Dr. Edward H. Hammond, president of Fort Hays State University, unveiled "Average is Over" as the theme for the 2012-2013 academic year during his address this morning at the annual Fall Convocation.
"We know it was true in the past that students, faculty and staff of colleges and universities throughout our country with just average skills, and doing just an average job, could find success," the president said. "That is no longer true. Today, average is over."
He said FHSU chose to be different by pursuing excellence. "Our task is to change our community, change our state and change our world," he said. "Our performance results are clearly not only above average but ones that achieve true excellence in education."
Another highlight of Fall Convocation was the introduction of faculty award winners -- Faculty Member of the Year, Edmund Shearer Advisor of the Year and, the university's highest honor, the President's Distinguished Scholar.
Dr. Rick Packauskas (pronounced pah-COWS-kus), associate professor of biological sciences, was named this year's President's Distinguished Scholar. Packauskas, who receives a medallion and a $1,500 cash award, was selected by President Hammond from recommendations forwarded to him by an evaluation committee of previous presidential scholars. The committee is chaired by the FHSU provost, Dr. Larry Gould.
In his State of the University address, the president cited the Hanover Research Study, which found that to be successful universities need four things to take place. "First, institutions had to be successful in increasing student enrollment while populations stabilize or decline," he said. "Second, successful institutions had to create new on-campus and online programs to respond to the needs of their constituents as well as business and industry. Third, institutions need to focus on a larger geographical area. Fourth, successful institutions need to find increased private support and new ways to generate revenue."
He noted that FHSU was a leader in all the categories. "Not only did we grow overall, but we grew on-campus, online and internationally," he said. "Our strategic plan redefined our geographical area from just the state of Kansas to include an area that runs from the Eisenhower Tunnel to the west to the Truman Library to the east. And our successful Cornerstone Campaign -- which raised more than $68 million in the last three years -- has provided the resources we need to build new facilities and to continue to stress quality in a time of shrinking state support."
He said the growth that has been so important to Fort Hays State University was the result of emphasis on quality and also keeping a competitive price point in the student market place. "If you look at this year's tuition, it is clear that we are not only providing a quality education, but we are providing that education at the most affordable tuition and fee level," he said. "Nor is the FHSU faculty an average faculty. Our students also have proved that they are above average."
He pointed to several examples that show FHSU is achieving excellence:
· Seth Albin, an accounting graduate of the College of Business and Entrepreneurship, was one of more than 200,000 students who took the CPA exam. His score placed him in the top ten individuals in the nation.
· The Financial Planning Team again won the national championship.
· Students in the Physics Department have been recognized nationally for their research in laser biophysics.
· Students in the Department of Art and Design, under the leadership of Professor Chaiwat Thumsujarit, continue to dominate the art director's competitions for graphic design performance.
· Faculty in the College of Education and Technology continue to produce top teachers who receive many local and statewide honors.
· Dr. Eric Gillock and his fellow faculty members in the College of Health and Life Sciences have also been innovative and creative in their support of excellence. Dr. Gillock was a driving force behind the development of the Western Kansas Center for Biotechnology and Bioinformatics.
"The above-average performances by our students and faculty have led FHSU to be the fastest growing four-year institution in the state of Kansas," he said. "On the official 20th day last fall, we had almost 13,000 students. This growth, which was part of our strategic plan, has assisted us in many ways. Most notably, during the last two years we have been able to reward our faculty and staff with increases in salary of almost 10 percent at a time when most universities were not providing any increases and budgets were being significantly reduced."
President Hammond also took exception to criticism that a large part of FHSU's growth came from serving students who are not Kansans. "That statement isn't entirely true," he said. "Our growth in serving Kansans was almost 20 percent, while three of our sister institutions served significantly fewer Kansans. FHSU is not only the fastest-growing institution in the state, but it is the institution that is serving more and more Kansans year in and year out."
He concluded: "As my mother used to tell me, the proof is in the pudding. Producing students with degrees, above-average skills and a history of success is what really counts. When you look at degree growth over the last five years, FHSU continues to stand out. Last year we awarded 20 percent more degrees than we did in 2006."
Provost Gould, in his remarks, talked about the next phase of FHSU's participation in the Red Balloon Project, which is a national initiative in cooperation with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities to re-imagine and re-design learning for the 21st century.
Gould said the Red Balloon initiative addresses three challenges: the unprecedented reduction in state financial support, increased expectations and the transformation of higher education by game-changing technology. He said the behind-the-scenes planning that began last year would become visible this year as FHSU advances collaborative learning and develops higher academic integrity irrespective of whether the learning environment is on or off campus.
"It's about the learning," Gould said, "not the technology."
The other faculty award winners announced at the Convocation, in addition to Dr. Packauskas, were Dr. Rob Channell, professor of biological sciences, as Faculty Member of the Year for 2012, and Dr. Robert Moody, assistant professor of advanced education programs, as the Shearer Advisor of the Year. Award money for the Faculty Member of the Year, research, service and teaching awards is provided by Tom Thomas, president of Commerce Bank, and the membership of the Provost's Council.
The Faculty Member of the Year was chosen from among the previous academic year's winners of Research, Service and Outstanding Teaching Awards. Those winners were Mark Eberle, program specialist in the Department of Biological Sciences, and Dr. Eric Leuschner, assistant professor of English, in research; Dr. Duane Shepherd, associate professor of health and human performance, and Dr. Janet Stramel, assistant professor of teacher education, in service; and Christa Weigel, assistant professor of allied health, and Channell in teaching. Each of those awards carries a $500 cash benefit. Channell, as Faculty Member of the Year, also receives a $1,000 award.
The Shearer Award is selected from the nominees of the university's four colleges. Moody was nominated by the College of Education and Technology. The other nominees were Sharon Wilson, instructor of English, from the College of Arts and Sciences; Dr. Kyle Stone, assistant professor of management and marketing, from the College of Business and Entrepreneurship; and Carolyn Insley, associate professor of nursing, from the College of Health and Life Sciences.
The Shearer Award winner receives a stipend of $500, and the other three nominees receive $150. The cash award is sponsored by Commerce Bank.
In addition, Gould announced that the winner of last year's Shearer Award, Dr. Amy Finch, professor and chair of the Department of Communication Disorders, was the National Academic Advising Association's Outstanding Advising Award Winner in the Faculty Advising Category. She will receive the award at the NACADA National Conference in October.