2007 - 2008 State of the University Address

Welcome to the 2007-08 academic year.  A special welcome is extended to the new faculty and staff who are joining us this fall.  As we jointly seek to transform the lives of our students, I would like to thank all members of the BHSU campus community for your support during my first year as your president.  It has been an incredibly busy and productive year.   

Let me highlight just a few items.  This time last year we were scrambling to find space for our courses in Rapid City following a mission change for the Educational Center at Ellsworth Air Force Base.  While the space was not ideal, you made it work and our enrollment in Rapid City remained strong.  We have located most of our Rapid City courses at the School of Mines and will remain there for 2 years as we seek permanent space.  Some of our courses including our Industrial Technology program have been located at Western Dakota Technical Institute.  Many individuals across campus and in Rapid City spent long hours arranging for the space and ensuring the environment was appropriate for our classes.  With nearly 1,000 students in the Rapid City program, this was a significant accomplishment.

Last year was a productive period for our academic programs. 

  • We received approval from Higher Learning Commission to initiate the Integrative Genomics masters degree, received approval from the Board of Regents to plan for a new master’s degree in Strategic Leadership and developed plans to move the Industrial Technology program to Rapid City. 
  • The designation of the Homestake Mine as the site for the deep underground science and engineering lab presents many opportunities for our academic programs.  In addition to the leadership role our Center for the Advancement of Math and Science Education will have in developing the Science Education Center, other programs are already engaged (such as the Center for the Conservation of Biological Research) or are developing plans to participate.  In many regards we are limited only by our imaginations as genetics, microbiology, mass communications, history, tourism, industrial technology, outdoor education, theater and other programs become part of the planning. 
  • The University was invited to join The Renaissance Group, a consortium of 35 universities across the nation that focus on teacher preparation as a university-wide initiative.  BHSU is the only university in South Dakota to be part of this organization.  As the largest teacher preparation program in the state, the College of Education is a leader in developing new programs.  This fall, the faculty and staff will implement a tablet program for students who are in their student teaching phase.  Also, a proposal has been submitted for funding which will provide professional development school opportunities for all of our students. 

Fundraising increased by 218% over the previous year.  Faculty and staff contributions to the annual campaign increased by 91%.  The inaugural 1883 Recognition Dinner was held for donors who gave $1,883 or more during the previous year.  Founders Day was celebrated with a luncheon open to the campus and our retired faculty and staff.

Marketing and branding were highlighted through the Integrated Marketing initiative.  Using a consistent look, feel, and branding image, publications as well as the web site present specific messages depending on the target audience.  Points of pride were identified and faculty, student, and staff accomplishments were recognized.  Affinity license plates sales grew from 5 to 65 in six months and are at 99 as of this morning.  Sales of apparel in the bookstore increased by 50%.  Sales for BHSU imprinted merchandise increased by 65%.  You might be surprised to hear that sales of new textbooks decreased by 13%.  However, this was offset by a 24% increase in sales of used texts which demonstrates the efforts to keep costs down for our students.  The bookstore also hosted a Morning Catch for Spearfish Chamber members and has been working with area retail businesses to display BHSU items for sale.  Marketing, branding, sales of BHSU merchandise, license plates are important as we strive to increase our visibility and establish our rightful place in South Dakota’s higher education mindset.

Over the summer, significant changes have been made to enhance the university’s technology.  Computer labs have been upgraded, tablets have been added to the inventory for check out in the library and the union, 20 hotspots across campus have signs for easy identification, training for Desire2Learn will be held, and a contract for Elluminate has been signed which will provide more flexibility for video conferencing. Also, through some creative staffing, Dr. Dorothy Fuller will serve half time as the director of the Teaching Enrichment Center.   The Center will be located in the Graphics and Media area of the library which will bring together resources from instructional design, graphics and media, instructional technology services, and technical support services.  Through this synergistic approach, the TEC will assist faculty in their effort to integrate technology into the curriculum.

Significant attention was devoted to emergency planning and communications.  In several instances, our planning effort was used as an exemplar for the System.  The work initiated by Dr. Haislett will be continued by Dr. Flagstad to ensure BHSU has a robust emergency planning effort.  It is also important to note that much time and attention has been given to campus security over the summer as a result of the Virginia Tech tragedy.  Everyone on campus has a role to play as we seek to ensure the safety and security of our students, faculty and staff.  A spiral bound flip chart was sent to you last spring. Over the summer this reference guide has been updated and should be printed within the next two weeks. Please keep it in an accessible location and become familiar with our emergency procedures.  As part of our safety and security and to meet the needs of our students, I am pleased we are able to re-instate the Counseling Center on campus.  It is important for students who need to talk with professional counselors to have access to this service on the campus.  Please note we will continue the voucher system with Behavior Management Systems for students who require more in depth service than we can provide on campus.

