WMU News

President Bailey describes WMU's future

Feb. 6, 2004

KALAMAZOO--In her first State of the University address, President Judith I. Bailey warned of continued economic challenges for higher education, pledged to pursue Western Michigan University's mission as a national student-centered research university and described three specific initiatives to advance WMU in its second century.

Speaking to a large Dalton Center audience Thursday afternoon, Bailey said that WMU had moved from being a "state-supported university" to one that was only "state-assisted."

"Our centennial year was the first year in the University's history when state fiscal support amounted to less than one-half of the annual revenue received. We have become a state-assisted institution. And we believe that substantial state support in the future will be linked to a higher level of 'proof' that universities truly merit a state investment," Bailey said.

The president highlighted accomplishments of the past year and went on to define specific initiatives intended to support three areas, "an emphasis on a diverse and inclusive campus climate, an insistence on intellectual rigor and an investment in an infrastructure that serves and challenges our students."

The complete text of President Bailey's address follows.

Related stories
Three honored for excellence at Academic Convocation
Lori Sims is first in series of named professor honorees
Martha Warfield appointed to lead presidential initiative


"Building the Bridges To Our Second Century"

State of the University Address
President Judith I. Bailey, Western Michigan University
Thursday, Februry 5, 2004


Thank you, good afternoon, and please allow me to add my congratulations to our three award recipients. You truly epitomize the strength of this academic community.

I am honored to present the "State of the University" address to our distinguished and committed students, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, community supporters, and legislative friends. Because of your hard work and devotion to this institution, Western Michigan University continues to advance.

It is my privilege to report that the "State of the University" is solid and strong. Both our reputation and success as a student-centered research university continue to grow. As we cross the bridge into our second century, we can see possibilities soaring ahead of us--and enormous challenges.

If we work together, this campus community will face those challenges squarely, overcome them, and continue to build a research university that is student centered and diverse. It will be a learning environment engaged with the communities we serve and renowned for its integrity, intellectual vigor, innovation, imagination, and inclusiveness.

Today, I will talk about some of the important work accomplished in the past year. I also will describe that bridge we're crossing, the tools we'll need for our journey, and what is on the other side--our vision for our future. But we face definite and serious challenges--challenges that arise from a basic change in how higher education is viewed. The restructuring of public higher education is now under way--both here in Michigan and throughout the nation--and I must frame my remarks this afternoon in that context.

This restructuring of public higher education is characterized by three key developments:

First, the general public increasingly perceives higher education as primarily important because of its relationship to job training and economic growth;

second, our citizens increasingly perceive higher education as a private benefit rather than a "public good" that should be nourished and protected; and

third, fiscal support for higher education continues its steady decline in many sta tes, including, as we are all too aware, the state of Michigan.

This restructuring has already affected universities across the nation. For example, the National Center for Public Policy in Higher Education recently estimated that declining state appropriations and the resulting skyrocketing tuition rates have denied access to higher education to at least 250,000 prospective students nationwide.

The reduction in state appropriations has led to the emergence of state-assisted or state-affiliated universities rather than state-supported institutions. State-assisted universities require more and more private funding to ensure student access and institutional progress. In 2003, while we celebrated our centennial, we noted a milestone that was not a cause for celebration. Our centennial year was the first year in the University's history when state fiscal support amounted to less than one-half of the annual revenue received. We have become a state-assisted institution. And we believe that substantial state support in the future will be linked to a higher level of "proof" that universities truly merit a state investment.

During this difficult time of transition, our University benefits from support from our home community. This past New Year's Day saw a clarion call by the Kalamazoo Gazette for both public and private support for WMU. The paper urged individuals and corporations to find ways to help "fill the funding gap." We are fortunate to have that community support, and we value the partnerships that have been nurtured over the years by those both on our campus and in our community. We will continue to find ways to engage with our home community to our mutual benefit.

Nonetheless, the restructuring of higher education causes us to redefine, reexamine, and rethink University activities. We must respond constructively to this new reality. Our transformation has begun, and accomplishments during our centennial year foreshadow our move into the future. You might say this celebration year represented a critical section of the bridge that will carry us from the achievements of our first century to realizing the goals we've set for our second century. I'll talk more about these goals, the vision for our future, and the tools we'll use to get there. But first, let's take a moment to revel in some of our most recent accomplishments.

