Monday, September 28, 2009

Budget impasse, mission continues

Two months ago I wrote about the economic challenges we’re facing as a university, which haven’t gotten easier with the stalemate of the final state budget process. The delay has cast a cloud of uncertainty on the appropriations we receive as part of the state system of universities. Last year the state appropriation amounted to just over 36% of the university operating budget. A full month into the fall semester, we’re still waiting for a state spending plan for this fiscal year.

A lot of my meetings in recent weeks – as you read last week are many - have centered on the budget issue. Continuous work on our own operating budget for next year is nothing new but waiting this long for an indication of a major revenue stream is. As a result, we have been very cautious in projecting our spending – more so than we traditionally do. We have also made a stronger commitment in coordinating fundraising efforts and connections with our alumni. In today’s economy, support of our alumni and friends is even more vital.

Despite this administrative frustration, high quality higher education continues on campus. Our freshmen have survived their first wave of quizzes and section tests, seniors are inching closer to completing their graduation requirements and the faculty continues their hard work in keeping our students on track despite the whirlwind of editorials on potential reduction of funding for financial aid and university operations. Rest assured, nothing is set in stone until we see a final budget, and we are committed to everything possible to prevent negative impacts on direct instruction and student support. However, seeing our mission continue in the wake of the greatest budget uncertainty in my career makes me proud to be the president of this university.

There may be light at the end of the tunnel soon. We were close two weeks ago in seeing a final state budget plan with a “hand shake” agreement on a $28 billion proposal. Let’s hope progress continues, because I don’t want to revisit this blog topic in another month.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Schedule shifting into high gear

Seeing the campus get increasingly busy over the past three weeks with students and faculty gathering on the Academic Quad, filling the halls of academic buildings, and commuting between classes is a wonderful sight to see. It’s a clear reminder the school year has officially begun.

It’s also a precursor that my schedule will shift into a new gear and will remain there for the next seven months. A typical week will have me in various meetings with university staff, students, alums and fellow state system university leaders. My meetings cover the gamut of higher education: academics, student life, budget, fundraising and alumni affairs. It’s a very busy time for me but also a time I really enjoy as president.

Although my schedule seems dominated by meetings and conference calls, I find time to attend some home sporting events, on-campus concerts and community events, such as my weekly Rotary meeting and monthly Chamber of Commerce board meeting. My schedule has gotten even busier this year with the commitment to new media projects like video, which I wrote about last week.

While the campus calms down on Friday afternoon, I tend to overlook the weekend and start to focus on Monday’s full slate of commitments. It happens every Friday on my walk home across campus to Buckalew Place, but I enjoy it. I have to … it’s on my schedule.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Venturing into new media

Having stepped into the world of blogging five months ago, I’m feeling more comfortable communicating through other media and expanding my accessibility to the campus and local communities. Although still a learning experience, speaking through multiple media has been a lot of fun. It’s something I plan to do more of this school year.

Last week was just the start. I was interviewed on WHLM 930AM’s Friday morning radio talk show and covered several important topics concerning BU this school year, the current economic climate and my travels over the summer. It’s always an interesting experience, and I really enjoy my time on the radio.

Also on Friday, I had the opportunity to continue my crash course in video production as I taped a pilot episode of our new campus show that will premiere in a few weeks. The first episode, “Meet your University Leadership,“ enabled me to introduce the new faces of my leadership and executive team, as well as interact with a live student audience who had many great questions for us to answer on camera. You’ll have to wait a week or two for the episode to air in order to see what our students brought to the discussion.

I’m excited to see how the pilot turns out after spending nearly an hour in our state-of-the-art, on-campus video studio with a live audience. Editing the footage down to five to six minutes is a fascinating process to see. It’s still taking some time to get used to seeing myself on camera after the two welcome videos I’ve done.

I’ll continue to provide updates of my work in front of the camera as other shows are produced in the coming weeks, which will include topics covering healthy living on campus, community service, green concepts and our upcoming Family Weekend in October. In the meantime, we’re going to hold a competition to have our BU community name my talk show. The winner, who will receive a prize, will be announced during the week of Sept. 28. So, stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I too was a freshman once

It was the late 1960s, a key time period in our country’s history with my generation leading a social revolution. We were coming into our own, setting the stage for new speaking platforms for women and minority groups, and facing the draft in the time of a very unpopular and ultimately unwinnable war. A college campus was the place to be for a young person, and I was heading there to begin a new chapter of my life.

I arrived at the University of California, Berkeley, a school three times the size of BU with about 20,000 students, following a 400-mile trip in a car with my parents. The first thing I did after they left was buy a carton of cigarettes, even though I didn’t really smoke. It must have been a sign of independence. I quickly learned it wasn’t a wise decision and stuck to my instincts of living a healthy lifestyle ever since then.

As an incoming freshman, I was exposed to the precursor of the Living and Learning Communities — like we have here at Bloomsburg. There was mass advising in the dorms about the first semester courses and general education. We were assigned to an advisor within our major, who in my case had little to no interest in me as a freshman. It ended up being one of the main reasons why I changed majors, from chemical engineering to biology during my spring semester.

My first roommate and I were not compatible. I chalked it up to us having different academic and lifestyle interests, so I moved in with an English major in the spring. We quickly became the closest friends, actually to this day best friends. We’ve gone on an annual fishing trip for the past 25 years. It goes to show many connections you make in college can last a lifetime, as does the commitment you make in class.

In my convocation address last week I quoted Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.: “Man’s mind, once stretched by new ideas, never regains its original dimensions.” I certainly had a mind of different dimensions after my freshman year in college, and I am sure you will as well. I give our freshman my best wishes for an exciting, rewarding, and successful collegiate career at BU.