President Ambrose Says State of the University is Strong
Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (Aug. 27, 2013) – While acknowledging challenges that face higher education, Charles Ambrose, president of the University of Central Missouri, began his State of the University Address Monday, Aug. 26 praising the UCM community for contributing to a strong campus environment, evidenced by student growth and innovation.
“So for a few minutes, I want to consider where we are…the state of the university is strong, and it’s getting stronger every day because of you,” Ambrose told the gathering of mostly faculty and staff members, who attended his speech in the James L. Highlander Theatre.
UCM President Chuck Ambrose addressed the university community during the annual State of the University Address Aug. 26.
“I don’t know about you, but 12,351 students gets me pretty excited,” Ambrose said. He added that he is grateful for the hard work of UCM employees who have helped recruit and retain students.
Enrollment has continued to climb since Ambrose became president in August 2010. The preliminary enrollment figures he announced during his speech are an indication that the university could set its third consecutive record fall enrollment. More precise figures will be available following the census Sept. 17.
“It was three and one-half years ago on this stage that I stood in front of you as a candidate to be president, and I asked us to consider what could happen if we asked the question about what is possible here. I said if we ask the question, what’s possible, there is a good chance that we as a university community have the opportunity to reshape higher education in the state of Missouri and in this country, and that’s what you are doing,” he remarked.
Ambrose attributed campus growth and success to a strong passion for teaching and learning at UCM, and constructive thinking to produce citizens, servants and scholars, while at the same time providing the focus on applied knowledge “that we know is required for graduates to be competitive in both life and work.” He also praised the efforts of university faculty and staff members to “engage students in the powerful, cumulative effect of college,” and the Board of Governors’ willingness to commit strategically to governance as it relates to student success.
“But consider this, you are educating the most students, you are graduating the most students, you’re envisioning ways to engage students in the total experience of college, while at the same time our commitment to affordability has kept the annual average rate of tuition increase below the CPI (Consumer Price Index) at only 1.8 percent for the last five years,” Ambrose said. This is despite state financial support for UCM hovering at the 2001 level.
“So it is no small task to stand before you with a degree of appreciation and awe in the fact that you are accomplishing all of these things and all these things focus on the success of students,” the president told the gathering.
He said faculty and staff members have demonstrated learning to a greater degree through their focus on student success. “Looking back on this past year, we see a university fully committed to embrace the college experience for all of our students, whether it’s faculty members engaging your students in learning, pushing the limits with a focus on forward-looking skills, bringing a global perspective and a sense of our place in the world into our classrooms, or encouraging students to participate in community service to others.”
Ambrose urged the campus to continue working to help clear pathways for success for the class of 2017. UCM’s fall 2013 first-time freshmen are the initial group of students directly affected by the Learning to a Greater Degree contract for student completion. The conceptual contract is a commitment to help students graduate in four years, and requires them to take 15 semester hours of “the right courses” each semester, commit to residing in residence halls for two years, see their academic advisors on a regular basis, attend class regularly and communicate with professors, and engage outside the classroom.
“At the core, the Learning to a Greater Degree contract outlines a clear path for us to support students, to help them earn a more valuable degree at UCM,” Ambrose said. “Each one of us is an able part of this contract. Student success hinges on our dedication to their experience every day. It is every student, every interaction, every day.”
The president outlined challenges at the state level that will impact the institution over the next several months. These include performance funding, keeping the cost of tuition low, and fiscal uncertainty posed by House Bill 253.
House Bill 253 is a tax cut and tax reform measure that Gov. Jay Nixon has vetoed, and is withholding $33.7 mill8on in Missouri higher education appropriations until his veto is overridden or survives the General Assembly’s approval. The funds, which amount to approximately $200,000 a month for UCM, would be released if the veto stands. Ambrose said that if legislators override the governor’s veto, it could have serious consequences for Central Missouri, which could lose more than $2 million in state appropriations. Ambrose told the gathering that UCM Board of Governors President Marvin “Bunky” Wright recently urged both local House and Senate members to consider the negative impact the bill would have on this campus.
“I think it is important for you to know, all that we are doing to be as efficient and effective as possible… there’s a limit,” Ambrose said.
The president also spoke about initiatives such as the Missouri Innovation Campus, the recent visit to campus by President Barack Obama, the March 10-12, 2014 site visit by the Higher Learning Commission, and a major national convening this fall on innovation sponsored by the Lumina and Kauffman foundations as well as Gov. Nixon. UCM will play a role in this program that will include national leaders and regional partners in Kansas City on Nov.13, Ambrose said.
Along with a video highlighting important initiatives and accomplishments at UCM, Ambrose shared the Highlander stage with three other university administrators who addressed issues such as enrollment and retention, and initiatives designed to focus on student success. Presentations were made by Deborah Curtis, provost and chief learning officer; Roger Best, dean of the College of Business and Professional Studies; and Mike Wright, dean of the College of Education.