The 2003 Centennial Year

In the course of our centennial year, we celebrated and recognized the University's accomplishments over its first 100 years. We again extend our gratitude to Professors Edward and Ruth Heinig for their outstanding leadership during this yearlong celebration. The celebration they led included events that ranged from an October performance by alumna and international opera star Susan B. Anthony to a dedicated effort by our students to build a Habitat for Humanity home.

The sights, and especially the sounds, of that celebration will live long in our memories. Who could ever forget the stirring November regional premier of Peter Boyer's "Ellis Island: The Dream of America" by the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, which included undergraduate majors in our Department of Theatre. These and other centennial events reflect the diverse character and remarkable accomplishments of the students and alumni of this great university.

Fittingly, and symbolic of just how far this University has come in 100 years, 2003 also saw prestigious Fulbright Fellowships awarded to three of our graduate students--Miguel Centellas, Esther Shoenherr, and Yazmine Watts--for study in Bolivia, Germany, and Senegal, respectively. This is the largest number of graduate Fulbrights awarded to WMU students in a single year.

Also during 2003 we completed the Centennial Capital Campaign, which has generated more than 160 million dollars to support academic programs, student scholarships, research equipment, and facilities at the University. We are incredibly proud of this accomplishment and especially appreciate the outstanding campaign leadership provided by William Parfet.

As I noted earlier, private support has become critical and every campaign gift received is increasingly important to the University's continued progress. Just one example of the many wonderful gifts received during the campaign is the recent $2.5 million gift from James and Lois Richmond, which will accelerate completion of the School of Art facility. Other private contributions have helped establish 31 new Medallion Scholarships for meritorious incoming undergraduate students.

There's also a group of donors I especially want to recognize this afternoon--our faculty and staff. You, who are closest to this institution and who are called upon to shoulder extra responsibility during these challenging times, have stepped up and augmented your already substantial contributions with monetary gifts as well. Over the five years of the campaign, more than 3,500 individual gifts from faculty and staff helped make the effort a success. You can truly report with pride that you "gave at the office" in more ways than one. Thank you for stepping forward and reaffirming your confidence in the goals of this great University.

But our work continues. Despite the wonderful success of the Centennial Campaign, the University still has unmet obligations and challenges. For example, we urgently need to improve chemistry facilities, especially for undergraduate education, and to renovate Sangren Hall for our College of Education and Kohrman Hall for our School of Art. We will seek additional funding to further improve selected programs and ensure student access to the University.

Building toward our academic future

The year also witnessed changes and restructuring in several parts of the University that impact the academic climate. Some are very visible.

The University opened its impressive, new College of Engineering and Applied Sciences facility on the Parkview Campus in August, and the new facility for the College of Health and Human Services is moving rapidly toward completion on the Oakland Drive Campus.

We established several new and innovative partnerships at the Business Technology and Research Park, now home to almost two dozen companies.

And let me call your attention to one especially exciting new venture: the Biosciences Research and Commercialization Center, which we co-founded with a $10 million initiation grant from the state of Michigan. The BRCC will foster the development and commercialization of pharmaceutical products using the historic and continuing bioscience knowledge base long present in this resilient region of the country.

Other changes are less visible but critically important, and I'd like to single out two of them.

Back in 1976, President John T. Bernhard, with great foresight, established the WMU Foundation to focus our development efforts. This past December, we created a new entity, the Western Michigan University Research Foundation, to further our research endeavors. This new foundation will become as important to research as the University Foundation is to scholarships and fellowships, endowed chairs, facilities, equipment, and programs. Western's Research Foundation sends a message to funding organizations and prospective faculty members that this University is committed to funded research and will do all in its power to facilitate the transfer of technology and new learning to the public it serves. The new Research Foundation will facilitate, organize, and protect the University's unfolding research agenda. The Research Foundation provides a mechanism for WMU to focus on industry as a significant source of sponsored research funding and enhances our flexibility to manage such intellectual property as patented technology. By positioning the University to better compete for industry-sponsored research, the foundation also will assist in the University's expanding economic development work in the Kalamazoo area.

Our faculty and academic officers have made program quality and the assessment of student learning the twin goals of a massive ongoing effort. The faculty's work in this regard is yet another example of their dedication to the continuous improvement of undergraduate and graduate education. They will target areas needing change and curricular improvement and identify areas warranting additional fiscal support. Perhaps most importantly, the results of these intense department-level efforts will help our students more clearly demonstrate their intellectual and professional accomplishments to others-graduate programs, prospective employers, and the state. The assessment and program quality outcomes will also help identify areas of extraordinary achievement for external accreditation teams that regularly review many of the institution's academic programs.

