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President Bailey describes 'The Risk of Standing Pat'
Sept. 27, 2005
KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University President Judith I.
Bailey presented her third annual State of the University address
today, Sept. 27, in the Dalton Center Recital Hall.
In her speech, Bailey talked about progress on previously
announced initiatives, including review of all graduate and undergraduate
programs, working to double externally funded research, strengthening
enrollment management, planning for a capital campaign, prioritizing
next steps in multicultural and diversity programs and several
others. She also described three focus areas for members of the
faculty and staff, and she mentioned the accomplishments of several
members of the campus community and awarded two faculty members
with named professorships.
President Bailey was introduced by Dr. Linda Delene, WMU provost
and vice president for academic affairs. The complete text of
the 2005 State of the University address follows.
Jianping Shen named Sandberg Professor
Steve Zegree is Bobby McFerrin Professor of
State of the University Address
"The Risk of Standing Pat"
Dr. Judith I. Bailey
President of Western Michigan University
Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2005
Thank you Provost Delene for that wonderful introduction.
Good afternoon and welcome.
It is my privilege to report to you for the third time on
the state of Western Michigan University. This University is
and will remain a strong, vibrant nationally recognized public
research university where discovery and learning occur every
Two years ago, I asked you to begin a journey with me that
would focus on building the inner strength of this University-by
making critical improvements to our academic programs, our research
initiatives, our level of student service, and our commitment
to a diverse and civil campus community.
With your counsel and hard work, WMU's already significant
reputation and stature in the higher education arena has grown
even stronger. The road we've already traveled is full of accomplishment.
The road ahead is full of possibility.
At the end of our journey, I see a future in which Western
Michigan University is nationally recognized for the high quality
of its academic programs, research and service, and for its innovation
I see WMU as the university of choice for academically prepared
students. We will welcome them, serve them, teach them, and engage
them inside and outside the classroom. We want them to say "I
love WMU" and mean it.
I see faculty who thrive on research and scholarly work, teaching
and outreach, and who know they are making a difference.
I see staff members who are proud to work at WMU, who are
valued for their contributions and committed to doing their best
for both students and their colleagues and who treat every interaction
with students as an opportunity to serve and assist.
And I see alumni, donors, community members, and elected officials
who respect WMU and are eager to engage with our faculty, staff
and students to extend opportunities and expand the possibilities.
My dream for the future is both simple and bold. We will aspire
to the highest level of achievement in every facet of our university.
To realize that dream, we, of course, celebrate what we are.
Building on that foundation, we will commit ourselves to making
our university work in ways that are innovative, and we will
commit to stretching ourselves in ways that will take us outside
our comfort levels.
We are at a point where we have the responsibility to envision
our future and picture how we want it shaped. We have the freedom
to pick what is best of higher education's traditions and combine
it with what we do well and what we can do even better. We have
the obligation to blend tradition with innovation to improve
the quality and strength of our programs and enhance our University's
We are a university dedicated to learning, reflection and
preserving the wisdom of the ages. We must become one that is
We are a university that engages in basic research. We must
become one that not only unlocks the secrets of the universe,
but also finds a way to immediately apply that new knowledge
in the service of our state and nation.
We are a university that honors tradition. We must become
one willing to question tradition and take risks when situations
and opportunities demand it.
To quote Bill Ford in a recent interview, "the risk of
standing pat is far greater than the risk of being bold."
We cannot stand pat.
We are on a journey and the milestones are passing more quickly
than some might think. While this University searched for a new
president in 2003, faculty and staff worked hard to reaffirm
the University's mission statement and develop a series of strategic
directions and a set of metrics for achieving that mission. WMU's
Mission Coordinating Group presented its final report to me in
July 2003. That plan and those metrics guide us still.
As we renew our commitment to our mission, we must also recognize
the impact of the changing landscape of higher education on WMU.
To help guide us, I will convene a group of colleagues to select
and prioritize the key strategic directions and metrics on which
we must focus our investments. The central tenet of the mission
statement-that Western Michigan University is a student-centered
research university-remains our anchor.
