A little more than a week ago I heard the term “institutional confidence” in a meeting. I was struck right away by how this summed up the dynamic currently in play at Southeast. Many of us, students, faculty, and staff remain uncertain about the future as it relates to our University budget. We have and continue to make difficult and painful decisions that are profoundly impacting people’s lives. Perhaps none of these are more impactful than the loss of positions and the people (and their families) who are impacted. Dr. Vargas summed up the view by many of us about these changes, and he provided additional thoughts on the budget discussion in a recent news story. You can read more about it at https://www.semissourian.com/story/2480210.html
What I want to share is my reason for the high level of institutional confidence I have about our University’s future. The value of higher education is real! People like to debate if higher education is a public good or a private one, but this is just a debate over who pays, not over its value. When I take the real value that a higher education provides and overlay the manner by which the faculty and staff of Southeast try and provide those educational opportunities, I am very confident in our future. I do not dismiss the claims that there are opportunities for improvements (come see me for my list), but we are not starting from bottom and trying to claw our way up. We are starting from a solid place and trying to get even better.
Southeast, or as it was first called the Third District Normal School, has been part of the higher education landscape in Missouri since our founding in 1873. For more than 125 years the University has weathered the two World Wars, the Great Depression, major cultural revolutions that rocked our society, and countless other challenges. In my own time at Southeast, going back about 25 years, I can see the inherent strength in what this University does by how it has adapted to changes.
Southeast is not a popup University that runs classes from an office building and whose reputation is built on trying to catch every new trend. We are an institution built on a principle that an education opens doors of opportunity for students. Even as resources are reduced, it is my personal belief that the faculty, staff, and students remain very committed to keep finding ways to provide these opportunities. In the end, my level of institutional confidence remains high, not because of the challenge ahead, but because of the accomplished road I see when I look back at what the people of Southeast Missouri State University have accomplished.
Shout out to to Dan Presson for coining "institutional confidence."