September 5, 2008
Arkansas State University–Jonesboro

Welcome to the fall 2008 semester. The summer seemed to pass so quickly, although looking back, much has transpired since our alumnus Maj. Gen. Elder Granger addressed our graduates at commencement last May. I hope that each of you had a wonderful summer with some good family time interspersed with your work and professional activities.

Early in the summer Irene and I were saddened to learn that one of our best friends from Alabama had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma and referred to UAMS in Little Rock for treatment. Upon hearing this news, reflecting on the uncertainty of life, and realizing it had been several years since we had a "real" vacation not connected with some professional meeting, we resolved to go somewhere for a few days for rest and relaxation. We chose to visit Nova Scotia, one of Canada’s Maritime Provinces, where neither of us had visited before except for passing through the Halifax airport years ago. A couple of our friends from North Dakota met us there and we had a delightful time driving around the island, visiting museums, viewing historic sites, eating lobster, and celebrating Canada Day with the Canadians on July 1. We feel blessed to have been able to enjoy this trip this summer, and hope that you also had a chance to take a vacation.

Enrollment Trends Are Good
I am excited about the good things occurring on our campus, and the potential progress we can make by working together as we move ahead. First, due to your good work, ASU is becoming a destination of choice for more and more students. Although we will not tally official numbers until the conclusion of the 11th day of classes on Tuesday, Sept. 9, it appears that we will have record enrollment for the fall semester. Both headcount and full-time equivalent counts are up significantly among freshmen, undergraduates, graduate and distance learning students. Our international student population has more than doubled. Demand greatly exceeded availability for campus housing. Many students who wanted to live on campus had to seek off-campus housing provided by the private sector. We were fortunate that a developer opened a new complex, The Grove, just across Johnson Avenue from the campus, which was able to accommodate the needs of many of our students.

Faculty Conference Was Successful
Second, again this year the Office of Academic Affairs and Research planned and hosted a well-attended New Faculty Orientation and Fall Faculty Conference on Aug. 19 and 20, respectively. We are pleased to welcome 59 talented new faculty members to our campus this year. This annual new infusion of talent and ideas is one of the important ways that our campus has been able to renew itself and retain its vitality after nearly 100 years of existence. Welcome new faculty (and staff!) members!

The Faculty Conference was outstanding again this year. We probably tried to pack too much into the day, but so many good things are happening that it was hard to cut anything from the agenda. For those faculty members who were unable to attend, and for staff and others who may be interested, I am attaching a copy of the agenda of the Faculty Conference, along with the slides I used in making my "State of the University" remarks. As you will note, our keynote speaker for the day was Dr. Jim Purcell, Executive Director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, who gave a cogent and well-documented presentation on challenges for our higher education system in Arkansas. His presentation also is available on the Web. The 2007-08 task force chairs and co-chairs gave summary reports also, and with permission we are posting several of their slides: Unifying Academic Theme; Research and Teaching Balance; How Better to Integrate Academic and Student Affairs; Web Page Redesign; and Instructional Technology-Distance Learning. Many of the recommendations of the task forces are in the process of being implemented, and others are being actively considered.

Also, Julie Isaacson and Mike McDaniel gave a report on suggestions for streamlining our current complicated shared governance process. While this is a work in progress, and consultation with staff leaders, students and faculty constituent groups is still occurring, I have pledged to the group making these excellent suggestions to take the final consensus product to the President and Board of Trustees as soon as possible. Hopefully these amendments can be approved by the Board and be implemented by the beginning of the spring 2009 semester, if not sooner. Thanks to all who have worked so hard and so well on all these important matters.

Facility Developments Moving at Rapid Pace
Third, the improvements to our physical facilities continue at a breathtaking pace. As our faculty, staff, students and visitors notice when they drive around campus, several construction projects are underway or about to begin. Our students are especially looking forward to almost 400 new residence hall beds (which we could have filled this fall!) being ready for occupancy next fall with completion of the Honors Residence Hall and new Student Apartment Complex. Construction of the new Student Recreation and Wellness Center should begin soon. On the academic side, the Donald W. Reynolds Center for Health Sciences should be ready for occupancy next fall, and the Delta Center for Economic Development is being built for and near the College of Business. Within the next few weeks, we also expect an announcement of the initial funding for a major new academic building. Money has been appropriated for a new railroad overpass on the west side of campus, and final negotiations are occurring between the university, city officials and the railroads concerning this construction.

Red Wolves Victory at College Station
Finally, I would be remiss if I do not comment on how well our Red Wolves football team represented our university last weekend at Texas A & M University in College Station. Texas A & M is a first-rate land grant university. Well endowed from private gifts and the state Permanent University Fund, which is supported by oil and gas royalties, it serves almost 45,000 students on a huge, immaculate campus with rich traditions, a vast array of academic programs, and a tremendous following throughout the state of Texas. Our team was everybody’s underdog for this game despite our good showing against the University of Texas in the opening game of the 2007 season. To top that off, when the team arrived at its hotel in College Station, the air conditioning was malfunctioning and there was no hot water. Nevertheless, our academic champion players (they have won the Sun Belt Conference academic award for four of the last five years!) exuded a quiet confidence and winning attitude before the game. They were facing a talented and well-funded Aggie team with new set of high-powered coaches, many, including head Coach Mike Sherman, straight from NFL ranks.

Saturday evening’s game, where the Red Wolves beat the Aggies 18 to 14 before a crowd of almost 80,000, was a contest to remember. If you have not seen it you should. (It is being shown every night this week on ASU-TV, Cable Channel 18 at 7 p.m.!) Our guys outplayed the Aggies in every important category (rushing yards, passing yards, first downs, turnovers, time of possession etc.) and prevented any scoring by the Texans in the second half. Coach Roberts, the assistant coaches, and most of all the players deserve our gratitude and thanks for their efforts. This win creates excitement and exposure that can pay untold dividends for our university community in the future. We learned later that when the game score was displayed on the "Godzillatron" in Austin during the Texas game with Florida Atlantic, the crowd roared with delight and the Texas Cowboys fired a cannon in celebration!

Both our soccer and volleyball teams are also off to great starts as Red Wolves, with 2-0 and 4-0 records, respectively. When you have time, attend some of our athletic contests and see our student athletes in action. We truly have an athletic program of which everyone can be proud. Have a great semester!

Robert L. Potts, Chancellor

P.S. I am looking forward to serving on the panel for the annual Staff Senate Town Hall Meeting, which will be Wednesday, Sept. 24, at 2 p.m. in the Student Union Auditorium. The vice chancellors and I will do our best to answer questions submitted in advance by members of the ASU community to Donna McMillin,

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