Being Transparent

As someone who believes in being open, I am sharing the following statement with the campus community:

In the interest of transparency, we are providing information about the status of moving expense reimbursement for Chancellor Carlo Montemagno, as well as proposed costs for the move of his laboratory equipment that he is donating to the university.

The chancellor’s employment contract included up to $61,000 to cover “actual costs of expenses related to moving and storage, if needed, of household, personal, and professional office possessions from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to Carbondale, Illinois.”  What was to be included in the contracted amount was not part of a detailed listing, so there was a misunderstanding about what could be covered in the move.

The chancellor owned two homes in Edmonton, and when the moving costs for the homes exceeded the contracted amount, not including the lab equipment, Chancellor Montemagno paid the difference to the moving company directly.  He has also agreed to pay for and has already reimbursed the university for the move of the second home.

The final cost of the move as allowed under the chancellor’s contract is $49,853.58.  Related documentation is being released with this statement.  The pending move of the chancellor’s laboratory equipment remains under discussion and will be addressed separately.

Thank you for your feedback

Pen laying on a survey form

Every day, on campus and off, people come up to me and volunteer feedback on our proposed reorganization. Feedback has also come in through hundreds of emails and the nearly 70 meetings with faculty and other stakeholders I have had so far.

I value all of it, positive and negative. While I always hope that feedback is constructive and on point, I take it seriously regardless. I thank every faculty member, every staff member, every student, every alumnus, every donor and every community member who has taken the time to share their views.

The board meeting

Last week, at the meeting of the Board of Trustees in Edwardsville, a number of faculty and staff members came to express their views. This is a welcome, important part of the shared governance process, and I again thank all who made the trip, regardless of their position.

I do want to give special thanks to those faculty and staff, including representatives of the Civil Service and Administrative Professional Staff Councils, who came forward with comments and resolutions of support for our direction. I am also grateful to others who came simply to show their support.

It’s important for voices representing multiple perspectives to be heard, and I thank you for adding yours to the public conversation.

Students lead the Saluki pack

Students talking outside

I have said before that a comprehensive university needs to offer its students more than career training. It needs a core curriculum that provides students with a broad base of knowledge and a wide range of electives to help students specialize their skills. This is true. But, to be a truly comprehensive university and produce the type of graduates who go on to be leaders in their fields, an institution needs to go beyond the classroom.

Here at SIU, we embrace this challenge to provide not only a well-rounded education, but also a vibrant and engaging campus life. Our student body is one of the most diverse in the state, consisting of students from a wide variety of backgrounds with a wide variety of interests. Providing opportunities for each student to thrive is essential to our core mission. At the same time, we are limited in the number of classes we can offer.

So how do we expand our classroom experience to allow students to socialize, build real-world skills and emerge as leaders? By letting our students lead the way. Our campus is home to more than 300 registered student organizations.

Registered Student Organizations bring Salukis together

To me, the best thing about RSOs is that they are driven by students. With some guidance from a faculty advisor, students are instrumental in starting new RSOs. Students determine the RSO’s activities and mission. Students manage every aspect of the RSO, from recruitment to fundraising to event planning.

This means that RSOs are tailored specifically to what our students want and need to supplement their education at SIU. Groups specialize in anything from engineering to arts, student government to religious groups, sports to professional honorary societies.

While some of these groups are more active than others, there are many that do exceptional things. For instance, in a recent blog, I talked about the accomplishments of the amazing Flying Salukis, who consistently place at the top of national competitions, and our robotics team, whose robot “Winston” recently dominated a national engineering completion.

Here are a few other notable groups:

Engineering of all shapes and sizes

Students who want to know how things work have numerous opportunities to dig in and create something thanks to the variety of RSOs connected with the College of Engineering.

SIU’s branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers have topped competitions with their steel bridge and concrete canoe designs. This year, SIU will host 16 teams for the Mid-Continent Student Conference of the American Society of Civil Engineers April 19-21. I fully expect our team to make SIU proud. Other engineering focused RSOs build Formula-style racecars, moonbuggies and rockets for various competitions.

Stewards of the environment

As I’ve discussed before, sustainability is an issue close to my heart, and Salukis are exceptional stewards of the environment. Many RSOs give students a chance to take that commitment a step further.

