Dr. Edward H. Hammond, president of Fort Hays State University, announced during a news conference this morning that the university's strategic plan for the year 2020 would include a more ambitious enrollment goal than previously contemplated, and he said men's and women's soccer teams would be launched in part to stimulate enrollment growth.
Today's announcements were the latest in a planning process that began when the president appointed the Committee to Review and Rethink the Structure of the University in May 2007. Based on the work of that committee, he presented "Dare to Dream: The Development of the Creative University, Fort Hays State University in 2020" during a September 2007 news conference. The draft reorganization plan contained 34 initiatives, but he cautioned that decisions were not final on most the initiatives pending the allocation of resources and other factors.
In a December 2007 news conference, President Hammond announced progress on some of the 34 initiatives, including a final decision not to change the name of the university. Today's news conference addressed several more of the initiatives, and the fate of the remaining initiatives will be announced when the final strategic plan is unveiled at the start of the 2008-2009 academic year.
The draft plan had called for FHSU to reach an enrollment of 15,000 by the year 2020 -- 7,500 on campus and 7,500 in the Virtual College. President Hammond announced today that goal in the final plan would be 20,000 -- 7,500 on campus and 12,500 in the Virtual College.
"We can't just snap our fingers and get to 20,000 students," he said. "This plan will be implemented over time."
The president said a significant part of the growth would be accomplished by improving retention of on-campus students. "To improve retention, we will launch a freshman seminar class that will assist new students to be more successful by developing skills and attitudes necessary to achieve their educational and personal goals. The course will include knowledge of personal values and goals; information about university resources, services, policies and academic competencies; effective life skills; community involvement; and career exploration. The course, which will be required for all incoming freshmen, will use an interactive small group setting that encourages student development by promoting positive relationships and enjoyment of the college experience."
President Hammond said the freshman seminar was based on a design developed by John Gardner and used at the University of South Carolina. "The course has yielded as much as an 8- to 12-percent increase in retention of first-year students from their freshman to sophomore year," the president said. "This is an intentional approach that concentrates on preventing problems before they occur rather than trying to fix problems after they happen. We see great potential in instituting such a class for all freshmen at Fort Hays State."
Addressing an issue that has generated a lot of public interest recently, the president announced that FHSU would mount men's and women's soccer teams to compete against other universities within NCAA Division II. "Some groundwork lies ahead in establishing a competition-quality pitch for soccer, with grandstands," he said. "We expect to field teams by the fall of 2010." He cited the soaring popularity of youth soccer, which has created an expectation among many prospective college students to play or watch the sport as part of their higher education experience. "We're confident soccer will contribute to our enrollment growth," he said.
Also as part of the strategic plan's Design Element 1 -- Commitment to Growth, the president announced a new teaching model for the Virtual College. He said the Departments of Health and Human Performance and History were chosen to pilot a teaching model that uses a graduate teaching assistant to assist in the instruction.
"Two lower-division undergraduate general education courses have initially been selected as appropriate courses for this model -- Personal Wellness and Modern World Civilization," he said. "Virtual College sections of these courses using the new model will be offered in the fall 2008 semester and continue for two years to allow the GTAs time to complete their program of study."
He said the department chair or a designated graduate faculty member would serve as a content expert, overseeing the quality of instruction and receiving a stipend to assure the quality of the educational experiences. The effectiveness of the model will be assessed, and data gathered from the pilot study will drive decisions about the effectiveness of the model. "While the concept of assigning GTAs as instructors for undergraduate courses is not new to academia, the innovation of this proposal is the assignment of GTAs to instruct undergraduate courses at a distance," the president explained.
President Hammond announced several other initiatives that, while they may have not been as much in the public eye, will have a profound impact on the future:
Design Element 3 -- Commitment to Entrepreneurship
The president said FHSU would assist the Kansas Small Business Development Center in its expansion efforts. FHSU serves as the administrator of the KSBDC network, which is a partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Kansas Department of Commerce.
"The KSBDC goal is to establish six to eight new outreach centers, which area collaborative partnerships between an existing regional center host and a Kansas community college or other resource partner," President Hammond said. "An outreach center is a cost-effective strategy for establishing collaborative partnerships and expanding KSBDC services because it minimizes the overhead and maximizes the delivery of consultant services."
Design Element 4 -- Commitment to Intellectual Fusion
The president said FHSU would make formal application to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching for its Community Engagement classification. "The classification is designed to showcase institutions with a strong commitment to curricular engagement, outreach and partnerships," he said.
President Hammond said a Leadership Institute would be established as another intellectual fusion initiative. "We will move the Leadership Studies Department from the College of Business and Leadership to the College of Arts and Sciences," he said. "This makes sense because leadership is part of courses in many disciplines, and the new institute will provide support across campus. Leadership isn't a business skill, it's a life skill." He said the reorganization also would include moving the Department of Information Networking and Telecommunications to the College of Business because of the department's business and industry orientation.
Design Element 6 -- Commitment to Global Engagement
The draft Dare to Dream plan included a proposal to require a foreign language for all students. The president said the foreign language requirement was rejected and would be replaced by a "Contrasting Cultural Experience" requirement." "This requirement can be fulfilled in a whole host of ways, including by taking specific courses, by studying abroad, or by certain types of directed travel experience," he said. "It does not change our current requirements in the study of modern languages, but we hope that experiences with cultures contrasting with our own will stimulate the desire for further study of another language and help students see the practical value of learning another culture and its language."
Design Element 7 -- Commitment to Learner Outcomes
The plan will include an initiative to improve the communication skills of students in the areas of writing across the curriculum, oral communications, and computing. "During the Dare to Dream process, our faculty reviewed our coursework in basic communication skills," the president said. "We collectively realized that our student body was transitioning not just in terms of delivery needs, but in terms of basic skill sets they bring to the classroom. Our faculty found areas for improvement in each of the three areas that will assist FHSU in providing better basic skills education and at the same time better aligning with community colleges and other universities."