Progress on Initiatives
We have already begun implementing the initiatives, I announced
to the campus over the past two years:
We are reviewing all graduate programs and will begin reviewing
undergraduate programs next fall.
We are actively working to double externally funded research.
We are examining all degree requirements.
We have strengthened enrollment management in a way that allows
us to focus on the retention of enrolled students and the recruitment
of more students who are highly qualified. Our goal is to ultimately
reach an optimal enrollment for the best use of our resources.
We have begun strengthened enrollment management.
We are reviewing the Diversity and Multicultural Action Plan
to prioritize the next steps.
The farther along we move with each initiative, the more critical
your advice and collaboration become to the final outcome of
this important work. The governance infrastructure of our University
is the foundation for our discussion, deliberation and decision-making.
Internal self-examination through rigorous program review
usually takes years in the academic setting-years which we can
no longer afford to take. We must commit ourselves to finding
innovative ways to speed our self-examination along. I will ask
you to put your creative abilities to work to make this happen.
Make no mistake; the process must be thorough and we may find
it difficult. Yet it will be rewarding. We must make strategic
and serious decisions about where to invest our resources and
talent. As a result of our work, our University will become a
stronger institution focused on key areas of academic strength
As part of our quality commitment, we are working to re-invigorate
undergraduate education. That process is well under way through
the review of general education.
Our goal for the University's graduate programs is to achieve
national recognition as "best in class." Programs in
the College of Health and Human Services are so recognized already
and serve as outstanding examples of what we can and must accomplish
in the graduate education arena.
As an institution, we are setting goals for our research agenda-again,
with your help and input. We must identify areas in which we
have existing strengths and for which we see emerging opportunities
to secure funding, add additional researchers and pursue excellence.
Each of our academic colleges is making solid progress toward
"best-in-class" status for programs on both the undergraduate
and graduate levels. Our service areas are moving forward in
improving operational excellence. Each new development in research,
programming, resource management and the enhancement of student
life is an example of the level of quality toward which we are
Three focus areas
With all that is taking place, a key question might be: What
can or should an individual do to help move the institution ahead,
to become a university of even higher quality? The answer is
simple - its implementation perhaps a little less so. Each one
of us can help create an environment that:
- responds with operational service excellence,
- retains enrolled students, and
- renews faculty as scholars with a passion for learning.
Let me comment on each of these three elements.
First, we must improve service responsiveness, not only for
and with our students, but with each other as well. It is imperative
that we achieve operational excellence in every facet of our
work. That means we do our work accurately, with pride, and in
a timely fashion. We keep our promises with each other, with
our students and with our partners, and we deliver first-class
services to everyone. We must never be complacent.
Our provost has adopted a mantra that I think we should all
share. "You have to major in the minors," she tells
us, "to be a major player." She's right. No matter
how high our reach, how big our ideas or how clear our focus
on the big picture is, it is the little things-slow response
time, needlessly complex procedures, institutionalized inconvenience
or thoughtless actions-that will keep us from reaching our goals.
I believe WMU's staff is dedicated to our students and faculty.
The cross-campus cooperation exhibited when this fall semester
began is an example of our staff's ability to build excellence
and service improvement into daily work and activities. By working
together to create a one-stop convenience venue at the Bernhard
Center, we generated much good will with the exceptional service
that was offered. Our students and their parents raved about
the convenience. Our new faculty and staff also took advantage
of the opportunities provided. The lesson here reinforces the
value of anticipating the needs of those we serve.
This fall was a good beginning. I was heartened to read in
a recent Western Herald the words of WMU freshman Heather Forgione,
who described her first four weeks on campus and her feelings
about how our University had helped her make the transition from
high school to college.
"Being at Western has made the transformation a lot easier
to handle," she wrote. "It is comforting to know that
not just a few new friends, but a whole college is behind you,
making sure you have a great first year. To have been here only
a few weeks and be able to call WMU home is a gift within itself."