S.E.N.S.E. (Students Embracing Nature, Sustainability, and the Environment) is where many sustainability efforts across campus are born. These dedicated students led the initiative to institute the student green fee and work every day to protect the environment.

Creativity abounds

RSOs across campus help Salukis express their creativity in any medium, associated with the School of Art and Design, Theater, Music, or Mass Communications and Media Arts.

The Big Muddy Crew works to plan and organize the annual Big Muddy Film Festival, which will celebrate its 40th year Feb. 19-25. The festival’s schedule is packed with films from a variety of genres and many focus on important social issues.

The Africana Theater Laboratory highlights African and African American art by producing theatrical performances and events featuring minority student artists. Any student can participate, regardless of experience or cultural or ethnic background.

Business and financial leaders start here

Got a head for business? SIU has a whole host of RSOs for you.

The Saluki Student Investment Fund traditionally outperforms 90 percent of professionally managed midcap portfolios. The group more than doubled the portfolio it manages for the SIU Foundation and currently manages $1.62 million in assets. During the next academic year, a group of SSIF students will travel to Omaha to meet with Warren Buffet as part of a selective program run by the billionaire fund manager.

Re-established in 1989, Blacks Interested in Business focuses on developing business leaders. Its focus is on creating opportunity for students regardless of ethnicity or cultural background. Any student is welcome to join.

Staying active

Students who want to get moving and stay fit can participate in just about any sport imaginable.

For instance, the SIU Carbondale Equestrian Team stimulates interest in horsemanship, and provides members with an avenue to increase their knowledge about horses. They have an organized, structured riding program involving lessons and competition in Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) Events.

Giving back

Other RSOs focus entirely on community service and fundraising, like Up Til Dawn. They host an “up all night” event to solicit donations for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. They have raised about $20,000 this year, and won national recognition in the past for their efforts.

Salukis can pursue their passions or just have fun        

Whether they want to develop skills for a future career, give back to the community or simply have fun with their friends, chances are students can find an RSO that meets their needs. If their interests aren’t yet on the list, they’re welcome to start their own.

I can’t wait to see what these amazing groups do next.

From reorganization to revitalization

Desks in a row

Over the last couple of weeks I have been meeting with faculty in potential new schools that might result from academic reorganization. The conversation is constructive, the questions are thoughtful and the commitment to SIU is clear.

Many faculty are excited about the opportunities that reorganization will present. They recognize that reorganization is the vehicle, not the destination. It’s the platform for change, not the goal.

Reorganization will break down artificial administrative barriers, giving faculty more flexibility to build and revitalize our programs – to distinguish them in ways that will make us stand out and attract students. Faculty will have more capacity to focus on teaching and research, something I frequently hear they want and need to advance SIU and their own careers.

We can also distinguish ourselves from other institutions by re-envisioning our core curriculum. What is the hallmark of an SIU graduate, and how do we ensure that we deliver on that promise? Our faculty are hard at work envisioning a renewed core curriculum now. I’m especially excited that the Diversity Council has been actively looking at how we can ensure that cultural competency is a hallmark of every student.

Research and experiential learning

Reorganization is a platform for growing our research enterprise. Again, it breaks down barriers and creates more opportunities for collaboration. More collaboration, and more focus on our research strengths, will grow external funding and partnerships with industry. I look forward to sharing more about developing our research mission soon.

Reorganization will enhance experiential learning opportunities for our students. I am confident that it will translate into more hands-on creative and research experiences, more leadership opportunities, and more engagement across multiple disciplines. All of that means good things for graduates as they enter the workforce or continue their education.

Finally, academic reorganization puts the responsibility for academic programs exactly where it belongs: in the hands of our faculty. It gives them more freedom to grow and make meaningful changes without getting sidetracked by administrative barriers.

Maintaining focus

I appreciate the constructive conversation at our faculty meetings as well as all of the feedback I have received from students, alumni, friends and community members. The collaborative tone, even in the face of disagreement, helps all of us stay focused on what’s most important for our future: a revitalized SIU.

Outstanding people make an outstanding university

Teacher talking to students

If you look at the budget for any institution of higher learning, you will notice the biggest expenditure is on personnel. At SIU, almost half of our total expenditures go to pay our faculty, staff, student workers and administrators, and for good reason. Our people define what SIU is.

