January 5, 2007
Arkansas State University –

Happy New Year! I hope your holiday break was refreshing and enjoyable. Irene and I enjoyed the holiday tremendously. I spent a few days before Christmas on campus catching up and absorbing information I had accumulated from prior visits and meetings. We spent a long Christmas weekend in Arlington, Va., with our two children and their families. We were able to spoil all five of our grandchildren at one time! We also attended a midnight service on Christmas Eve that renewed our appreciation of the reason for the season. Over New Year’s weekend I drove to Alabama to be with my aging parents and my siblings and their families while Irene remained in Virginia to assist our daughter with her children. I found time to read two books over the break, a biography of Fidel Castro and Senator Barack Obama’s new book, The Audacity of Hope. I am rested and eager to begin the semester by working hard with you and for you on issues that are facing our campus this spring.

Internally, I am continuing my efforts to learn as much as I can about the campus, its issues, and its people. I am now in the process of scheduling visits to the colleges and departments to meet faculty and to listen to their suggestions and concerns. Thereafter, I hope to visit other divisions and meet with staff groups. I continue to maintain frequent communication with students, also.  In addition, I have asked Dr. Rick Stripling to arrange a meeting among officers of the Student Government Association and officers of the Faculty Senate and Staff Senate to discuss student housing issues and a student recreation center requested by students.

Externally, I am visiting key individuals in the Jonesboro community, and Beth Smith is scheduling a number of meetings for me with alumni groups both within and outside the state. Additionally, I am working with others to discuss plans for our Centennial Celebration in 2009, and to recommend to Dr. Wyatt and our Board of Trustees some modest changes to the Faculty Handbook.

I am a great believer in good and frequent communication on campus as a method of fostering a sense of community, shared aspirations, and elevated morale. There is no better time to communicate than over a meal. After discussions with student, faculty and staff leaders, I have obtained consensus to set aside on a trial basis a small alcove in the Acansa dining hall in the Student Union for faculty and staff dining, in an effort to encourage more casual interaction among faculty, staff and administration throughout each week of the semester. In order to foster participation in this experiment, Sodexho Campus Services has agreed to offer a new meal plan for faculty and staff called "Fifteen for Fifty." Under this plan, one eats for $3.33 per meal, a savings of around $2.30 per meal! To purchase and have this placed on your ID card, see Sheryl Douglas in the Student ID center. For further details about the plan itself, contact Mandi Douglas with Sodexho at 680-4101 or adouglas@astate.edu. I shall purchase a plan next week and hope to eat lunch in the Faculty-Staff Alcove frequently. I look forward to seeing many of you there. While visiting the Student Union and Reng Student Services Center, you may want to visit the offices that have moved into that facility. By the first of February, office moves should be complete and most of our student services will be located there.

As you know, next week Governor-elect Mike Beebe and other elected state officials formally take office, the Legislature begins its 2007 session, and our Board of Trustees meets in Little Rock. I plan to represent our campus at the inaugural festivities Tuesday and at the Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday. While Dr. Les Wyatt retains overall responsibility for ASU legislative relations, the other campus chancellors and I will be working closely with him and Robert Evans to maximize ASU’s share of the funding to be appropriated for public higher education in the state. On our campus, we are hopeful not only for a significant increase in our general fund appropriation, but also one-time funding for an academic building to accommodate classes and faculty now housed in Wilson Hall. The latest figures on the state budget surplus indicate that the amount at the end of the fiscal year will exceed $800 million. Although there are many demands for this money, including court-required enhancement of K-12 facilities, we are confident that members of the Legislature will treat higher education fairly in the distribution of these funds.

Finally, I would like to solicit your suggestions of presenters who we might invite to campus to provide training and professional development opportunities for senior level staff and faculty. If you have been to a professional meeting and have heard a particularly good speaker on some aspect of higher education, or otherwise know of higher education policy or funding experts who might have broad appeal across campus, please send your suggestions to me at Chancellor@astate.edu or call my office at 972-3030. Have a great semester!

Robert L. Potts

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