FHSU president sets theme of 'professional commitment' for new academic year

Says a faculty committed to high standards a large part of university's successes in student achievement, record-setting enrollment

8/20/03 kb

HAYS, KS -- With two enrollment-record semesters in the academic year just past and another highly likely this fall, Fort Hays State University President Edward H. Hammond today said a commitment to excellence is one of the primary reasons for these successes.

"What has made our institution so successful has been the pledge that our faculty and staff will engage in the pursuit of the highest standards -- your unwillingness to compromise on the standards that are necessary for academic excellence," Hammond said in his State of the Campus address at the annual General Meeting for Faculty and Administration in the Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center in Sheridan Hall.

This is the heart of Hammond's theme for the 2003-2004 academic year: Professional Commitment.

"Fort Hays State University, better than any other institution that I know of, helps its students develop the learning skill," he said.

He cited as examples the success of FHSU students in national competition in art, technology, radio and TV, debate, teaching and financial planning.

And, said Hammond, "It hasn't gone unnoticed that for the last seven years, between 98 and 99 percent of our students have been admitted to medical school, law school, professional school, graduate school or employed within six months of graduation."

The General Meeting for Faculty and Administration is also the time when members of the faculty are honored for their professionalism and scholarship.

Hammond named Dr. Paula Boire, associate professor of music, as the 2003 President's Distinguished Scholar. This award is the university's highest scholastic honor.

University Provost Larry Gould introduced Dr. Robert Meier, professor in the Department of Accounting and Information Systems, as the winner of the Edmund Shearer Faculty Advisor of the Year award and Dr. Greg Kandt, associate professor of health and human performance, as the recipient of the Teacher/Innovator Award.

The meeting also featured remarks by Gould and Dr. Carol Patrick, associate professor of psychology and president of the Faculty Senate. Gould also introduced new faculty members.

In his address, Hammond noted that FHSU has been able to "successfully integrate technology into the curriculum better than any other university in our state or region. We guaranteed computer literacy for all of our graduates and to this day we remain the only institution that tests our students and documents their computer skills."

The other side of the high-tech, high-touch vision of education at FHSU, said Hammond, is reduced class sizes, a 17-to-1 teacher student ratio, and the fact that more than 90 percent of the courses at FHSU are taught by full-time faculty. Since the implementation of this vision at the start of his presidency, said Hammond, "The success of our students and the successes of our university have been dramatic."

"And last year at this time I spent most of my remarks highlighting those success stories and the many faculty whose hard work made those possible, thereby building the foundation for our affordable success strategy," said Hammond.

His standard answer to people in Topeka and around the state who ask how FHSU has been able to achieve so much, he said, is, "It is the people that make Fort Hays State University special."

He continued, "This year's theme -- Professional Commitment -- has been the secret and continues to be the secret of our success."

The university had about 5,000 students when he came here 16 years ago, he noted, about 4,000 on campus and another thousand off campus. This fall, he said, "We are closing in on 7,500 students."

"For the first time in our history, approximately 5,000 students will be in Hays and over 2,500 students will be in the Virtual College and will not set foot on our campus, yet will benefit from our educational programs."

The prospect of a record-setting enrollment this fall follows a record spring, which saw a total enrollment of 6,487, the first time FHSU enrollment ever crossed the 6,000 plateau in a spring semester. That followed a record fall 2002 semester, which set an all-time record of 6,549 students.

Hammond has noted many times that part of the university's success is also due to keeping costs as low as possible. For the 2002-2003 academic year, FHSU held its tuition increase to 6.4 percent while the other Regents institutions were raising tuition by a minimum of 9 percent and as much as 25.2 percent.

The gap between FHSU, already the lowest-cost institution in the state, and the other Regents schools will widen this year. FHSU held its increase in tuition and fees to just 9.1 percent, while the increases in cost for tuition and fees at the other Regents institutions ranged from 13.1 percent at Emporia State University to 22.5 percent at Washburn University. That is the "affordable" part of the Affordable Success strategy.

But today, speaking to faculty members and administrators, Hammond's focus was firmly on their role in the "success" part of the formula.

"The key to the high-tech, high-touch vision and our affordable success marketing strategy has been your professional commitment," he said.

"You have been engaged in the pursuit of the highest standards and pledged or promised by your actions to treat each and every student as if he or she were the only student. That personal attention, through professional care and commitment, is what makes a Fort Hays State education, whether it be on campus or online, the best undergraduate experience available in the state of Kansas."

To continue its successes, said Hammond, and to keep its competitive edge, the university must "travel light and cover ground quickly." This, he said, means decentralizing, delegating decision-making and building excellence. That is the focus of many changes now in process.

"What you are witnessing," he said, "is an intensified emphasis on execution and excellence. I know that with your help and professional commitment, this new academic year will not only set enrollment records, but also will establish new benchmarks for student success and academic excellence."

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Kent Steward, Director   |  ksteward@fhsu.edu  |  Kurt Beyers, Assistant Director   |  kbeyers@fhsu.edu