That’s why I am always thrilled to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of any member of our SIU family, and why I am so excited to hear the amazing stories put forward during the nomination process for the Faculty and Staff Excellence Awards.

Nominations are due by 4:30 p.m. Feb. 9, and I encourage everyone on campus to consider nominating an outstanding coworker, teacher or mentor. These awards give us the opportunity to recognize those who have contributed so much to our community.

Exceptional new hires show a fresh perspective

Last year, we recognized the amazing contributions of several faculty and staff members, including a relatively new assistant professor, Jennida Chase from the Department of Cinema and Photography. Jennida earned the Early Career Faculty Excellence Award, receiving praise from her colleagues for her creativity, social conscience and commitment to students. Jay Needham, professor of sound and media and interim director of SIU’s Global Media Research Center, noted that she embodies what a professor should be at a comprehensive university:

“Many people teach others how to use technology, but few are ever able to integrate what is essential about artistic creation or what is culturally relevant about creating electronic media,” Needham wrote.

Accomplished professors leading the way

Michael J. Lydy, professor, Department of Zoology, has been with SIU since 2001, and stands as a wonderful example of experience driving innovation. Michael is recognized as a pioneering researcher in the field of toxicology of environmental contaminants in aquatic and terrestrial environments.

He is not only a prolific author of scientific research, with close to 200 peer-reviewed publications to his name, but is a respected mentor to both undergraduate and graduate students. Those students often win national awards for their work.

Remarkable staff supports student achievement

While our exceptional faculty deserve accolades for their contributions to our students’ success, neither they nor the university could function without solid support from our staff.

Liz Hunter exemplifies this principle. She was recognized last year for her work in developing and maintaining the university’s website strategy. Thanks in part to her efforts while serving as a member of the Americans with Disabilities Act Committee, SIU’s website topped the rankings for accessibility in a study of 140 university websites two years in a row.

Liz has been with SIU since 2005, and recently earned a promotion to assistant director of communications for admissions. Congratulations, Liz, you have certainly earned it!

Nominate an outstanding colleague today

These are just a few of the many exceptional people who make SIU such a great place to study and work. The Faculty and Staff Excellence Awards are such an amazing opportunity to recognize on the good work of people like Jennida, Kathleen and Liz.

Nominate someone today and help me shine a spotlight on those who exemplify the Saluki spirit. #ThatsASaluki

Bleeding maroon while staying green

Woman pollinating a soybean

I recently spent some time traveling with my beautiful grandchildren. I can’t tell you how much I value getting to watch them play, laugh and learn. And, while I watch them grow and discover the world, I can’t help but think about the ways I can improve the world they will inherit.

That is one reason I am proud to call myself a Saluki. Our students’ commitment to environmental stewardship sets a high standard for the region and the country. We’ve earned a silver ranking from the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), and have numerous ongoing initiatives to improve that ranking. We’ve also been recognized as a Bicycle Friendly University by The League of American Bicyclists and have been designated as a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation.

In fact, many credit the late R. Buckminster Fuller, an SIU professor from 1959 to 1971, as the father of the modern sustainability movement. He published more than 30 books and lectured internationally but is perhaps best known for popularizing the geodesic dome.

Sustainability has long been a personal and professional interest. In fact, it was was a focus of the research we did at the Ingenuity Lab affiliated with the University of Alberta, my previous academic home. I’m pleased to see it front and center at SIU, as well.

Putting our money where our mouth is

Salukis don’t just talk the talk when it comes to sustainability. In 2009, students came forward to request the university create a new fund to help develop green initiatives. The result was the $10 Green Fee, which feeds the Green Fund. The fund in turn awards grants to support proposals that address the three pillars of sustainability (environmental health, social equity and economic prosperity) on campus.

More than $2.1 million has been allocated already in support of 169 diverse sustainability projects, and the Sustainability Council is now accepting proposals for a new round of grants, which will be announced in April. The deadline for proposals is March 1.

Sustainability in action

The projects supported by the Green Fund have had an impact across SIU campus. Many of these projects involve students, giving them real-world experience, and require collaboration from programs across campus.

