students we are attracting to campus are also the best we have ever had. Entering ACT scores and Grade Point Averages have both increased significantly.
Costs have increased also during this period compensation has increased by 56%, utilities by 306%, scholarships by 196% and annual investments in technology by 216%.
And we do this in an environment of staggering decreases in state support. In five years, not ten, state support has decreased $11.6 million, in 2002 the state paid for 56% of the cost of student’s education. Five years later that is 31%. We now receive 28% less for a student.
Should we not receive the $4.5 million payments that are currently being delayed, the impact is even worse - $16.1 million. That would mean the state would pay only 31% of a student’s cost and support during this brief period will have declined by 35%
1996 – 15.4 student to faculty ratio
2006 – 15.6 student to faculty ratio
3,060 certificates & degrees
Alumni – 114,768
In 1884 our student to teacher ratio was 15:1, just about the same as it is today. Last year we awarded more than three thousand degrees and certificates and we have almost 115,000 alumni.
2006 – Faculty and staff computer replacement Campus-wide wireless network Implementation of Banner system
11, 534 SCH On-line
In 1952 we had Royal manual typewriters. Today faculty and staff computers are regularly replaced, a wireless network stretches throughout campus and we have implemented a new administrative software system. This support is necessary, we now deliver more than 11,000 credit hours on-line. This would equate to about 385 full-time students.
We are running the university today with essentially the same number of total employees as ten years ago, even though we have increased enrollment by about over 35%.
Today and at other times during the coming weeks, we will be holding stakeholder sessions for our Strategic Planning initiative. These sessions are your opportunity to express your feeling about who we are as a University and what we should become in the future.
We will look at a range of some of the things that make us unique and the values that guide us. This is an ambitious undertaking that is critical to making sure that we shape our own future, rather than just being at the mercy of each individual challenge that arises. This is being coordinated by the Strategic Planning and Resources Council, or SPARC. Heading up SPARC is Languages and Literature Professor Robert von der Osten and Dr. David McFarland.
The remainder of this presentation plays automatically with musical accompaniment.
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The fiber is already there, they’re just improving the switches on the ends. Which means the marginal cost of these improvements is effectively $0.
Director of Technology
Arapahoe High School
Adam Umbrasas is a spring 2007 Ferris graduate. Adam today is Village Manager of Kingsley, Michigan, just outside of Traverse City. While at Ferris, Adam was president of the Public Administration Association and secretary of the Interfraternity Council. Adam is just one of many recent graduates who are doing exciting things and being successful immediately after graduation. As we think about the future we’ll be looking at what we want to become in 2010. What is maybe most striking about Adam is that he could easily be in public service in the year 2040. So often we think about goals we set for ourselves for next month, next semester or next year. We are producing graduates who will have an impact upon the state – and the country – for decades to come. The decisions we make about the University today and the work we put into making Ferris State University a success will have affects that will be felt for years to come – and not just on campus.
David L. Eisler, President