A number of faculty and staff have been involved in international efforts.  The Global Awareness Committee has devoted significant effort to promote international concepts to our students and others.  I am pleased that we will have an international office which will be located in the Academic Affairs suite in Woodburn.  Dr. Jim Fleming will serve as the director of the office.  As we prepare our students to live and work in a global economy, it is important for them to have an understanding and appreciation of the culture, history, language, and tradition of other countries. 

The University was the first institution in South Dakota to join the Presidents Climate Commitment for the Advancement of Sustainability.  Efforts will focus on re-cycling and reduction of greenhouse gases.  In addition, sustainability concepts are being included in the design of the Student Union addition.  During the upcoming year, you will be encouraged to recycle, reduce paper consumption, conserve water, and promote carpooling, among other initiatives to reduce energy use. 

A number of individuals on campus have spent a considerable amount of time working with the architects to design the $11M addition to the Student Union.  This addition will double the space for our students.  The dining space will accommodate the entire campus, including residence hall students, off campus students and faculty/staff.  The student organization space will be increased significantly to provide opportunities for students to become engaged with campus activities and organizations.  The Bookstore will move to the space currently occupied by the Market Place.  The conceptual design should be completed early this fall with groundbreaking set for next spring.   It is anticipated the work will be completed by the start of the fall 2009 semester.

Beginning last spring and extending into the summer, a task force examined the needs of dining services.  As I indicated in an email earlier this summer it was determined we would contract with A’viands.  Through this arrangement the staff of dining services will have access to professional development and the latest models to meet the needs and expectations of our students and employees.  A recent article in the Business Officer Journal noted students arrive on campus with greater expectations.  Dining service options and residence life accommodations are near the top of the list.  These are basic comfort features that, when combined with our outstanding academic programs, will impact recruitment and retention. Last fall we pledged to be more responsive to our students, constituents, and one another by reducing our dependence on the Centrex system for our phones.  The response from our students and off campus supporters has been highly favorable.  This summer we increased our office hours to 5:00 p.m. to accommodate students and others who come to campus or call us between 4 and 5.  The response again has been favorable and appreciation is extended to the campus for your efforts to be consumer focused.

For several years, students have suggested a new name for the ACE card that would reflect BHSU.  During the spring student government election, several options were presented to the students.  The winning name was the Buzz Card.  New cards have been designed that celebrates our graphic identity and promotes our school spirit.  To ensure all employees are part of this initiative, all cards will be replaced this fall at no cost.  To get your new card, please bring you old card to the University Support Services office in Woodburn or to the information desk in the Union.  While you may choose to keep your old picture, we encourage you to update your photo as well!

Last year, we revised our strategic plan through a grass roots committee chaired by Dr. Myers.  The committee members built upon our vision statement which states:
Black Hills State University will be recognized as an innovative, high quality university in the Black Hills region, the state, the nation, and the world.

From the vision statement, the committee developed Core Values and Belief Statements:

We, at Black Hills State University, are committed to Scholarship, Student-Centeredness, Educational Excellence/Lifelong Learning, Integrity, Diversity, and Innovation/Change.  Each of the Core Values was further defined by Belief Statements. 

The Strategic Planning Committee identified five goals:
Black Hills State University will

  1. Provide a learning environment that inspires and facilitates personal transformation and life-long learning 
  2. Research, develop, and embrace strategic partnerships that serve the interests of the University and the community at large 
  3. Promote a diverse, tolerant and inclusive learning community 
  4. Strengthen its responsiveness to the changing needs of our students and society 
  5. Allocate fiscal resources and seek external funding to implement its strategic goals.

The next step will be to refine the objectives, targets, and completion dates.  It is anticipated this work will be completed early this fall at which time the plan will be distributed to the campus in its entirety.  As we complete the goals identified by the strategic planning committee we will accomplish our vision to be recognized as an innovative, high quality university throughout the nation and the world.

There is one more item I wish to address today.  Many of you may have seen or heard the media blitz a couple weeks ago regarding BHSU’s retention data.  Hopefully you also have seen my response.  We anticipate our retention will increase significantly this fall based on preliminary enrollment figures.  I would like to highlight some of the efforts from the past year that have contributed to the turn around.

PASS (Program for Academic SuccesS) Early Alert System and Call Center.  Over 500 referrals were made to Joe Valedes and his staff last semester.  The retention rate for students identified by PASS is 70%.  This is a remarkable statistic and reflects the importance for early identification and intervention.

Writing Center and Math Assistance Center.  Students can either self-refer or can be encouraged by faculty or others to take advantage of the tutoring services offered by these Centers.  The services of these centers can be accessed by all students who desire to improve their math or writing skills. 

American Indian Student Center.  BHSU is proud that it enrolls the highest percentage of Native American students in the system.  Through the outreach efforts of the AISC, our Native American students are connected and engaged with the University.  Retention has increased 13% over a year ago.

ARTISTS (At-Risk Trackers Invested in STudent Success).  This group of individuals from across campus met weekly to discuss students of concern and develop strategies to address their individualized needs.  This case style approach ensured students did not slip between the cracks.

