2013 Address to Southeastern Faculty and Staff

Faculty-Staff Remarks

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

President Minks:

Good afternoon and welcome to our Faculty-Staff University Address. We’ve indeed had a very busy and productive semester to date. As we begin today’s program, I would like to introduce our University Executive Team:

  • Dr. Doug McMillan –Vice President for Academic Affairs
  • Ms. Sharon Robinson – Vice President for Student Affairs
  • Mr. Ross Walkup – Vice President for Business Affairs
  • Ms. Michele Campbell – Executive Assistant to the President
  • Dr. Claire Stubblefield – Special Assistant to the President, Director of Diversity and Affirmative Action Officer
  • Ms. Liz McCraw – Dean of Enrollment Management
  • Mr. Dan Moore – Executive Director for Information Technology
  • Mr. Kyle Stafford – Executive Director for University Advancement
  • Mr. Keith Baxter – Director of Intercollegiate Athletics
  • Mr. Alan Burton – Director of University Communications
  • Dr. Christopher Moretti – Faculty Senate Chair
  • —  Mr. Jason Hicks, President of our Staff Association
  • — Mr. Joseph Baden, Student Government Association President

As many of you know, the University lost a great friend and colleague with the recent passing of Dr. James Wintle.  Please join me in a moment of silence for Dr. Wintle, who played such an integral role in the Department of Music for 40 years.  Thank you.


—  My wife Joan

In beginning my remarks today, I want to note that in spite of continued budget challenges, we have stayed true to our mission and scope and function statements aligned with the five strategic commitments of academic excellence, diversity and cultural competence, facilities, funding, and recruitment and retention.

Our three budget priorities are and continue to be: A focus on accreditation and academic programs with high enrollments; Effective recruitment and retention programs and processes; and Student and Academic Support initiatives.

Academics and student services continue to receive primary emphasis with 58.4% of the budget dedicated to those areas. Our administrative costs percentage is 6.99%, remaining well below the 16% cap requirement for the State Regents. Of special note is our projected unobligated reserve balance for June 30, 2014, is $3,874,260, which translates to 8.3% of budget expenditures.

Our Major E&G I budget increases include mandatory costs, such as employee health care, debt service payments, and energy costs; scholarships; salary increases; travel for faculty professional development; departmental operating budgets; and the filling of vacant faculty positions.

Please note we have dedicated $40,000 in additional funds for faculty professional development travel this year and hope to work together add to that budget in future years.

To help offset the budget increases, we raised tuition and mandatory fees 5%, which is in line with the state average in Oklahoma.

Despite the tuition increases this year, Oklahoma remains one of the most affordable states in the country in regards to public higher education.

To reinforce, we have continued to manage our resources efficiently and in such a way that we continue to meet our stated mission and goals. Our decisions are made based on what is in the best interests of students, faculty/staff, and the environment for teaching, learning, service, and research.

As mentioned earlier, over the past few years, the economic climate has presented numerous challenges to our budget.  However, the administration remains firmly committed to reviewing ways to increase compensation and keep salaries in line when provided with the opportunity. Practicing good stewardship while utilizing our resources is of utmost importance as we plan for the future. We place great value on our colleagues who work every day to educate and support our students. They are indeed our greatest resource.

You received an email last week detailing the salary stipend that was recently approved by the Board of Regents of the Regional University System of Oklahoma. Full-time faculty/staff employed as of June 30, 2013, will receive a stipend based on years of service.
This stipend will be rolled into salary for FY2014-2015. 
Full-time faculty/staff and adjuncts will receive their stipend in the November payroll.  Part-time staff will receive their stipend in December.

We believe the salary increases and additional monies for faculty travel and departmental operational budgets are evidence to the continuing commitment to academic instruction – which is the most important thing we do and we must continue to make it a priority.

Plans are also in progress internally to conduct a comprehensive salary study, which I believe is vital and can provide us with valuable data to address concerns we have around compensation and how best to address those – both short-term and long-term.

Over the past five years, we have made it a priority to steadily increase our reserve fund, which we have raised more than 5 percent during that time (2.4% to 8.3%.)

We must now make a similar commitment to making salaries and faculty professional development a top priority for the University.

I want to spend most of the remainder of my time focusing on professional development, academics and other initiatives relating to accreditation.

For the past few years, I have emphasized the need for transformational change. Through our work with the Southeastern/Harvard Professional Development groups and the SOLD program, we have made great strides.