Here are just a few of the many examples:

Salukis have kept approximately 1 million plastic bottles from landfills by using refill stations across campus, and worked with AIGA, a professional student design Registered Student Organization, to create signage to better communicate what is and what is not recyclable at our campus recycling stations.

The Green Fund has also brightened up the College of Agriculture building with a vertical garden that helps purify the air while using fewer resources than a typical garden. The Agriculture Building also hosts a green roof, which not only provides an excellent opportunity for hands-on research, but reduces heating and cooling costs and controls pollution from storm water runoff.

In the Department of Theater, the Green Fund helped with the installation of new lighting control consoles and LED light fixtures, which reduced energy usage for productions by 75 percent, and a new Steeldeck stage platform, which cuts down on the amount of lumber waste from theatrical sets. Both of these projects also give students the opportunity to develop their skills using industry-standard technology.

The university’s Physical Plant has chipped in by installing a 28kW photovoltaic solar array, installed more than 6,000 energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs, added LED lights to almost 1,000 exit signs, and upgraded old fluorescent lighting to more efficient technology in 82 buildings.

I could go on, but there are too many projects to fit into one blog. I encourage you to check out all of SIU’s sustainability program on the campus Sustainability website. They are truly a shining example of our commitment to environmental stewardship.

Get involved

Salukis are digging in and getting involved in a number of ways. The Saluki Green Action Team — a collaborative group of students, faculty and staff — work to inform the SIU community about ways to measurably reduce our carbon footprint. Anyone can join for free.

SIU will also again be participating in the national RecycleMania competition and benchmarking event in February and March, joining other institutions of higher learning in reporting their recycling, composting and waste statistics for an eight-week period, with ranks determined accordingly. Our goal this year is to increase recycling and reduce waste.

First Friday Green Tours will also resume this spring, offering anyone the opportunity to tour campus and learn more about existing green projects and initiatives. Tours begin at noon on Feb. 2, March 2, April 6 and May 4 at the Innovation and Sustainability Hub, located in the Student Center.

A growing team

Geory Kurtzhals has been leading sustainability at SIU since the fall 2015 semester. During this time, the program has grown and SIU has received additional national recognition for its sustainability endeavors. This year, I am happy to welcome Karen Schauwecker, a 2015 SIU alumna with a master’s degree in geography and environmental resources. She is joining Geory’s team as our new sustainability program coordinator. After spending several years in agriculture education at the K-8 and university levels, Karen is returning to SIU.

There are also two new “Sustainability Fellows” on campus: Jesse Galaway, a senior mechanical engineering student from Monticello, Ill., and Samantha Griffin, a junior geography and environmental resources major from Chicago. These amazing students are gaining practical experience as they assist SIU’s Sustainability Office in supporting events and outreach, as well as recycling and other initiatives, and working to improve the campus-wide STARS sustainability score.

Learn more

Learn more about SIU’s nationally recognized sustainability efforts at www.sustainability.siu.edu, by emailing sustainability@siu.edu or by calling 618/453-2846.

What it means to be a comprehensive university

water fountain

I believe that a comprehensive university does more than offer a wide range of disciplines. It’s also one that pays attention to the whole student, ensuring that graduates are well-rounded in terms of knowledge, competencies and skills including and beyond their chosen fields of study.

The results of the Vision 2025 survey conducted in the fall suggest that many who care about SIU would agree. When asked, for example, about the most relevant areas of study and research in 2025, their answers included not only business and science, but also education and the arts.

When asked about core skills or knowledge that every SIU graduate should have, they spoke of communication skills and critical thinking as well as problem-solving and leadership skills.

Cultural and experiential opportunities

Many of the responses focused on the total SIU experience. In response to a question about cultural and experiential opportunities for students, respondents mentioned not only culturally focused courses and international study, but also internships and the arts, including music and theater. The theme of expanding student activities emerged from open-ended responses to questions about our ideal campus culture and campus/student life in 2025.

Survey participants also mentioned internships, community involvement and service learning among the types of opportunities that can be developed in partnership with other organizations.

The importance of diversity and inclusivity came through clearly in responses to a number of questions.

Finally, those who participated reaffirmed our mission, indicating that we should continue to embrace, for example, outstanding teaching and innovation in research and creativity.

