STATE OF THE UNIVERSITY ADDRESS 11/27/18 ALUMNI HALL
Thank you everyone, and I'm so happy to be here this afternoon, and thank you Vicki, and thank you to the Faculty Senate for this opportunity. I plan to be brief because perhaps the most important part is our dialogue after my talk, and so I hope to leave some time for that. So, I do have a written address to deliver and I will begin that right now. So, first and foremost, good afternoon, and since I am an ethnomusicologist, we believe in call and response, so good afternoon.
I'm happy to be here and I am very happy, Vicki, to deliver my first State of the Union Address.
As I have said many times it is an honor to serve this extraordinary community of students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors and friends. I am extremely, extremely proud to serve as your president.
Of course, my greetings are also extended to everyone who is viewing live stream and also at our other locations, Carruthers, El Centro, CCAS, and for those of you who may be at home and you know, viewing in this afternoon, so to everyone I say welcome. Today, I will focus my address on the University's achievements, our ongoing challenges, our priorities, and talk a little bit more about future directions as I did in the inaugural address. Most importantly, I will talk about how we can work together as a union, Northeastern Illinois University on our mutual path to become the absolute best university that we can be and that remains my goal.
And as I said earlier at the end, we will leave time so that you can ask some questions and Vicki will moderate that part of this afternoon. I want to let you know that I am joined on the stage not only by the chair of our Faculty Senate, but also by my cabinet, and there may be some questions that I will ask for their assistance; there are also a couple of people in the audience if we get questions I may call upon them to give more specific detail. So, I want to start off my address by really acknowledging many of you who are sitting here. So, the work that you do is very important, each and every day, the work that you do. So, I want to start off we have two search committees that have started their work, so I'd like the members of the provost search to please stand, please to be acknowledged, let's give them a hand. [Clapping] Thank you.
Our second search is a little farther along; the members of the Vice President for Finance and Administration Search Committee. Would you please stand to be acknowledged, please? [Clapping] Thank you; these are two very important positions that we will be adding to our president's cabinet hopefully over the next few months, definitely, we hope by the end of the academic year.
I was so excited when we sent out the notification for nominees or self-nominees for the transition committee.
You know why I was so excited?
Thank you for asking.
We received over a hundred nominees and/or self-nominees— over a hundred, so to me that says that you care about the institution as we transition into the future. So we could not have 150 people on the committee, so it was very difficult, but I made some decisions we made some decisions and we have about 80 or so people, [Laughing], a hundred, out of 150, who would be on that committee but they are divided into groups, right so it's not all 100 that would be, you know working on the same thing. At any rate, this is probably all the people that are here in this audience with the transition committee, Please stand to be acknowledged. [Clapping].
Thank you, thank you so very much.
You know the University, and I as the president, take pride in our shared governance groups and I would like for all of our shared governance groups to please stand to be acknowledged everybody shared governance. [Clapping]
I would like for our units to stand and just remain standing and we can give an applause at the end so if you are in the Division of Academic Affairs stand, if you are in the Division of Student Affairs stand, if you are in the Division of Finance and Administration stand, if you are in the Division of Institutional Advancement stand, if you are in the Division of Enrollment Services stand and if you are in the Division of Marketing and Communications stand, if you are in Legal Affairs stand.
Did I leave out anyone?
That that's that's a lot, but I still see some people who haven't stood up, yes stand.
All right, now keep standing. I want our students to stand. [Clapping] Keep standing and our alums to stand, and anyone else who I did not name I want you to stand, stand up. [Clapping]
Thank you, we are NEIU, we are NEIU, we are the song that we sang to, dance to, popped fingers to at the inauguration; we are family. We are family. Thank you for your service to our institution that was important for me to do to acknowledge you and thank you. So I have been here for now six months, [Clapping] right, six months and it has been wonderful for me, it's been wonderful for me to be here with you at Northeastern Illinois University in my home state of Illinois, it's been great.
I have spent time during those six months meeting new people, understanding the culture of Northeastern, getting to know groups and process ease and learning about the traditions and customs that make this university what it is today. So, when I started June 1st, I really did hit the ground running. I packed my calendar with meetings with visits with phone calls to get to know as many of you as possible and once again, I must thank you for the warm receptions that you gave me.
They were heartfelt.
And I greatly appreciate them.
I want to thank you for inviting me to programs and celebrations and Heritage Month events, identity group events, traditions, some days I had you know three or four nights spent 10 minutes here, 10 minutes here, 10 minutes here, 10 minutes here, I couldn't stay for the full time, but it gave me a flavor of what you do, it gave me a flavor of the traditions that are here at the institution.
And of course one of my favorite things to do is to engage with our students and I know that's the case for all of us sitting here, we have special special students, do we know that? Yeah let's give our students another hand. [Clapping] All of us work very hard every day for our students and the success of our students.
S.G.A., I have met with that organization, student organization and I met a lot of students when we had our Eagle Fest celebration.