In working with our eight professional teams who developed short-term action plans, some of the positive outcomes over the past year include:

  •  A salary stipend
  • Revision of the Southeastern tuition waiver benefit for eligible dependents
  • A new and improved format for shared governance
  • And regular meetings established by the administration with the Faculty Senate, AAUP, Staff Association, and Student Government Association
  • Another outcome from our professional development work has been improved avenues of communication through the implementation of Yammer for internal use and an updated master calendar on the Southeastern website. We are currently working on other improvements to the website, including a re-designed look, more de-centralization of content, and the use of the WordPress platform for departments and faculty.
  • Other areas that have been addressed either directly or indirectly through our professional development action plans are campus beautification and community engagement. We held our first-ever Founders’ Day celebration on March 5, 2013 to celebrate our history and encourage community participation.   Our faculty, staff, and students continue to volunteer their time and expertise on a daily basis in the community through such programs as Families Feeding Families, the Crisis Control Center, youth programs, and food banks. Our people not only reach out to our local community but also regionally, to our state, as well as nationally. I was moved by how some of our faculty, staff, and students responded to the devastation of the tornadoes our state suffered in May, giving of their time and resources.
  • Another area recognized and that we are addressing is in the area of branding and identity. Earlier this fall, we unveiled our new Savage Storm mascot and logo. In addition to being a fixture at athletic events, “Bolt’’ has been visible in a wide variety of community events involving recruiting and our local schools.

While this may seem insignificant to some, remember that branding and identity emerged as concerns from our grassroots Harvard and Southeastern Professional Development Program.

As for the future, we are continuing to move forward with our Professional Development Program through the integration of the long-term action plans. Some 30 plans are being reviewed and consolidated at this time.

With that in mind, we must look toward the future with the thought that in 5 to 6 years, we anticipate incremental turnover in senior administration and faculty. What this means is that we must begin developing tomorrow’s leaders today and we must be purposeful with mentoring this next generation of leaders. This is something that impacts virtually everyone in this room.


As everyone knows, a team of peer reviewers representing the Higher Learning Commission will visit our campus on February 24-26, 2014, to complete a comprehensive evaluation visit for continued accreditation.

The initial draft of our Self-Study Report is currently being finalized.  Accreditation is vitally important to an institution.  There are many reasons, but I would like to focus on the following three.  First and foremost, students benefit from attending an accredited institution.  Such benefits include:

  • The students’ coursework and degrees are more likely to be accepted by other institutions, graduate programs, and professional schools,
  • their employment opportunities are enhanced, and
  • they can qualify for and use a variety of federal educational entitlement programs to attend school.

Secondly, accreditation benefits the institution.  These benefits include:

  • The institution is eligible to participate in numerous federal educational entitlement programs and receive federal grants,
  • it commits to self-reflection and improvement of academic programming and organizational processes, and
  • it functions using a set of accepted practices that are commonly found in higher education.

Finally, accreditation benefits the public.  If accredited, the public has assurances that the institution:

  • offers high quality of academic programming,
  • exhibits integrity in organizational processes,
  • abides by a set of high standards (criteria for accreditation),
  • is committed to continuous improvement through assessment, and
  • has the ability to sustain its efforts into the foreseeable future.

Because of these and other reasons, I encourage all of you to continue to embrace the accreditation process as we enter its final stages and view it as an opportunity to celebrate our successes, identify our challenges, and improve our institution for future generations of students, staff, and faculty.  Even though we have accomplished much since the last visit in 2003, continuous self-reflection and improvement are essential for Southeastern to be competitive in the ever-changing landscape of higher education.

And once the visit is completed and the team report has been accepted, our work is not over but has just begun.  The critical self-analysis of the self-study process, coupled with the consultation and findings of the visiting team, will be used to provide the framework for the next strategic planning cycle.

Since 2009, much of our professional development work through Harvard and the Southeastern Organizational Leadership Development Program has correlated with the accreditation process.

Again, the Harvard and SOLD programs were grass root efforts and this strategic visioning will only enhance the efforts many have been involved with to date.

This has enabled us to continue on our pathway to reinventing ourselves as a premier, comprehensive regional university.

During this time, working together, our efforts have also helped us to address the fundamental challenges that face Southeastern  and higher education in general. It has provided the framework for making dialogue more productive and collaborative with the realization that we need to change while emphasizing things that need to stay the same and perhaps strengthen— a focus on unique strengths—strengths of tradition that drives institutions to become better.

In addition, we have put into place prerequisites for reinventing ourselves in becoming more flexible and adaptative in order to face the uncertain challenges ahead:

*choices driven by aspirations and capabilities

*more focused and realistic about what we can achieve

*put questions of people ahead of questions of strategy

*uniqueness builds on traditional traits

*these traits are grafted onto alterations for flexibility and adaptation

I want to thank you for everything you do to ensure that we uphold these high standards and sustain the best possible learning environment for our students.

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 State of the University 2013 Address Video

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In conclusion this afternoon, I want to express my thanks for your support. Joan and I are honored to be a part of the Southeastern family. It is truly a privilege for me to serve as President of Southeastern Oklahoma State University.

Thank you.