Being “comprehensive” doesn’t necessarily mean that we can be all things to all people, but it does mean that we can provide a full range of academic opportunities and a vibrant campus life to every student we serve. This is why it is so important that we are as strong in the arts and humanities as we are in engineering and business. This is why we must make sure we provide every student with the experiences that will help them be successful throughout their lives.

Make sure your voice is heard

The Vision 2025 survey gave our alumni, friends, community members, faculty, staff and students an opportunity to share their own visions for SIU in 2025. I’m grateful to the more than 2,900 people who participated.

The survey is just one of the many ways we have welcomed feedback on the future of the university. If you haven’t weighed in so far, and even if you have, you might review our Vision 2025 website and consider offering your feedback. Plans continue to evolve based on conversations with faculty and many others, so there’s still time to make sure your voice is heard.

Making the Video: SIU Day of Giving

When I came to SIU, I didn’t expect to get my big break into show business. But here I am, starring in my very own video to help promote SIU’s Day of Giving, March 7. I don’t know that I am ready for Hollywood quite yet, but it may be time to start working on my IMDB page.

While I wait for a call from Spielberg, I should take the time to thank everyone who helped me in my production career. I continue to be amazed by the talent and dedication I see every day in the students, faculty and staff here at SIU.

Without further ado, here’s an inside look at the amazing team that helped me make my video debut:

Status quo is still not an option

In 2012, an SIU committee looking at programs raised a number of questions related to “complimentary practices and academic efficiencies.” They included:

  • Are there programs that could be combined administratively to eliminate redundancies?
  • Are there programs that would be better suited in another college?
  • Are there course redundancies that could be eliminated by requiring that course offerings be offered by the discipline department?

Exploration of these and other questions led to a 2013 task force report that included suggestions for academic reorganization. It recommended organizing some programs under a school structure as well as moving some programs to new colleges. For example, the report suggested that life science departments could be combined into one department or school. The College of Liberal Arts might be organized into four schools: arts, humanities, social sciences and interdisciplinary studies.

TIME FOR ACTION

The 2013 report discussed exploring “programmatic and administrative changes in order to promote collaboration and cost savings in the medium to long term.”

While our proposed reorganization is focused less on cost savings, and more on generating funds that we can reinvest in our programs and people, promoting collaboration is a core driver.

The report also states that “the status quo is not an option.” I think that most of us would agree with this statement today.

It’s clear that we have been talking about reorganization for some time. Unfortunately, we have not acted on it for a number of reasons — ongoing leadership changes among them — putting us in the position to have act more rapidly today than any of us would like.

Even with the need for speed, we cannot lose sight of the goal: to build a collaborative, innovative academic community that will lead to new and reinforced academic programs. It’s time to take action and reaffirm the SIU difference.

 

Planes, robots and cyber security

In my state of the university address, I suggested that intercollegiate competition adds to the complete student experience. Students gain hands-on experience – as well as teamwork and leadership skills – that will make them winners throughout their careers and lives. Successful teams help build the university’s reputation in the academic world.

At SIU, our success in regional and national academic competition is a point of pride. For example, our student web development team placed third in the nation in April, and SIU’s debate team has earned multiple national championships.

Here are three more examples from the fall semester you may have missed.

FLYING TO NATIONALS

The Flying Salukis won all eight events – and their seventh straight regional title – at the National Intercollegiate Flying Association Region VIII competition in October. Connor Schlottman won honors as top pilot, and seven team members were among the event’s top eight individual scorers. Now the team moves on to the national competition in May.

A ROBOT NAMED WINSTON

The mission for SIU’s robotics team was to get a robot named “Winston” (after Carbondale’s recently retired bagel man) to retrieve hacky sacks on an obstacle course. No problem. In November, the five-member team accomplished its mission to win the Association of Technology, Management and Applied Engineering’s annual robotics competition.

GO SECURITY DAWGS!

The 10-member Security Dawgs, our cyber security team, placed fifth overall out of 179 teams competing in a December National Cyber League event. They earned second place in three additional categories. The team is positioned for the 2018 Illinois Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition in February.

Please join me in congratulating all of our winning teams and please provide me with ideas for other intercollegiate competitions. These are activities that let the world know why it is special to be a Saluki!