Learning Community.   A Learning Community focused on wellness was established in Thomas Hall.  Follow up data indicates 77% of the students in this cohort are returning this fall.  The Residence Halls are developing additional cohorts for this fall.

Freshman Year Experience.  The Freshman Year Experience (GS100) course enrolled 60% of the first time freshmen.    Through aggressive advising of entering freshmen for this fall, over 80% of the new freshmen will be enrolled in the course.

Take 5.  It is often said that the easiest student recruit is the student who is already enrolled.  Last spring, the Academic Success Center initiated a campaign to pre-register students prior to the end of the spring semester.  The Take 5 campaign also encouraged students to take 5 courses or 15 hours.  Faculty, department chairs, and the deans also participated in the effort to pre-register students.  When students finished the spring semester, 59% had pre-registered.  The previous year 45% had pre-registered.  Throughout the summer, the Deans offices continued to contact students to pre-register.  In a number of majors, 100% of the students have pre-registered.  This effort is not only important for retention but it also assists the Deans in planning for appropriate classroom space and staffing.

Through your efforts throughout the past year, we have witnessed phenomenal success.  The retention rates from Fall 06 to Spring 07 increased from 76.52% to 81.82%.  It is anticipated the Fall 06 to Fall 07 retention for first time degree seeking students will be significantly improved from past years.

The above initiatives reflect significant effort from many offices and individuals across the campus.  Retention may be a challenge but it isn’t Rocket Science.  We have access to a number of studies and reports that provide insights into best practices.  We know students who develop relationships with their faculty are retained at a higher rate.  We know students who are engaged in the extra-curricular or out of classroom activities are retained at a higher rate.  We know students who have financial incentives through scholarships are retained at a higher rate.  Finally, we know students who are better prepared are retained at a higher rate.  Each of the above factors has been addressed over the summer.  The Colleges are scrutinizing advising practices.  They are also encouraging undergraduate research and projects.  Student Life is being invigorated with special programming in the Union and the residence halls. The Counseling Center has been re-instated.   The scholarship committee is considering opportunities to award scholarships in a manner that not only recruits top students but provides incentives for them to remain at BHSU.  The Career Center is focusing on internships and work opportunities for students on campus and in the community. Finally, the admissions staff has recruited 34% more students with ACT scores above 28 and the number of conditional admits has been reduced from 109 to 5.  We will have 138 SD Opportunities Scholars at BHSU this fall.

I heard from many of you regarding the disappointment, frustration and anger you felt when you read the article or heard the newscasters on the radio or TV.  This reaction was reassuring to me since it demonstrates your deep passion and love for this University.  We have an opportunity and a challenge before us.  The opportunity involves knowing our students, why they choose BHSU, why they stay, and why they leave.  We have a challenge to look at the data carefully and make appropriate changes.    This opportunity and challenge also involves ensuring our students are prepared for the dynamic environment of the information age and knowledge economy.  Last week someone lamented to me that increasing retention would result in grade inflation.  That isn’t even the tiniest of expectation.  It is important to note that many students leave BHSU in good academic standing.  However, I believe if we focus on the programs instituted during the past year and continue to provide a high quality educational experience for our students, opportunities for engagement with our faculty and staff, and a student centered environment, our retention will continue to increase.  A recent article in the Phi Kappa Phi Journal identified six essential behaviors of teaching as an ethical profession.  These are caring, high standards, intellectually challenging experiences, student centered class culture, organization and management of classes to facilitate learning, and reflection on successful techniques and need for change (Phi Kappa Phi Forum, Vol. 87, No. 2, pp30-31).

In 2008, BHSU will celebrate its Quasquicentennial.  A number of events have been planned to recognize the history of this great university and to look toward the future.  If you have ideas or suggestions, please contact Tom Wheaton who is chairing the committee.

As a University community, we have a number of opportunities to support our students and one another.  Many hours are spent by faculty, staff, and students preparing for theatre productions, concerts, art exhibits, lectures, athletics events, seminars and other programs.  By attending these events, we can show our appreciation and support.  During the summer, I have been meeting with individuals who have read the book, “The Fred Factor”.  Each session has reinforced how members of this campus community care about one another.  Numerous examples have been shared that demonstrate how each of us can take an ordinary job and make an extraordinary impact.  We will continue these discussions during the upcoming year.  In addition, many employees wear BHSU apparel, especially during the summer.  To show our pride in our university I am asking you to wear your lapel pins, hats, shirts, jackets, etc as often as possible.  However, every Friday will be designated as a day to show our collective pride.  Also, the bookstore and athletics have teamed up to Paint the Stadium Gold this fall.  In two weeks gold apparel with the words “Fear the Sting” will be available in the bookstore.  I hope you will join others on campus by wearing green and gold, “Fear the Sting” or BHSU apparel on Fridays.

In closing I share with you a wish from Dr. Ahmad who is on a Fulbright this year in Bangladesh.  He emailed me recently with this wish:  May your year be productive, dynamic, and cheerful.  Let us keep that before us in the coming months.

Thank you and best wishes for a great year!