Welcome back to each of you! I hope you had a great summer and that the fall 2017 semester is off to a fantastic start!
During the summer, Arrow Editor Kara Hartnett invited me to blog periodically during the 2017-2018 academic year. I am thrilled to contribute and hope my posts might give you some insights on my thoughts on campus issues and my daily activities as president of Southeast.
First, let me say that I thoroughly enjoyed our opening weekend events that were absolutely non-stop. The semester couldn’t have gotten off to any better start than with the poetry we all witnessed with the Great American Solar Eclipse on Aug. 21. It was a spectacle like no other! While I’ve had students ask me if we can plan another eclipse at the start of next fall semester, I unfortunately cannot arrange that! But in seven years, this area will again experience totality, and I am hopeful we will have another series of eclipse events that are just as spectacular and inspiring. It was wonderful to have such a renowned scientist as Dr. Michio Kaku with us that day, and I hope you had the chance to attend his evening presentation. His thoughts on how science will revolutionize the future of business, the economy and medicine were certainly fascinating! I’m sure many of you might have appreciated his prediction that self-parking cars are just around the corner!
The start of a new academic year is an exciting time. I am very pleased to see our initiatives focused on student success have contributed to the University opening the fall semester with an all-time high retention rate of 75.4 percent, up 1.2 percent from this time last year. Our residence halls also are full. Both of these are signs we are an institution on the move, and I’m glad you are a part of it. I reminded our new students at our Welcome Convocation a couple of weeks ago that “we are one.” Every one of you belongs here! Let’s keep this in mind as a united community as we begin this new year.
In this same vein, I am very pleased that several student organizations and departments on campus have stepped up to support relief efforts for the victims of flooding from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. I applaud these efforts and encourage everyone to contribute to those in the Houston area and in Louisiana, Florida and Georgia who are desperately in need. Please keep the victims of these devastating storms in your thoughts in the days ahead. A number of relief efforts are under way on campus. Please assist in any way you can.
This could be an enriching way for you to get involved on campus this fall. As you know, the opportunities to participate in extra-curricular activities are plentiful here. Don’t forget to check out our Engage in 8 lineup and our recently announced 2017-2018 University Speakers Series. I am very excited to have tennis icon Venus Williams with us later this week, and Dr. Freeman Hrabowski III and former First Lady Laura Bush after the first of the year. I hope you will be able to attend these events.
I was honored this week to participate in a flag ceremony at Academic Hall to honor our fallen in the horrific events of September 11, 2001. I would like to offer my heartfelt appreciation and respect for all our young men and women serving in our Show-Me Gold program and Air Force ROTC Detachment 205 who coordinated and participated in this solemn occasion. I hold all our students and alumni serving in all branches of the military in high esteem. Know we will never forget this day in history.
As we enter the fourth week of the semester, I hope you are finding your coursework intellectually challenging and that you are devoting your efforts to your studies. Please pursue your academics with rigor this semester as it will pay dividends down the road. I, too, am mindful of a number of important initiatives I am stewarding this fall, not the least of which are budget challenges and realities we must address in the months ahead. We are operating in difficult times that will require tough decisions. Beginning very soon, the Budget Review Committee will meet to discuss the University budget. It is our intent to engage everyone in this process so that we explore every opportunity and mitigate any surprises. Know I will keep you updated as we navigate the months ahead.
Meanwhile, our fall athletic seasons are off to a good start. It was wonderful to see so many Redhawk fans who made the road trip to Kansas as our football Redhawks kicked off the season at KU. We had an impressive turnout of Southeast alumni at the SEMO Alumni Association’s “Southeast Night in Kansas City,” and it was wonderful to connect with them. Our women’s soccer, volleyball, tennis and cross country seasons also are under way, and I’ve enjoyed the opportunities I’ve had to watch these athletes compete so successfully, thus far, as well.
Let me close in reminding you that Hispanic Heritage Month activities begin Sept. 17 with Tacos at Twilight at Capaha Park, Pavilion 3. Please come out and join me as we celebrate the contributions Hispanics have brought to our U.S. culture and our economy! It should be a terrific evening of food and fellowship! It’s also a great time to remind you to check out our new Hispanic website developed over the summer at semo.edu/espanol. I hope this is a very useful tool to future Hispanic students as they explore the Southeast campus. Hispanic Heritage Month events will continue through mid-October. Check them out at http://news.semo.edu/southeast-to-celebrate-national-hispanic-heritage-month/. As we focus on our Hispanic students, let’s not forget – but rather celebrate -- the contributions that all our students of all nationalities and backgrounds, including, of course, our domestic students, bring to the fabric of Southeast Missouri State University. I value each and every one of you! Have a great semester!