Message from President Michael Benson

As we close the curtain on another academic semester, we can look back on Fall 2016 with tremendous pride and a great sense of accomplishment. To our December graduates, congratulations and good luck wherever your careers and future studies take you. You are forever part of the Colonel family.

Working deliberately and collaboratively in recent months to review our academic programs and consider cost-saving measures in light of shrinking state appropriations and the yet-to-be-determined metrics of performance-based funding, we have kept our focus on the four fundamental pillars of the University’s Strategic Plan: Academic Distinction and Excellence, Student Success, Service to Our Region, and Campus Revitalization.

And we have done so with an unwavering commitment to sound financial management and responsible stewardship of the state’s investment in us as public institution – stewardship of not just the dollars entrusted to us but also of the high quality of our academic programs, support services and our faculty and staff.

Have the results been perfect? No, but the better question is have we better positioned Eastern for future success? And the answer to that question is a resounding “yes.”

Eastern has a rich history and is a great institution today, but it would be foolish to assume that the same blueprint that has served us so well to this point will serve us well tomorrow, let alone 10 or 20 years from now. The fact that EKU has been the Commonwealth’s fastest-growing university in recent years is no accident. It is through your hard work and vision for an even brighter future.

As a community, we have recognized that this new reality we face together does not just change the answers, but even the questions we must ask of ourselves. From time to time, we will disagree on those questions and answers. Such civil discourse is not only natural, but healthy. I thank each of you for your willingness to consider difficult choices and share in the sacrifices, and I ask for your continued input, cooperation and support as we face more hard decisions this coming semester and beyond.

Most of all I want to thank our students. Thank you first for choosing Eastern, and thank you for your patience and persistence in your courses of study. You have my word that EKU will assist you in every way possible in pursuit of your academic goals. For our students in programs that will be redesigned or suspended, we are committed to supporting your degree completion in your original field or providing a seamless transition to one of our many other programs.

To the degree that these changes disrupt the lives, routines and plans of our faculty, staff and students, I also trust that we will continue to be a community where each member looks out for the other. No matter what lies ahead, this is one trait of the EKU family that must never change. Nor should our commitments to personal and institutional excellence and to the success of our students.

Our academic distinction is strengthened by the recent preliminary report from the SACSCOC off-site committee, which determined the University to be in compliance on 74 of the 91 standards. We were especially pleased with the feedback regarding the two most often cited compliance issues. With regard to adequacy of full-time faculty and faculty qualifications, we passed, in our COC staff member’s words, with “flying colors.” Less than 2 percent of institutions proceed through this stage without compliance issues for these standards. This success exemplifies our highly qualified faculty. Thank you to the Provost’s Office and the many faculty and staff who have worked diligently on the compliance report.

We have much to be excited about, even in the face of dramatic change and, understandably, some anxiety. So, as we close this semester and another calendar year, let us celebrate the many successes around us and face our future confidently, re-committed to working together and making no little plans.

I thank you for your vital contributions to our University this past year, and I wish you and your family only the best this holiday season. Enjoy the much-deserved break, and I look forward to working alongside you again in 2017.

Yours sincerely,

Mike Benson

Published on December 16, 2016

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