May 4, 2007
Arkansas State University – Jonesboro

The end of the semester is here, and Spring Commencement ceremonies are tomorrow. It is time for celebration and reflection on progress that our campus has made this academic year. This year has been a time of transition and change, but also of great accomplishment. I think all of you deserve a collective pat on the back! Irene and I feel greatly privileged to have been asked to join you last November, and to have shared in your successful year.

ASU System
First, President Wyatt and the Board of Trustees deserve our thanks for establishing a true university system this year.  Our Jonesboro campus has been given the opportunity for the first time in its history to have its own chancellor, devoted exclusively to focusing on its needs and aspirations while working harmoniously with the other campuses in the system. The search process was conducted in an exemplary manner, with all constituencies being given an opportunity to participate and all the candidates being treated professionally and with great sensitivity.

Shared Governance
Second, the faculty, staff, and students have increasingly embraced a new shared governance model that truly provides significant input for individuals and groups interested in participating in important policy and other decisions affecting the campus. These changes are incorporated into an extensive set of amendments to the Foreword and Shared Governance sections of the Faculty Handbook that have now been submitted and favorably considered by the Faculty Senate, Staff Senate, Academic Governance Oversight Committee, Chairs and Deans Councils, Institutional Governance Oversight Committee, and Student Government Association. These amendments will be submitted for approval on June 1 to the Board of Trustees with positive recommendations from President Wyatt and from me.

This action should resolve the concerns of the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association, our institutional accrediting body, which will send a team back to our campus next March for a focused visit, on this and another issue. I believe that this new process, when approved by our Board, will set the stage for an era of unsurpassed cooperation and harmony among all our campus constituencies as we continue to embrace the spirit and intent of true shared governance on our campus. In turn, this unity on campus will provide us with many opportunities to make significant progress in achieving the goals and objectives in our strategic plan, as it exists and as it is modified in the future.

Budget for FY 2008
Third, our new spirit of shared governance has already positively influenced our budget planning process.  It has helped to form what I believe to be a very balanced and fair budget for Fiscal 2008 that we will recommend to President Wyatt and our Board for adoption on June 1. The proposed fiscal year 2008 ASU-Jonesboro operating budget was developed through a collaborative effort of the Executive Council, University Planning Committee, and the university community.  For the next fiscal year, the university is expected to receive additional state appropriations totaling $4 million and additional tuition revenues totaling $1.4 million. These anticipated new revenues were allocated according to institutional priorities set by the University Planning Committee and based on information supplied by the Executive Council after the various divisions of the university had engaged in internal discussions concerning their respective priorities.  Allocations were also keyed to goals and objectives in the campus strategic plan.  The top 11 budget priorities established by the UPC are:

1. Human Capital Investment
2. Fixed Cost Increases
3. Online Course Delivery
4. Supplies and Services Increases
5. Enrollment and Retention Initiatives
6. New Academic Programs
7. International & Diversity Initiatives
8. Graduate Assistant/Teaching Assistant Stipends
9. Scholarship Enhancements
10. Classroom and Building Renovations
11. Centennial/Capital Campaign

Those of you interested in the amounts allocated to each area may contact any member of the UPC or Donna McMillin, director of budget, at 972-2649.  Thanks to the EC, UPC, and Donna McMillin for a job well done!

Transition in Academic Affairs and Research
Fourth, the campus has had a smooth transition in Academic Affairs and Research following Dr. Susan Allen’s decision to return to the faculty as a Distinguished Professor to pursue her passion for research and teaching. Our campus owes a debt of gratitude to Dr. Allen, Dr. Glen Jones, and the staff of the Academic Affairs Office, in addition to our academic deans, department chairs, and faculty, for making the transition in this important area so seamless.

Following a highly collaborative process, I have named a search committee to recommend to me at least three outstanding candidates for the position of Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Research. The search committee consists of the following persons: Dr. Osa Amienyi, Dr. Charles Coleman, Dr. David Cox, Dr. Carole Cramer, Ms. Tammy Fowler, Dr. Len Frey, vice chair, Dr. Gloria Gibson, Ms. Julie Isaacson, Dr. Glen Jones, chair, Mr. Noah Kasraie, Mr. David Mosesso, and Mr. Morgan Pippin. The organizational meeting of the committee is set for 11 a.m. today. They will work over the summer in attracting and evaluating candidates, with a goal of bringing in a number of candidates for interviews in the early fall. In the meantime, we are deeply indebted to Dr. Jones, not only for heading the search committee, but also for serving as Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Research.

Facility Improvements
Fifth, decisions have been made this academic year that will result in continued expansion and improvement of our campus buildings and facilities. Among the ongoing projects are: Child Development Center; Chickasaw renovation (for Nursing and Health Professions, Regional Programs, and Smith Center occupants); Cooper Alumni Center; West Side Overpass; Delta Center for Economic Development; Humanities and Social Sciences building (with partial funding this biennium still possible); Student Recreation Center; Honors College residence hall; new residence hall; new Post Office space in Student Union (lease pending); classroom renovations and technology upgrades; and off-campus historic restorations at Lakeport Plantation, Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center, and Southern Tenant Farmers Museum (all largely funded by grants).

Crisis Preparation and Intervention
Finally, we have used the unfortunate events at Virginia Tech to cause us to examine and improve our emergency procedures on campus. Two meetings were recently held to review our current emergency plan and to determine our readiness to respond quickly to a shooter on campus.  It is clear we need a better communications system and better training and coordination to respond to assault-type events.  Currently, we are looking at ways to communicate more effectively, using various exterior and interior systems, to our students, faculty, and staff. Our University Police Department will be involved in "active shooter" training this summer. The ASU-Jonesboro Counseling Center has developed information on how to identify troubled students and make referrals. This is currently on the Counseling Center website, Additionally, the Counseling Center staff will make presentations upon request to various departments to help faculty and staff further understand these issues. Cameras have been installed in the Northpark Quads, our newest residence hall. Cameras are being installed at Kays, Collegiate Park, and Arkansas Hall. As always, the safety of our faculty, staff, and students in the event of any natural or manmade emergency is a paramount concern.

Thank You
In conclusion, I want to thank our faculty, staff, and students for their hard and good work this academic year, and for all of the good advice and support that you have given to Irene and me as we have joined the outstanding ASU-Jonesboro team. Have a great summer.


Robert L. Potts

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