So I know how hard you work and how you work to overcome challenges that you face every day and that inspires me to work harder to be the very best that I can be as your president. So I want to just acknowledge that as a Hispanic Serving Institution, I am very proud again to serve as your president, because diversity is one of our strongest factors, our diversity, our student body, ethnic makeup is in the of most universities and it's something that we don't take for granted. We are proud of it, we are proud to be an H.S.I. and we will continue to strengthen all the things that make northeastern vibrant, unique and diverse.
So if I go back and just reflect again on the first six months, I want you to know that one of the things that I have worked on is to go out into our communities so part of my work has been internal, part of my work has been external, so I have been building new relationships, new partnerships with the corporate world, philanthropic, educational and governmental arenas. I will continue to do this living up to the commitment that I am your chief advocate and I am a public president. I don't want to be behind doors; [Clapping] I want to be out and about it is very important. So some of you may I hope be following me on Instagram?
Are you following me on Instagram?
I don't have enough hours so what I would like for you to do is start doing is following me on Instagram that way you can sort of see the activities where I'm going, what I'm about each and every day so will you start doing that? OK So then the next time I look what it says number of followers it will not say two.
I'm so glad you asked. My account name is @neiupresident, all right.
So I am really glad to have that Instagram account because it does help to get the word out so that you know you know where I am and what I'm doing.
As I mentioned actually now it's been a couple months ago during my inauguration address that I was ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work and that I invited you to do the same, roll them up a little higher so that we can all work together to make our institution again the best that it can be. So I'm the type of person who sees the glass half full. I like to see the glass half full, I know that there are obstacles, but I don't want to dwell on the past, I want to take the University forward, I want to acknowledge and understand the past but then I want to move us forward. So, as I said earlier part of that moving forward is to put new positions in place, new people in positions, we now have a person who is in charge of our enrollment management and I'm looking for great things to happen there and we will have other positions that will be filled in the future but I do want to make one thing clear at this point in time this is my cabinet and I have do not intend and I said this at the Faculty Senate a few weeks ago at this point in time to have any new vice presidents. This is my staff and I believe that we can get the job done with these very capable people [Clapping] thank you.
So, I realize what the University went through for two years. It was very difficult and whereas I did not go through it here, I did go through severe budget cuts at another institution and so I know and I understand the difficulty of that situation and so the University made it through it. And I'm thankful for your dedication and your resilience as you all powered through it.
As you know our financial situation has changed. We have a budget for this year shortly after I arrived, we got a budget, Yes, and we received a two percent increase; however, for two years we received very little and so it's very difficult to rebound from two years, as the chart shows us lower levels of funding with one year of funding and a two percent increase.
So, we have to do a number of things. I have to be very clear in saying that our enrollment numbers are not good. They do not meet my expectations especially as we look at our enrollments for first year students. We have two sources of revenue, major revenue only two sources, the state and our tuition revenue. So we must look at our recruitment initiatives and we are doing that and I know many many many of you in this room are helping us with that. Even with the lower enrollments almost 10 percent for this fall, we made the budget work. So, we are not looking at any staff reductions we are not looking at any furloughs, even though we had a small budget short fall, we have been able to make that work and we will do everything that we can to continue to protect currently filled positions. We will closely monitor our revenue and make appropriate judgments as we move forward.
So, the next few slides look specifically at our budget. After I arrived, we worked on setting the current fiscal year 2019 operating budget. Many of you have already seen this, it was presented to our board and again our revenues roughly a third come from state appropriations and two-thirds as I said from tuition. We are hopeful that with a new governor that those state revenues will increase. So, the message is very clear we must number one grow enrollments and we must retain the students that we have.
Right? Because those students matriculate through the University, yes, they are paying tuition, but they also become more importantly our ambassadors out in the world to help us recruit additional students. So, I hope that our students that are here will be very mindful of helping us as we move to 2019. So I want to be clear on what we're looking at for the future, although, we don't know what the future will bring. We don't know what the state appropriation will be, we don't know what our student population will be, our new students, I must say that for our transfer students, we do very very well. We do very very well with students that come to us transferring from other institutions and especially from our community colleges and those retention rates are excellent they are in the 80 to 90 percentile I think you should give yourself a hand for that [Clapping] Thank you.
So, what can you expect from me as we move forward, a number of things. I keep saying I am your number one advocate and I will continue to be that advocate in Springfield budget hearings will start fairly soon after the break and you know with a new governor, new legislative body there is a lot of work to do so I will continue that advocacy, strong advocacy for NEIU and that means NEIU here NEIU, Carruthers NEIU, El Centro NEIU, CCAS NEIU, all of us together. I need to work very hard to strengthen our relationships with our elected officials, the ones that are currently serving that will continue, who will continue and our new ones and I have already started that and I want to meet with our governor elect. I want to meet with him. I want to tell him the NEIU story and I know that he will be impressed, I don't know when I'll get a chance to meet with him I'm sure there's a long line of people but believe me I will be in that line.
