New Sam Houston State President Sees Opportunities For Growth

I don’t get to visit the campus very often, but I am thrilled to see some great news coming out of Sam Houston State University in Huntsville.  The University’s President is making some bold predictions for the future. I’ve posted a news release I received today:
            HUNTSVILLE — The new president of Sam Houston State University told faculty and staff Thursday that while budget cuts loom in the immediate future, she also sees “the need and the opportunity” to add new degree programs, build new facilities to house them and recruit more students.
            In her first “State of the University” address in her first week in office, President Dana Gibson said, “We’ll have financial and accountability challenges in the year ahead, but Sam Houston State University also has some excellent opportunities.”
            Speaking from the stage of the 800-seat concert hall in the university’s new Performing Arts Center, Gibson said SHSU could see a reduction as high as 10 percent of state funds.
            “Our leadership team has already discussed how best to respond to these cuts and my commitment to you is to lessen the impact on students, faculty and staff and the quality of our academic programs.
            “As we head into the legislative session, our goals will be to minimize cuts, fund tuition revenue bonds for desperately needed facilities and, in the long run, improve our standing in per student funding.”
            Gibson said the top priorities for new facilities include biology, nursing and applied health, forensic sciences and the agriculture complex and building. 
            In terms of new academic programs, Gibson said “we must continue to develop appropriate graduate and doctoral programs and emphasize research activity to emphasize our Carnegie Classification of Doctoral Research status and to develop more programs in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health.
            “These programs are desperately needed by the state so state and research funds tend to follow them.”
            Gibson said she sees “tremendous opportunities” for enrollment and revenue growth in The Woodlands and in online course enrollments.
            “Graduate and non-traditional students will be key populations for The Woodlands campus.”
            SHSU plans to begin construction on a new classroom buildings in The Woodlands near Lone Star College “later this calendar year.”
            SHSU is already serving hundreds of upper-division and graduate students in a classroom building it shares with Texas A&M University and Texas Southern University.
            “The Woodlands Campus will provide us with an increased ability to diversify our student population, which will help us through tough economic times and optimize our strength in better times,” Gibson said.
            Enrollment in online courses has more than doubled over the last year, she said.
            “We are up to 351 online courses,” she said.  “We’re now offering 11 master’s degrees totally online and we have a new Bachelor of Science in criminal justice beginning this fall.
            “We must take advantage of these opportunities to grow our programs, sustain our quality and serve more non-traditional students.”
            Gibson emphasized that all of Sam Houston State’s new programs – in the traditional classroom or online – must continue “our high standards.” 
“It is incumbent upon us to ensure the quality of the academic programs and our services to students whatever the mode of delivery.”       
Future enrollment growth is likely to be among “nontraditional students,” those over 25 years of age, working, and with family obligations, and many of whom will prefer the flexibility of online course work.
            “We are poised with opportunities to educate the nontraditional student without decreasing our expectations of our students or the quality of our academic programs. Sam’s culture of nurturing each student is as important for older and working students is it is for undergraduates on campus.”
            Gibson recognized and praised the accomplishments over the past year of recently retired president James Gaertner :
  • Completion of the “phenomenal James and Nancy Gaertner Performing Arts Center”
  • The fact that Gaertner was able to provide faculty and staff salary increases based on merit from a 3-percent merit pool in the face of looming reductions
  • Creation of a new College of Fine Arts and Mass Communication
  • Enrollment growth from fall 2009 to fall 2010 to an estimated 17,300 or about 3 percent, including a 100- percent increase in distance learning students
  • Being listed by the Chronicle of Higher Education as a one of only two public universities in Texas as  “one of the best colleges to work for” in the nation (the other being the University of Texas at Austin)
  • The commercialization of a research project for purifying wastewater that could eventually earn millions of dollars for the university in patent royalties and share of profits
  • “And last but not least the recently completed and hugely successful $60-million-plus Capital Campaign.”

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