And finally, there is a change to our academic environment that will play out over the next many month s and have a profound and visible impact on our learning environment and our sense of community. Some 55 of our faculty colleagues, among them three distinguished faculty scholars and seven teaching excellence award winners, have decided to retire this year or in the near future. With them will go untold storehouses of institutional memory and experience, for collectively, they represent almost 2,000 years of experience. I want to publicly acknowledge and recognize their extraordinary contributions to building the quality of this University. We owe them a debt of gratitude, especially for their years of unfailing commitment to our students, the academic and research programs they envisioned and built, and the public services associated with the University because of their expertise.

With these retirements, of course, the face of our faculty will change. New faculty colleagues, selected to meet the changing academic and research needs of the institution, will become part of our learning community. We will choose new faculty members carefully to ensure that they will maintain and increase the rigor of our academic offerings. As president, I am committed to maintaining the strength and quality of academic programs as the University's first and highest pri ority.

I also pledge my additional support to and offer my admiration for the faculty. You have dedicated your careers to this University. Through your teaching, scholarship, research, or creative activity, you enhance the stature of the institution and add immeasurably to the learning environment. To that end, I will use funds from private donors to establish a series of named professorships. Today, I begin by naming Lori Sims as the John T. Bernhard Professor of Music.

Congratulations, Lori. I can think of no better tribute to you and to President Bernhard's commitment to academic excellence.

Although our faculty is critically important to our core mission, another group has earned our gratitude and admiration. Our staff, the people who keep this University functioning, is the hardest working staff of any public university in Michigan. Staff members have borne the brunt of the budget cuts we've made to date. With grace and commitment, they have shouldered more responsibility as their numbers have dwindled and worked longer and smarter to meet our students' needs. Even before recent personnel reductions, our staffing ratios were the lowest in the state. Each member of our non-faculty staff serves more than twice the students served by a staff member at the University of Michigan and 50 percent more than a staff member at Michigan State University. To paraphrase Gov. Granholm, "If you seek a leaner university, look about you."

Economic challenges

Many changes to our academic environment and campus climate are not of our making. Reductions in state funds during the past year have led to painful consequences. State of Michigan fund reductions have already forced the loss of almost 200 staff positions during 2003, and the Board of Trustees approved the elimination of four athletic programs, effective in July 2004. We face even more personnel reductions as we cope with the long-term impact of these cuts to our base funding.

Last week, I made the decision to recommend to our Board of Trustees that tuition for next year be raised by just 2.4 percent. It was the right thing to do for our students and their families and the right thing to do for our University. In return, the governor has pledged to return more than $3 million to our base appropriation this year and to spare us additional cuts in the 2004-2005 fiscal year.

We appreciate the state's commitment to us, and because we now know next year's state appropriation and tuition level, we can move forward with our planning. We have established our operating budget, and we know the amount of reductions we must take to meet that budget. Even with the state's commitment to hold us harmless for future cuts this year, we will begin the 2004-2005 fiscal year with a state appropriation that is lower than that with which we began the 1998-1999 year, and we have significant cost increases to address.

The fiscal challenge facing the University will persist into the future, and it requires our best collaborative thinking to design the most effective university operations. We will move deliberately--but with urgency--as we make decisions and announce future reductions. As the University leadership continues to plan to meet these challenges, we recognize the need for more input. To that end, I have assembled an Academic Affairs Budget Advisory Committee to help us consider the options, so that academic budgetary decisions will serve the long-term viability of our campus community. Janet Pisaneschi, dean of health and human services will chair the committee. The Academic Affairs Budget Advisory Committee will convene immediately and will make recommendations to me and the provost by March 30. When our Board of Trustees meets April 16, I will present a balanced budget for the trustees' consideration.

As you can see, our senior leadership team has committed to an inclusive planning and decision-making process that brings together the many diverse parts of our Academy. Already, colleges and academic units are examining the set of draft strategic goals and priorities for academic affairs that the provost, deans, and senior academic leaders have formulated to date. We look forward to your input.