Thank you, Heather. You've summed up the feeling we want for
every one of our students as they begin their college careers
with us. We want that feeling of connection and engagement to
continue throughout our students' time here.
Second, we must retain our enrolled students. I ask each of
you to consider the impact of your every encounter with students.
Start with the tone of your "hello" and the sincerity
of your offer of assistance. Engage students at every turn. Reach
out to them with genuine desire to meet their needs and honor
their interests. The research is clear: the more actively engaged
students are with faculty, staff, other students and the subject
matter they are learning, the more likely students are to remain
enrolled, to earn higher grades and, most important, to graduate.
Curtis Deer is a wonderful example of a student who thrived
and grew at this University.
Curtis first came to WMU as a curious and committed high school
student from Lawrence, Mich., who just wanted a taste of life
in the research lab. Today, Curtis is a W. M. Keck Scholar, working
on a $1 million nanotechnology effort with Dr. Subra Murali.
Curtis is also pursuing his own research on nanodots. He spent
last summer as a United Negro College Fund/Merck Scholar at Merck's
Rahway, N.J., site. His senior year is being covered by the UNCF/Merck
award, and after he graduates in April, he'll head back to Merck
for a second summer fellowship and then will be off to graduate
school. And I can't neglect to mention that Curtis' achievements
also netted $10,000 from the UNCF/Merck fund for his department
to use to support the research of other students.
Curtis, we are delighted that you chose WMU and that WMU has
been instrumental in your success. We're also proud of the faculty
and staff who mentored and engaged you as a student. We will
watch your progress with pride.
There's an important lesson here as well. Central to the retention
of every student is intellectual and creative engagement that
is challenging, that recognizes the importance of academic excellence
and sets high expectations for student performance. It is also
clear from research that students perform better academically
and are more satisfied with their education when faculty and
staff are openly committed to their success. Being committed
to students' success is accomplished by raising the bar and expecting
our students to meet rigorous academic, intellectual and professional
We can have rigorous classes with evident respect among students
We can have difficult exams with fairness and notice to students.
We can provide a challenging academic environment where expectations
are known, shared and embraced by all engaged with the educational
We can have lively discourse that adheres to our campus standards
for civility and our desire to build a welcoming learning environment.
As a university, we must expect nothing less in each of these
areas. In turn, we will expect our retention rate to steadily
climb to levels above the national average-because we have determined
that being "just average" in any area is simply not
good enough for Western Michigan University.
Our commitment to diversity will continue to help us both
attract and retain a student body that is representative of the
world in which our students will live and work. Our conversations
on the topic will continue and expand this year. As we move forward
on campus, we need to be aware of the broader context and conversations
about diversity in our state and nation. Dr. Frank Wu, dean of
Wayne State University's Law School, will be with us for the
Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in January. Dr. Wu is a leading
national advocate and legal counsel on race-related issues, and
he offers valuable insights on diversity in higher education.
Third, and finally, I ask each of you, as a member of the
faculty and staff, to consider carefully how to most effectively
devote your time. This sounds so simple that I hope you will
continue to listen. We all make choices each day about the tasks
on which to focus our time and talents. Your intellectual or
work-place legacy is a product of the choices you make everyday.
Whatever you define that legacy to be, devote your time and talent
Passion for an academic discipline and commitment to communicate
knowledge effectively to students are traits that reflect the
central activities of the academy, yet ones that may be set aside
in the face of less important but seemingly more urgent competing
demands on time and energy. I ask each of you to concentrate
on the most curious or pivotal questions in the discipline, the
unresolved fuzzy areas, and the tough, controversial issues.
Only then, will we be able to bring the passion of our knowledge
and creativity to every student in every class, lab, clinic,
and practice room throughout the University.
In recognition of this passion for the life of the mind and
the corresponding commitment to the well-being of our students,
today I am recognizing two faculty members who are exemplars
of this passion. I take great pleasure in announcing two named
The first is awarded to Professor Jianping Shen, who today
is designated the John E. Sandberg Professor of Education. Dr.