We need to engage and I need to engage certainly with our state local and national policy makers as it pertains to laws that will impact our university. So we must always be mindful of what the legislators are doing and is that supportive of the University whatever bill that might be or not and to do our best to advocate for the University and I must build relationships with donors with our friends.
As I have traveled about our alumni have said to me NEIU is the best thing that ever happened to me, people have said NEIU and I kid you not, NEIU saved my life, I was going down this path and a professor or a staff member or someone at NEIU took me under their wing and literally saved my life and so I need to, we need to make sure that our alumni understand how important they are and that our friends and donors understand that their contributions are so significant to the success of our students, to our faculty staff and to our university. So, I need to build those relationships.
I think that as we look back at the Division of Institutional Advancement and the campaign Transforming Lives, as we look back at the Goodwin challenge, the University has done exceedingly well. Not only did we match their $10 million goal early, but you we exceeded that goal to $12 million, and I think you should give yourself a hand for that. [Clapping.] And just in case you haven't heard, today is Giving Tuesday. Just in case you haven't heard, Giving Tuesday, so if you by any chance brought your checkbook with you? No. All gifts are extremely extremely appreciated and so thank you because I know many many many of you in this room give to the University.
So, I'm as I said very thankful to you and to all that you know that we have done together. We are moving into a phase of not only enrollment, but enrollment through aggressive marketing and promoting our university and one of the elements is a comprehensive marketing plan and that plan really has two major prongs one is to saturate our current market and I'm sure you hopefully seen some of our billboards and our bus signs and that sort of thing.
When I was at a conference recently I ask one of the facilitators what can we do short term to help with our enrollment when it comes to marketing and they said saturate the market, but long term we really do need to look at our strategies to address the marketplace and so we will be starting that process and I need all of you to participate in that process, which will help us understand who we are as a university and what language, what terms, what do we need to do to better promote our institution. So please look out for announcements so that we can all participate together in underscoring our identity and the things that make us unique.
So, there are couple things that I also think that you probably are aware of but I want to bring to your attention this is the third year of our residence hall The Nest and it's a beautiful facility, it is a beautiful facility if you haven't visited you should and our students that live there are very pleased with the facility we have quite a few international students that live there and they love it, however, because our enrollments are down, the occupancy in The Nest is down. We have a contract with the management company, and so when we don't meet our targets there is a penalty and so not only do we lose revenue but we have additional costs with The Nest and so we are all going to do our very best to promote The Nest, to get more students to live in The Nest because it is a wonderful opportunity, because we know that students who live on campus their retention rates are going to be higher and so we want to fill The Nest next year with our students from Chicago, from the region, from the world out of state because it's a win-win for the students and for the University.
So I am going to focus on this because I think you've already seen it, you are already aware of the drop in credit hours since FY11. You know, we have to acknowledge this data, but we also have to move on from it. I should let you know that the projection for Fall of '19 is not good, that trajectory is going down and according to the way we do our data, it will continue to go down that's what the data says Right? But what I'm saying is that with all of us working together we can change that line from going this way to this way. [Clapping.] Do I have your commitment? That must change.
So from there you know I'm running out of time so let me turn a couple pages because I do want to leave time for Q and A and let me wrap up by asking you to do a couple things. I need each and every one of you as I said earlier to be an ambassador, as I am an ambassador for NEIU, and for us to work together. There are many things that we do well; there are things that we need to improve. One of those things that we need to improve is our diversity and you say, "Oh, Dr. Gibson, you just said we were very strong in diversity." Well we are very strong in diversity but not as strong in inclusion. [Clapping.] Thank you so we must you know not just talk the talk, but we need to walk the walk, when it comes to diversity, inclusion, social justice issues, we must and so we will be administering a survey if not at the end of this semester at the beginning of the spring semester to really understand the campus climate as it pertains to the diversity of our campus.
So, I need you to be an ambassador, but I also need you to help the campus as we try to improve the climate. I know that you all are working very very hard and I have said this before I know that and I had knowledge that but if there's any way, any possible way that you can give me that much more and I know I'm asking for a lot, but just a little more, I would appreciate those efforts and you need to understand that as you give more, you have a president who cares and will also be giving more. [Clapping.]
So, I'm not going to ask you to do anything that I'm not doing myself and I would thank you in advance for those efforts. I want to close by again expressing my gratitude and appreciation to all of you for everything that you do and I do want us to function as a family and you know families, quoting my own sometimes have tensions, sometimes have disagreements, but there is a bond that keeps us together and so I ask that when we have those disagreements that we treat each other with respect, that we have discussions try to find solutions, but that we're always respectful to each other and most importantly I think to our students so how we treat others our customer service is very very important.
So, I'm very proud to be here to be your president and again I give you my commitment to live up to the University's mission, to grow and enhance this wonderful university and to support you our faculty staff students alumni and friends, so, thank you very much.