Further, we continue to evaluate alternative funding models for the institution, including extended university programs, general education, and summer sessions. Jim Schmotter, dean of the Haworth College of Business, is leading the Academic Affairs Budget Policy Committee. The results of the committee's work will lead to a substantially revised University fiscal model that will reflect the changing nature of Michigan public higher education. In short, it will not be business as usual at Western Michigan University.

Building the bridge to our future

We are beginning our second century of service. I've laid out our recent accomplishments and reminded you of the challenges we face. Our mission statement will guide us as we solidify our identity as a national student-centered research university. And we know our base of financial support is evolving. Our focus in the next few years--our bridge, if you will--must be on using a set of tools with laser precision to engage our students in research, creative activities, and public service. That engagement must start when students first come to us, and that engagement will require faculty, staff, facilities, and infrastructure to support our students' expectations of us.

As families pay a larger share for their sons' and daughters' education, we must not and we will not deliver less in terms of intellectual rigor. We will, in fact, deliver more. I want Western Michigan University to be the choice of students and their families. I want them to know that by becoming a part of this learning community they will join a great university that demands integrity and adherence to intellectual thoroughness. They will come to us because they know we will challenge their imaginations and demand innovative thinking. And they will join our learning community, because they know that all members of our campus community will treat each other with civility and respect while making important contributions.

To continue our move toward these goals, I am announcing three initiatives for the coming year. These initiatives could easily be viewed as separate goals, but I prefer to view them as tools to build our future learning environment.

We will build a diverse and inclusive community

In facing our future together, I ask each of you to reflect on our institutional culture and environment. The vitality of our campus depends on students from diverse backgrounds and communities across our state, nation, and world. It is clear that the talent, ideas, and contributions of every person are crucial if we are to continue to move forward as a nationally recognized student-centered research university. I am committed to increasing the genuine participation of diverse students, faculty, and staff throughout the University. In doing so, we must improve the civility and respect found in our learning and work environments. As an institution, we reap tangible benefits when each individual is welcomed, respected, and included in classroom discussions, study, and work environments that are civil and respectful.

I know these views are widely shared, but until now, the University has not had one individual charged with the cross-campus responsibility for planning, implementing, advising, and evaluating the effectiveness of policy and practice to advance a more positive and diverse University. Martha Warfield, assistant vice president for student affairs, has agreed to restructure her responsibilities and lead a Presidential Initiative on Diversity and Multiculturalism. She will coordinate staff and programs of diversity initiatives already on campus, through such units as the Office of Institutional Equity, the Lewis Walker Center for Race and Ethnic Relations, International Student Services, Disabled Student Services, and the Center for Women's Studies.

Additionally, Dr. Warfield will lead the Council on Institutional Diversity, which will provide advice on policy changes necessary to build an environment that will support increased diversity across the campus. The four main charges to this special council are:

to develop a comprehensive diversity plan;

to review the policies, procedures, and limitations for the recruitment, retention, and participation of diverse groups and individuals across campus;

to determine specific strategies and needed resources to improve the campus diversity climate; and

to recommend ways to strengthen the use of the limited resources that already exist.

After further consultations, I will announce membership on the Council on Institutional Diversity. Your active support and cooperation with this organizational change will help serve and advance the needs of our increasingly diverse community at Western Michigan University.

We will build intellectual rigor and academic excellence

Maintaining and improving the educational quality of our academic programs calls for intentional foresight, solid plans, and resources. Increasingly, all academic programs require highly specialized faculty for instruction and research endeavors as well as up-to-date facilities in which to learn and teach. And, despite the public's perceptions about higher education, the academy remains the last best place for new and sometimes controversial ideas, for imagination about the human condition and its future, for economic progress, and for serious investigation into alternative means of inquiry and research. Since my arrival last June, it has become clear to me that we need special attention in two areas to maintain and advance academic excellence at Western Michigan University.

In undergraduate education, we must strengthen both the experience of our first-year students and the general education program. I believe we should do this through two mutually supportive actions.

First, we must implement an integrated and universal program to help all first-year students connect with each other, with our outstanding faculty, and with our campus resources and thus ease their transition into higher education. We have many "treasures" within our campus community, and with this common first-year experience, our students will more likely access them and consequently persist with academic study and with personal development into responsible adulthood. Together, our academic and student affairs divisions will initiate the first-year program in fall 2005. The first-year program will substantially enhance the student experience both inside and outside the classroom. We know that a student's first months on campus can set the stage for success and a rewarding college experience. We must work to engage our students from their first days at Western Michigan University.

