The state's fastest growing university will not rest on its laurels, choosing instead to launch ambitious goals for the year 2020.
Fort Hays State University, recognized recently in the Council for Aid to Education's Collegiate Learning Assessment for performing better than 90 percent of four-year institutions across the nation in improving its students' writing, reasoning, thinking and argumentation skills, continues to set enrollment records year after year. "Our estimate of your value-added placed you in decile group 10," Roger Benjamin, president of the Council for Aid to Education, wrote in his report to FHSU. "You performed better than 90 percent of four-year institutions."
FHSU's 20th-day headcount for the fall 2007 semester was 9,588 students, a new all-time record. Annual statistics from the Kansas Board of Regents show that FHSU has been the growth leader over the latest five-year reporting period. From fall 2001 to fall 2006, FHSU had an enrollment growth of 62.1 percent. During that same five-year period, Emporia State University saw an increase of 11.2 percent, Kansas State University grew by 3.2 percent, the University of Kansas increased by 3.8 percent, Pittsburg State University grew by 2.0 percent, and Wichita State University actually saw an enrollment decrease of 3.7 percent.
Even with the remarkable growth that includes Virtual College students in nearly every state and more than 2,200 students in China, the majority of the FHSU student body continues to be Kansas residents.
Speaking at a news conference this morning in Hays, Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, announced that he would carry the message of success across the state of Kansas next week on his annual media tour, visiting at newspapers, radio and TV stations, and with alumni and friends of the university in 15 cities.
Dr. Hammond has spent more than 20 years at the helm of Fort Hays State, and in August he became the longest serving president in the university's 105-year history.
During the General Faculty Meeting at the beginning of the fall semester, he continued his practice of announcing an annual theme by declaring "Dare to Dream" as the theme for the 2007-2008 academic year.
The centerpiece of the "Dream" is the development of a strategic plan to carry the university to its goals for the year 2020, and the president will present that dream as he travels the length and breadth of the state next week.
President Hammond appointed a Committee to Review and Rethink the Structure of the University in May, and the committee solicited ideas from the entire university community on ways to position the university for a successful future. Following up on the work of the committee, the president introduced a bold plan -- "Dare to Dream: The Development of the Creative University, Fort Hays State University in 2020" --
that would include, among other things, a four-part strategy for continued growth, university ownership of businesses and even the possibility of changing the name of the institution to the "University of Western Kansas."
He said the task was to build new forms of social cohesion appropriate to the emerging "Creative Age."
"I am not proposing that we abandon our commitment to our high-tech, high-touch learning environment," he said, "nor are we changing the mission of the university. The plan contains seven 'design elements' that are responsive to the explosion in knowledge productivity, the increased specialization in academic disciplines, the rise of entirely new disciplines and the collapse of disciplinary boundaries that have increasingly taken place during the last 20 years."
In summary, the seven design elements and some of the initiatives of the plan include:
Design Element 1 -- Commitment to Growth
The objective will be to grow FHSU's high-quality students from a projected enrollment of 10,000 in 2010 to 15,000 students by 2020. The growth will be accomplished in part through more aggressive recruitment of undergraduate and graduate students and through better retention of current students.
"The report of the Committee also recommends that as part of our marketing effort we change the name of Fort Hays State University," the president said. "It is their recommendation that we seek legislative approval to change our name to the University of Western Kansas, which more appropriately communicates our location to a national and international audience. It also reflects one of our primary missions, which is to serve the post-secondary educational needs of western Kansas."
Design Element 2 -- Commitment to Life-Long Learning
FHSU will restructure and expand the Virtual College to accommodate an enrollment of 7,500 or more. The president also noted that the plan uses the content expertise and supervision of current full-time faculty in partnership with full-time graduate teaching assistants in order to protect quality and significantly expand the number of full-time graduate students on the Hays campus.
Design Element 3 -- Commitment to Entrepreneurship
FHSU should move away from the paradigm that it is just an agency of state government towards a paradigm that casts it as an enterprise responsible for its own fate, an enterprise the state government charters and empowers and in which it invests. The university should be encouraged to own and operate businesses, thereby becoming entrepreneurial in the truest sense of the term, that is, risking its time, money and resources. To accomplish this end, FHSU will create a new entrepreneurial development program that recruits the best and brightest business students, assists them in developing creative and exciting business plans, and migrates those plans to communities in rural Kansas.
Design Element 4 -- Commitment to Intellectual Fusion
FHSU will encourage teaching and research that is interdisciplinary, multi-disciplinary, and trans-disciplinary by creating four university institutes under the guidance of the four colleges: A Leadership Institute under the guidance of the College of Arts and Sciences; a Math and Science Education Institute under the guidance of the College of Education and Technology; an Information Assurance Institute under the guidance of the College of Business; and a Biosciences Institute under the guidance of the College of Health and Life Sciences.
Design Element 5 -- Commitment to Social Relevance
As members of the academic community, FHSU must share its expertise globally to help alleviate the host of problems that beset an increasingly complex world. Under the plan, that would be accomplished in four ways: 1. To create efficiency and to improve the services to Kansas’s educational community, it is proposed that the College of Education and Technology be realigned into three departments -- undergraduate programs, graduate programs and technology studies; 2. It was the recommendation of the Committee to add the word "Design" to the title of the Department of Art because the design program is the most popular area for students; 3. FHSU would create a program in hospitality management to meet the tremendous need in the Kansas service sector; and 4. FHSU would develop Professional Science Masters programs to provide advanced training in science or mathematics while simultaneously developing important workplace skills.
In addition to new academic programs, the Committee also recommended that FHSU pursue the new Community Engagement elective classification offered by the Carnegie Foundation.
Design Element 6 -- Commitment to Global Engagement
Global engagement is critical to the advancement of FHSU, the state of Kansas and the nation. To answer this need, the Committee proposed the establishment of either a Global College or an Office of International Education. The purpose of the new office would be the coordination of efforts, information clearing, brokering, the strengthening of services, marketing and international research.
Another significant step in this design element would be the requirement of a foreign language for any FHSU degree. In this age of globalization, the importance of the ability to communicate in a foreign language and the potential cultural understanding that can be gained through learning another language cannot be overstated.
Design Element 7 -- Commitment to Learner Outcomes
One of the most talked about challenges facing universities today is increasing fundamental learner outcomes. Under Faculty Senate leadership, a new major initiative is beginning to enhance writing skills of FHSU students. This "Writing Across the Curriculum" initiative will be fundamental to success in enhancing communication skills. In addition, FHSU would challenge the faculty to come up with a comparable initiative in the area of oral communication skills. FHSU would also continue its long-term commitment to produce graduates who are computer literate and computer flexible.
President Hammond said no decisions had yet been made.
"I have tried to frame the discussion around the issues raised by the Committee," he said. "I would be surprised if all these recommendations become part of our future strategic plan. But, we need to act. If we act now we can more effectively use the decade of 2010-2020 to build a great university. We will use this year to plan together, work together and dream together to build a high-quality university for the next decade and for 2020."
Besides Hays, the 2007 media tour includes stops in Dodge City, Garden City, Liberal, Goodland, Colby, Norton, Hutchinson, Great Bend, Wichita, Topeka, Kansas City, Mo., Kansas City, Kan., Lawrence, Clay Center and Salina.
The president will be accompanied on his annual media tour by Debra Prideaux, director of the Alumni Association and Governmental Relations; Kent Steward, director of University Relations; and Tim Chapman, the new president and CEO of the FHSU Foundation, formerly called the Endowment Association.