Henderson Now - September 2015

Dear Faculty and Staff,

Thank you for your service to Henderson State University as we begin the university’s 125th academic year. During this milestone anniversary year we have many exceptional activities planned – from musical performances and art exhibits to athletic contests and grand galas. The 125 Planning Committee put a lot of work into developing a robust calendar of events, and I hope each of you and your families will be a part of the celebration.

In this, the first Henderson Now for the new academic year, I will focus on a number of issues that are important for our university. I encourage you to seek more information on any of these from your leaders; they will be able to provide insight and help relate these issues to your daily work.

Governor’s higher education announcement

Earlier this month, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced his commitment to improving higher education in Arkansas by focusing on the performance of higher education institutions as it relates to reducing the educational attainment gap.  Additionally, the Governor’s commitment will result in a new approach to the funding of higher education in Arkansas. Currently, 90 percent of a state college or university's funding is based on enrollment while the remaining 10 percent is based on performance measures such as the number of degrees awarded.

The governor’s plan focuses on changing the funding formula to one based on each university’s performance on a number of metrics, including:

  • Reducing the number of students taking remedial classes
  • Increasing the number of minority students who earn a degree
  • Increasing retention and graduation rates
  • Improving college readiness
  • Improving affordability

Among the goals for Gov. Hutchinson’s plan is to increase our state’s college and university graduation rates by 10 percent over the state average of 43 percent. Currently, Henderson State has a 33 percent graduation rate, which means we have more ground to cover as we work to meet expectations.  The Governor has tasked the Department of Higher Education with developing a strategic plan that ensures higher education is aligned to meet his objectives. Subsequently, ADHE has launched a series of working committees to support the development of its emerging strategic plan, “Closing the Gap 2020: A Master Plan for Higher Education in Arkansas.” 

Many of the initiatives proposed in priority one of our strategic plan, such as introducing a comprehensive student success program and increasing student engagement and development, respond directly to our governor’s proposals. I am confident that as the plan enters its second year, we are beginning to see progress in accomplishing our goals. 

This year, we will work to find ways to achieve greater efficiencies at Henderson and develop new academic programs that better fulfill the desires of our students and the needs of employers. We know a key factor that drives enrollment is having high-quality academic programs that make a positive impact on our region.

Fundraising

At the close of the last fiscal year, private gifts to Henderson reached $1.67 million, which is the highest single year of giving to Henderson in more than a decade. Undesignated gifts to the Henderson Fund increased by $10,000 and surpassed the first-year goal with a total of $41,614.23. 

While we anticipate launching a comprehensive fundraising campaign in the next 18-24 months, we must first complete a campus master plan, which will begin this fall to help us identify where and how we can grow and improve our campus infrastructure. We will then be able to solicit support from alumni and friends for these projects. Meanwhile, the Advancement team is continuing to strengthen and develop relationships and offer stewardship to current donors.

Last week, many donors visited the campus to meet their scholarship recipients at the inaugural Foundation Scholarship Reception. This reception is one of several steps that have been taken to inspire many of our past donors to reconnect with the university and renew their support. 

Campus construction

Throughout the summer, we watched buildings rise and our campus landscape improve. Contractors are completing construction of our two new residential facilities. We have completed a series of improvements to our athletics facilities, and students have a new multi-purpose field for intramural activities on the north end of campus. Work has begun on an 18-month project to install a chilled water loop on campus that will improve air conditioning and humidity control in most campus buildings, and improvements to the exterior of the Old Caddo will soon begin thanks in part to a $747,000 grant from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Commission. 

We have communicated regularly throughout the summer to update the campus on these activities. If you missed any of these communications, I encourage you to take a look at the archive on the Henderson State news site. I know we’re all proud of our growth and the extraordinary efforts from both Finance and Administration and Student Affairs staff who have worked tirelessly to ensure that our campus moves in a positive direction to better serve students, faculty and staff.

Campus safety

In light of the tragic situation at Delta State earlier this month, I do want to take a moment to reiterate our collective commitment to maintaining a campus community that it is safe for our students, faculty and staff.  Please take a moment to review the campus Emergency Management Plan to ensure you understand university protocol in the event of a campus emergency.  Additionally, log in to MyHenderson and check the “Emergency Preparedness” tab to ensure your mobile number has been entered into the RAVE emergency alert system.  Finally, please sign up for the emergency management training sessions that will be conducted by Chief Johnny Campbell throughout the year. 

US News ranking

I am pleased to announce that our university has been ranked in the top 100 of the south’s regional universities by U.S. News and World Report. More important than that is our ranking in the top 50 of the south’s publicly funded schools. The university ranked No. 42 among the public universities in the south that focus on undergraduate education and ranked No. 87 of the south’s regional universities.

The increase in ranking is directly tied to efforts toward achieving priority six in our strategic plan – enhancing Henderson’s state, regional and national profile. The recognition of our university shows that we are on the right path – a strong path toward delivering the best for our students, faculty and staff. I thank you for your help with these priorities and wish you only the best throughout the academic year.

In Reddie Spirit,
Glen Jones,
President