Shen, from the Department of Teaching, Learning and Leadership
in the College of Education, receives high teaching evaluations
from his graduate students, and he has successfully chaired or
served on 35 doctoral committees during the past ten years. Additionally,
during that same time period, he has published 45 refereed articles
and serves as guest editor for six national journal publications.
Professor Shen is also a grant writer of distinction with three
recent awards from the Wallace Foundation and the U.S. Department
of Education totaling more than $4.25 million. The Sandberg professorship
honors a longtime dean of the College of Education, who served
in that position from 1971 to 1984.
The second named professorship is awarded to Professor Steve
Zegree, who today is designated the Bobby McFerrin Professor
of Jazz. Professor Zegree, from the School of Music in the College
of Fine Arts, is a superb teacher, internationally renowned for
his expertise in vocal jazz who has brought "his" Gold
Company to the Lincoln Center in New York as well as the prestigious
French Polyfolia Festival. Professor Zegree has led his students
to win more than 40 DOWN BEAT awards, and Gold Company performances
have firmly established the prominence of WMU's jazz studies
program. He is also widely sought as a conductor and clinician,
and recently conducted the World Youth Choir and the World Symposium
on Choral Music.
Please join me in congratulating these two exceptional faculty
I am convinced that passion and innovation and the desire
to elevate our University to the highest level of excellence
can be found throughout this University.
To recognize those qualities and encourage members of our
community to share their creative abilities, I am making a commitment
to provide institutional support for the best ideas that can
be offered to help us move our University forward. I want to
foster bold, forward-thinking that some might even call transformational.
I will do this through the creation of the President's Innovation
I will use unrestricted gifts to establish a pool of $2 million
for a series of one-time awards over the next two years that
will fund the implementation of innovative ideas designed to
challenge us to achieve the highest standard of quality. These
innovative ideas-from new interdisciplinary programs to new uses
for integrated technologies and beyond-will serve to advance
and accelerate the kind of thinking that will build our University's
This Innovation Fund will provide an opportunity for faculty
and staff members to advance WMU, to challenge the status quo
and shape the institution for the years ahead. Details about
eligibility and proposals will come in an announcement from my
office next month. But I can share this with you now. The Innovation
Fund guidelines will be remarkable for the lack of limitations
they impose. I want this peer-reviewed competition to be wide
Good ideas come in all shapes and sizes. Any idea that improves
the quality of instruction, research, student life or any other
aspect of our University's core mission areas is eligible. Innovations
in e-learning and energy efficiency can compete against new ways
of looking at student life, generating support for an interdisciplinary
research initiative or redesigning our financial aid program.
An innovative use of new equipment in a research setting or a
workshop on a groundbreaking topic may be just the idea that
enhances the quality of a particular program area.
I am looking forward as much to the energy level I expect
this competition to generate as I am to the very real advancements
this effort will produce. My confidence is a product of what
I have learned about this faculty and staff over the past two
years. This University is a treasure trove of talent. May the
competition be fierce and the ideas that emerge spectacular.
Ours is a remarkable university with potential I don't think
anyone yet fully comprehends. It is up to those of us on this
journey together to unleash the power that Western Michigan University
can become. Great universities-the ones that are universities
of choice for students, faculty and staff-are known not just
for the quality of their programs alone, but for the way quality
permeates every corner of their campuses.
I've shared the how and the why of where we're headed. Let
me remind you of my bold yet simple vision:
- Western Michigan University - a nationally recognized research
- Students - the center of everything we do.
- Strong undergraduate education - our core.
- Research and graduate education - our cornerstones.
- Quality - our hallmark.
If you wonder if this journey is worthwhile, you need only
look at Heather and Curtis. Your work - teaching, research and
service to others - transforms lives.
I am reminded of a quote by Winston Churchill
Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful.
Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending,
ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of
the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to
the joy and glory of the climb.
Our journey is not about us as individuals; it is about the
individuals whose lives we as Western Michigan University touch.
Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, email@example.com
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