BATON ROUGE, La. – An independent review of Southeastern Louisiana University cited its emergence as a leading state and regional institution since the mid-1990s and recommended an even greater focus on the quality of students, faculty and academic programs as the university moves to the next level.
Released today at a search committee meeting of the Board of Supervisors of the University of Louisiana System, the report, by the higher education consulting firm Keeling & Associates of New York City, lauded the university’s success at recruiting a better prepared student population and recommended the Hammond campus work to implement more selective admissions and ensure that more students succeed and graduate.
The review will aid in the transition of a new president at Southeastern and is consistent with reviews the UL System has commissioned for its other universities in conjunction with presidential searches. With the help of national search firm Greenwood/Asher and Associates and after a number of public meetings and interviews, the UL System hopes to name a new Southeastern president by early 2009.
“The degree of transformation of the University is truly remarkable. Put simply, Southeastern is among the most impressive and positive institutions of its kind that the consultants have visited in more than twenty years of consulting practice and campus experience,” the report said.
“Under the leadership of Presidents Sally Clausen (1995-2001) and (Randy) Moffett (2001-2008) Southeastern was transformed from an open access institution with limited facilities, alumni support, and state investment to a leading university of choice,” it said.
UL System Board Chair Elise Burkhalter of Slidell, a Southeastern alumna, said the report provides a springboard for the next leader.
“This report confirms what we have long known as a board and offers a number of valuable recommendations for the next president. We’ve watched Southeastern grow in exciting ways over the past few years — it’s a good university that can only get better. Now it’s our task to find the right individual to work with faculty and staff to help the campus realize its full potential,” Burkhalter said.
Keeling & Associates used data and interviews from a wide range of stakeholders to develop recommendations for the next president to consider during his or her transition to the Southeastern presidency.
The firm noted a strong sense of pride on campus, stemming from a number of recent accomplishments, most notably the creation and implementation of Southeastern’s first doctoral program (in educational leadership), major enhancements in Southeastern’s graduate and undergraduate academic programs, the renewal of the football program, better-prepared students and fundraising successes that include $23 million raised during a capital campaign between 1998 and 2002.
While the report was overwhelmingly positive, it did cite a number of challenges and opportunities for the university to address if it is to sustain its progress. Among them, the report said that improving first-year retention and baccalaureate graduation in 4, 5 and 6 years “will be essential to ensuring continued improvements in the institution’s academic and intellectual standing.”
The report noted that faculty and staff offered many ideas for strengthening retention, including increasing the selectivity of admissions, increasing availability of student financial aid, improving advising and counseling, strengthening the first year experience and improving student performance in first year mathematics.
Other key observations and findings:
“As consultants we were impressed by the many expressions of a shared sense of community and ubiquitous optimism for the future. It is not that students, faculty, staff and administrators at Southeastern cannot see or refuse to acknowledge the existence of problems that require attention; they do – but they have confidence that the University will, in time, address and solve those problems.”
Teaching as Top Priority
“We find at Southeastern an exceptionally strong faculty corps dedicated to teaching as job number one and appropriately engaged in pertinent scholarship, research and service to the campus and regional community.”
Faculty “love their teaching, are happy to engage with students, support significant scholarly activities (as long as those activities do not take the focus off teaching), and feel great satisfaction in the positive developments that have taken place at Southeastern.”
Congenial Working Relationships on Campus
“There is an unusual sense of harmony; we encountered little of the usual we/them bickering commonly found among faculty, administration, and staff of other institutions.”
Focus on Progress for New Leader
“There is a pervasive belief that what is needed in a new president is “more of the same” – leadership that embraces the vision and continues the direction of the University without changing course.”
“…everyone with whom the consultants spoke agreed on one key point: there is no going back; Southeastern cannot reverse course, so sustainability is an essential concern.”
Southeastern’s Rising Position in the Region
“In short, there is a revolution of rising expectations for Southeastern; across the parishes of the I-12 corridor, the University has developed and is now counted on for an even greater presence in the agenda of regional economic, social and workforce development.”
Southeastern’s presidency became vacant when Moffett took over the helm of the UL System in July.
With more than 15,000 students, Southeastern is Louisiana’s third largest public university. The university was recently named “a great college to work for” by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Since 1990, Southeastern has been one of the fastest growing universities in the state, with an enrollment growth that has exceeded the state average. At the same time, the university increased admission requirements and its regional and statewide profile. This fall, the percentage of incoming freshmen with an ACT of 24 or above increased 19 percent.
The university is a catalyst for economic development along I-12, playing a central role in work force development, strategic partnerships, the generation and transfer of ideas and technology and enhancing the quality of life in communities throughout the region. .
Click on www.ulsystem.edu/southeasternreview for the full Southeastern institutional review. For more information about the Southeastern search, visit the UL System’s website at www.ulsystem.net and click on the Southeastern search icon.
In other board action, the Finance Committee received a report on bond issues related to the construction of housing and other facilities on UL System campuses. Earlier this year, Committee Chair Wayne Parker had requested a status report to identify any risks that may have arisen given current market conditions.
In order to assure independence of the review, the UL System engaged consultants who had not been a part of the respective projects’ original financing teams. Thursday, UL System staff presented the report of RBC Capital Markets, which was engaged to review the projects at McNeese State University, Nicholls State University, Northwestern State University, Southeastern Louisiana University and the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Sisung Securities Corporation, which was engaged to review the current status of projects at Grambling State University, Louisiana Tech University and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette that were financed through non-profit facilities corporations, presented a similar report to the board at the August meeting.
To build new facilities on their campuses, alternative financing was utilized with significant safeguards that have proven to be successful, the consultants determined. They found that, “while the recent downturn in the market has had an impact on the cost of debt incurred to develop campus facilities, there appears to be no significant threats at this time.”
“I’m happy that we secured the review,” Parker said. “In general, everything is working as we hoped it would.”
Board member Russell Mosely agreed: “We are satisfied that safeguards in place have been and will continue to protect our institutions.”