Drawing upon themes from Sir Isaac Newton to “The A Team,” President Cartwright described the state of the University as one of momentum. In her final annual address, on Sept. 24, she said, “Today, I firmly believe that BGSU has both the ‘mass’ and the ‘velocity’ that have created significant momentum. We are definitely in motion, and I am confident we will work together to remain in motion.”
And as in The A Team,” the 1980s TV show in which the team leader said he loves it when a plan comes together, Cartwright said in BGSU’s case, it’s the Strategic Plan that is coming together and guiding our path. “We need to ensure that we maintain the discipline needed to examine all the decisions we make through the filter of this touchstone document,” she said.
Of the plan’s seven priorities, the first two have of necessity taken precedence, Cartwright said. The first was creating a distinctive, coherent undergraduate educational experience that integrates curricular and co-curricular activities, and the second is increasing our student population and implementing the programs they need to continue on through graduation.
The Connecting the Undergraduate Experience (CUE) Steering Committee has developed a curriculum that will create a four-year program organized around key sequences: inquiry, problem solving, and transitions that builds the foundations of critical and creative thinking.
The president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities said of CUE, “It is bold and visionary, and has the potential to be pace-setting. … I am confident there will be wide interest in it across all parts of higher education.”
“We are operating from a position of strength, and I hope you are as excited as I am about the possibilities that a new undergraduate curriculum will provide for our students and for the University,” Cartwright said.
The second priority—enrollment growth and retention—has also made great strides, she said. The president praised the heightened efforts toward outreach that have made this progress possible, and without compromising academic standards.
“We’re focused on keeping this momentum going, and we already have some early good signs for next year. At this time last year, we had just over 700 applications. As of just a few days ago, we had received more than 1,800 applications for fall 2011,” she said.
Priorities three and four of the Strategic Plan are being addressed through realignments in the provost’s area that will help refocus our efforts both in graduate education and in economic development and regional growth.
“Strategic Priority Five is about realigning individual and institutional incentives and resources to support institutional priorities. In many ways, we have been following this guidance since the Strategic Plan was approved. Put simply, careful alignment of resources with priorities is best practice in terms of budget-building,” she said.
Working with the Faculty Senate Budget Committee and the University Budget Committee, the enrollment and undergraduate education priorities were addressed, and now faculty salaries become a top priority, she explained.
However, Cartwright expressed serious concerns about the future. “This budget discipline and these collaborative processes will be absolutely critical as we work to address the highly likely state budget crisis in the next biennium. Ohio's economy remains fragile and economic growth in our state is sluggish. This raises significant concerns as we look to the upcoming FY12 and FY13 biennium—which begins in just nine months. Nearly 16 percent of our State Share of Instruction (SSI) appropriation in this current biennium was funded through one-time federal stimulus funds. If those funds are not replaced – and there is not currently a plan for replacement – BGSU stands to receive about $25 million dollars less in SSI over the next two years.
“Priority Six calls on the University to adapt institutional processes and resources for attracting new faculty and staff and for promoting their talent and contributions. We need to focus on hiring the right people to achieve our mission, and then we must commit to support them through investments in professional development. We have made progress here.”
Because of the great importance to the core of BGSU’s academic mission of the seventh priority, diversity and inclusion, the provost has assumed institutional leadership for it. “This issue is integral to how we build excellence and quality,” she said.
Cartwright said BGSU’s identified centers of excellence will be the focus of the next large capital campaign, in keeping with Strategic Priority Five,” she said.
BGSU’s other important plan—the campus master plan—is in line with the Strategic and academic plans and is guiding the redevelopment of the physical campus to enhance the learning environment and make BGSU an even more appealing place for prospective students, she said. It is appropriate that the University launches into its second century with a new burst of growth.
Referring to a book called Finish Strong presented her by Classified Staff Council when she began as interim president, Cartwright said that though she will end her BGSU presidency next summer, “I will commit to you today that I intend on having so much momentum built up when I cross the finish line next year, it just might take a parachute to slow me down. We still have a lot of work to do together, I am looking forward to it all. And with your help, I fully intend to finish strong!”