Redefining the Classroom

Youngblood delivers State of University Address at convocation

Posted: August 30th, 2003

August 29, 2003
SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – Lake Superior State University President Betty J. Youngblood marked the beginning of another academic year on Thursday with the delivery of her State of the University Address at the annual convocation of faculty and staff.

During her address, she encouraged the University staff to make the institution stand out in its service to and support of students.

“Educational services are now available almost anywhere. Institutions that provide excellent service enjoy a distinct edge in recruiting and retaining students. This is particularly true of a small university that regularly touts a personal approach to learning as an institutional strength,” Youngblood said.

“We need to do everything that we possibly can to ensure that LSSU is the most welcoming, helpful, and supportive college anywhere.”

Youngblood listed the University’s strengths and noted that its financial challenges are not over yet.

“Our university is truly one-of-a-kind in Michigan,” she said. “We have many reasons to be proud of LSSU and the unique contribution that it makes to the Eastern U.P., the state of Michigan and the surrounding region.”

She noted accomplishments of the past year, including national recognition for students in biology, chemistry and engineering programs, as well as the student alumni group SAILS; national recognition for the women’s basketball team with the GLIAC regional championship and player Alice Duesing being named NCAA Division II Scholar Athlete of the Year; and a national Model United Nations Conference being held on campus. She lauded the faculty and staff for continuing its work on a strategic plan for the University.

She also detailed University achievements in bringing in endowments.

“The Stephenson Foundation awarded the University one of its largest academic endowments, $300,000, for academic scholarships. The Hudson Foundation committed to an endowment of $100,000, also for academic scholarships. And in athletics, Doug Weight, former Laker hockey player and now NHL great, contributed $200,000, the largest athletic endowment in the University.”

Youngblood said that while many budgetary adjustments have been made, a variety of challenges still exist. She also noted that most universities across the country face similar issues.

“From a fiscal point of view, our university is still not in good health,” she said. “The accumulated deficit in the general fund alone grew last year by $500,000, about the same amount that the state reduced our budget during the year through two executive orders.”

Youngblood said the University’s budget troubles can and will be resolved, but that it will take some time for the institution to recover fully.

She charged LSSU Vice President for Business and Finance William Becker with developing and implementing the financial philosophies, processes, procedures and plans to ensure that expenditures do not exceed revenues, that funds are set aside to address physical plant needs, that deficits are resolved and institutional reserved replenished.

During the morning meeting, Becker said part of his financial plan will be to keep tuition increases in a range that will help LSSU stay in a very competitive position with other Michigan public universities. He noted that LSSU is in the mid-range of tuition rates when considering fall-to-fall tuition increases at Michigan public universities over the past few years.

Also during the convocation, LSSU Provost Bruce Harger introduced new faculty and reviewed changes to academic structure in order to make it more efficient and cost-effective. He also produced a student satisfaction survey, which detailed student likes and dislikes about their experiences at LSSU.

Gary Balfantz, associate professor of the School of English and Communication, along with Maria Parrella-Ilaria, coordinator of the collaborative fine arts degree program between LSSU, Algoma University College and Sault College, provided an update on fine arts offerings for the year. They noted that private lessons, non-credit and for-credit courses in the arts continue to be offered at LSSU and that the fine arts degree is growing. Students may pick from concentrations in graphic design, visual art, native art and culture, creative writing, theater and music. Balfantz said construction of the University’s fine and performing arts center is continuing on schedule for a fall 2004 opening.

Youngblood encouraged LSSU staff to continue to make the University an attractive choice for students seeking higher learning.

“Michigan and the nation need universities like this,” she said. “LSSU is a place for students from small towns who desire a smaller campus in which to live and learn. This is also a place where students from larger cities can experience a different pace that encourages learning and friendships. LSSU is a place where one person can make a difference in a life and in a University.” -LSSU-