Insights into the reallocation proposal

Many of you may have seen the opinion piece that includes details about the development of a recent proposal to transfer funds from the Carbondale to the Edwardsville campus. (Ultimately, the board did not pass the proposal; shortly after the vote, some legislators proposed separating the SIU system.)

I will let the statements that have been shared speak for themselves. I am, of course, dismayed and disappointed by what appears to be an active, deliberate effort to undermine the Carbondale campus and, by extension, the entire SIU system. The process and lack of transparency did not serve us or our colleagues at Edwardsville. I must add that the disrespect to Carbondale’s faculty, staff and community is especially disturbing. However, these concerns are best addressed by the Board of Trustees and system leadership.

Our focus at SIU Carbondale remains firmly on our exciting future. We will continue the revitalization of our campus with strong, comprehensive academic programs, a vibrant student experience, and meaningful research. I am grateful to our many friends, faculty and staff members who are committed to our students and our mission. Thank you for your support.

A semester to remember

This weekend’s commencement ceremonies serve as our semiannual reminder to take a breath and reflect on the great things SIU is doing for its students and the community.

To all of our graduating seniors, congratulations and good luck. I hope that you leave us with a sense of purpose and fond memories. We look forward to seeing what you do with your potential.

Now, let’s take a moment to reflect on the spring semester. I talked about many of our achievements last week. But this was such a remarkable semester, I wanted to highlight a few other accomplishments.

New leadership helps SIU plan for the future

While we look toward SIU’s future, we’ve been working to appoint strong leaders to help us fulfill our mission. This semester, we filled four key roles:

SIU Research gets noticed

In February, SIU received what is believed to be the largest specimen of black carp ever analyzed from the Mississippi River. Our researchers are studying the invasive species to learn about issues like its range, health and reproductive potential.

Another SIU researcher analyzing the Mississippi River found that efforts to control flooding along the river have actually resulted in bigger floods. His findings were published in the prestigious journal Nature in April.

This important research could lead to new ways to preserve the river habitat for future generations, and SIU is leading the way.

Turning to the social sciences, a professor and his student in anthropology earned funding from the National Science Foundation to study the effects of Hurricane Harvey on Houston residents. They hope to show how socioeconomic status can affect the way people view disasters.

These are just a couple of the vital questions SIU faculty, graduates and undergraduates are looking to answer. Our research is helping to solve some of society’s most pressing problems, from sustainability to health and safety.

Day of Giving exceeds expectations

The community really went above and beyond in March to “Give the Gift of Experience,” during SIU’s annual Day of Giving. More than 1,800 donors gave more than $480,000 to students and programs during a 24-hour campaign.

Looking back at the amazing things we accomplished this semester, I am excited about what we can do in the upcoming school year. I hope you are, too.

Volunteer leaders help advance SIU

At commencement, our graduates celebrate their success and thank their families, professors and friends for making it possible.

Another group of people deserves thanks, as well: the alumni and donors who give back to the university. Among them are a very special group of volunteers.

Over the last two weeks, I have had the pleasure and honor of meeting with our SIU Alumni Association board, the SIU Foundation board, and the committee leading the Forever SIU fundraising campaign. Working in partnership with our staff, these volunteer leaders meet regularly to provide guidance, share perspectives and offer ideas that help move their boards and the university forward.

Cheerleaders and challengers

While they are cheerleaders for SIU, our volunteer leaders also ask thoughtful, challenging questions that reflect their investment in SIU’s future. As representatives of our many alumni and friends, they want, quite simply, to help SIU be the best we can be.

While each member brings a unique perspective to the conversation, our volunteers also have much in common beyond their affinity with our university.

First, they model that hard-working, can-do attitude for which SIU is so well known. Many were first-generation college students who discovered themselves here. As one board member said: “SIU changed the trajectory of my life.” You could see heads nodding in agreement throughout the room.

Next, they attribute much of their ability to succeed at SIU to faculty and staff members who welcomed and supported them. The personal attention we give each and every student – past and present – is another hallmark of our university.

And finally, their commitment runs deep. When I first came to SIU, a number of people told me our alumni and friends are among the most loyal in higher education today, and I believe it. Our volunteer leaders and those they represent are willing to give back because they bleed maroon and love SIU.

A new generation

As a new generation of alumni walks across the stage this weekend, we should remember that each graduate is beginning a new phase of what we hope will be a lifelong relationship with SIU. Their success is made possible because those who came before them believe in this university.

I thank each of our volunteer leaders for your insights and dedication. We couldn’t do it without you.

Hands-on research and creative work at all levels give Salukis an edge

Student and teacher work at a lab

Ask any member of our faculty what they love about teaching at SIU, and I guarantee you’ll hear about their connection with students. Professors here have the immense advantage of working at a major research institution, and yet still having intimate classes that allow them to really bond with their students.

The result is amazing collaborations, not just between faculty and graduate students, but including undergraduates and members of the community.

Research links faculty, students and the community

Last month, the College of Applied Arts and Sciences hosted “Flashtalk 2,” a series of short lectures in which faculty from across campus introduced their research.

This great event not only introduced the attendees to the amazing research we do here at SIU, but provided opportunities for the community to get involved with these groundbreaking projects.

I love to see faculty members reaching out to form new partnerships and invite new ideas and perspectives. This sort of collaboration is what my proposed reorganization is all about, and is a way for SIU to remain relevant as the world advances.

Providing research opportunities starting freshman year

Small campuses across the country tout their small class sizes and individual attention. But few offer access to professors who are active, leading researchers in their field. SIU offers the best of both worlds.

This means that students are able to actively participate in meaningful, cutting-edge research from the very beginnings of their education.

SIU undergraduates are working to create more efficient renewable energy, develop better ways to make anti-venom, and determine the impact of invasive species on the Mississippi River, among many other projects.

Students are also taking the initiative to branch out into new areas. For instance, the Rocketeers of Southern Illinois just created a registered student organization dedicated to building and launching rockets. They placed second in their first Argonia Cup competition, and I expect they’ll continue to soar.

Creative opportunities abound

While I love STEM, I am also a firm believer in the importance of a comprehensive education. That means at SIU, we expand our research focus to include creative activities.

Our Department of Theater puts on six major productions a year, plus several smaller productions, allowing students the chance to perform, direct, design lighting and sets, and work on costumes and makeup.

Mass Communications and Media Arts offers students opportunities to produce films, photography, or a range of digital media.

School of Music lets students compose, perform, or teach a variety of musical skills, and School of Art and Design students work in more visual media than I can name, ranging from blacksmithing to water colors.

The outstanding work of our Art and Design students was on display in April, during the annual Rickert-Ziebold finalist exhibition at the Surplus Gallery. Congratulations to Kelly Carter, Timothy Miller and Lindsey Perry, who are sharing the prestigious 2018 Rickert-Ziebold Trust Award.

This all makes for a remarkable college experience with a variety of hands-on learning opportunities. Want to find out more? Take a virtual tour today.