Second, in order to strengthen undergraduate education we will allocate faculty positions to assure that full-time faculty members are increasingly available to teach in first-year general education courses. I am committing to set aside four new full-time faculty positions in each of the next four years to strengthen our general education offerings in English and mathematics. These additional "first-year positions" in both academic areas will measurably strengthen the educational experience of our first-year students as well as build a cadre of committed full-time faculty who are available to introduce our first-year students to the rigors and rewards of focused academic work.

This pledge of four first-year faculty positions is part of the institution's commitment to add twenty new faculty positions each year. We will also designate at least four of the twenty positions each year for the explicit purpose of strengthening graduate education and research. In filling these additional positions, we will give priority to researchers who will bring with them funded research initiatives that provide support for graduate students and strengthen our graduate offerings.

In the area of graduate education, our program offerings must represent our highest academic quality, relate to our funded research agenda or have an established reputation for excellence. We must target our investment to those programs that are currently supporting students, producing doctorates, and attracting funded research. As academic strategic program planning moves forward in departments, I ask the faculty and all academic officers to assure that all graduate programs meet these criteria and demonstrate a high level of quality based, at least in part, upon external review. There are clear and documented national and social needs for graduate education in selected fields. In many of those disciplines, we already have nationally ranked graduate programs. Where a high level of quality cannot be achieved, we must reassess in light of our fiscal capacity.

We will build a state of the art information model

I am announcing the launch this fall of a new Student Information System and a corresponding infusion of technology that will impact every corner of this University. For years, this initiative has been discussed, debated, and studied. Although we've been using the current technology since 1984, many will wonder at the decision to move on this important initiative now, when we are under such severe budget constraints. But this is the right time to make a move that offers our students a quantum leap forward in instruction and e-learning as well as dramatically increases the level of service we provide. For example, it offers protection from identity theft that can happen with our current use of Social Security numbers. This last benefit, identity theft protection, has been mandated by the state of Michigan, a development that weighed heavily in our decision to undertake this initiative now.

The University will replace its current aging system with a new one. Major benefits for students in the new system will include:

access to a portal that provides single-point, customized 24/7 WebCT connection for e-learning communications between and among students and faculty;

access to course information, course registration, grades, progress-to-degree reviews, and financial aid status;

access to timely individualized notices about academic and financial matters; and

the opportunity to develop an IWebfolio, an individual online electronic portfolio in which each student will store projects and demonstrate educational growth and professional learning experiences throughout his or her academic career.

This is an expensive undertaking, but further delay is not an option. Instead of pouring our funds into an effort to patch together a system no longer supported by industry vendors, we will make an investment in a system that will change the way our students use technology and streamline every facet of University operation, from routine business transactions to the careful assessment of our academic offerings.

These three initiatives:

our emphasis on a diverse and inclusive campus climate;

our insistence on intellectual rigor, and

our investment in an infrastructure that serves and challenges our students

will help us reaffirm and move toward the goal of fully realizing our stated mission-that of being a national student-centered research institution, engaged with the communities we serve and renowned for its integrity, intellectual vigor, innovation, imagination, and inclusiveness. This is the vision that brought me to Western Michigan University at the start of its second century and the future toward which we will move together.


I've used this State of the University address to share some of my observations, concerns, and vision with you as we leave our centennial year. Most of you in the audience have been at this University far longer than I in my short tenure as president. Yet, length of service is not the only reason people are committed to organizations. There are others. I would like to close by sharing the thoughts from a British scholar on organizational development and resiliency, which we will surely need for the years ahead.

"There is a final noneconomic reason to care about institutional longevity and therefore resilience. Institutions are vessels into which we as human beings pour our energies, our passions, and our wisdom. Given this, it is not surprising that we are often survived by the organizations we serve. For if our genes constitute the legacy of our individual selves, our institutions constitute the legacy of our collective, purposeful lives. Like our children, they are our progeny. It is no wonder that we hope they will do well and are well treated by our successors. This hope for the future implies a reciprocal responsibility that we be good stewards of the institutions we have inherited. The best way to extend it is to improve the organization's capacity for continual renewal." (Gary Hamel and Liisa Valikangas, "The Quest for Resilience" Harvard Business Review, September 2003, p. 57.)

Please join me in extending the legacy of Western Michigan University as together we move into our next century of achievement through purposeful change and renewal. Thank you for your kind and patient attention. Good afternoon.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
269 387-8400