Following is some of what I would have said in closing remarks had time not run short at Thursday’s 90-minute college convocation.
Ours is a time of change and challenge, to be sure. At the university level, the changes are many and rapid, almost dizzying – a new vice-president for student affairs, reorganization and new leadership at the Foundation and Alumni Association, as well as in recruitment and admissions; and, of course, a provost out, an interim provost in, and a national search underway for the next vice-president for academic affairs, who will inherit a more muscular office, with a more ubiquitous campus presence, than the last provost enjoyed. We trust, of course, that all these changes will prove fruitful, stimulating formation of a “rising tide that raises all ships.”
We can also point to a cascade of favorable changes closer to home, including:
- New department/school leadership – Ed Goshorn in Speech & Hearing Sciences, Elaine Molaison in Nutrition & Food Systems, and Scott Piland in Kinesiology all came on board as unit leaders on July 1. We look for great things from each and all. (And here we should not miss the opportunity to pause and thank “stepped-down” chairs Steve Cloud and Kathy Yadrick for their many years of excellent, stable leadership during some very tough, very trying years.)
- Enhanced leadership at Gulf Park, with the addition of Rene’ Drumm as associate dean for CoH at the Gulf campus. Her full-time administrative presence will dramatically enhance our capacity to support the work of our unit leaders and faculty on the coast.
- New faculty and staff, including five very promising tenure-track faculty additions, many of whom you’ve met today. As always, new folks bring new energy and fresh ideas, key ingredients for a richer academic “gumbo” of opportunity. Bienvenue!
- Image-building “brand” changes – Two units sloughed off dated names for ones with more substance and catchet: Human Performance & Recreation gave way to the contemporary Kinesiology (making us at present the only School of Kinesiology in the state), and the more-than-a-mouthful National Food Service Management Institute embraced the new-and-improved name, Institute for Child Nutrition, the college’s only dedicated, non-instructional applied research unit.
- Transfer of the Sport Management program to the College of Business. Admittedly, this was not an uncontroversial downsizing decision on my part, but one that I firmly believe will prove to enhance significantly the cohesion, coherence, and long-term productivity of the School of Kinesiology. We wish our colleagues in Sport Management, and CoB generally, only the very best.
- Building developments – Two new space ventures are in the works, both crossing the paths of College of Health and College of Business: 1. The renovation of Joseph Greene Hall, former home of CoB, slated to begin this academic year, will house three of our six academic units (Social Work, Nutrition, and Public Health) and the dean’s office; and 2. A replacement building for the “condemned” Holloway Complex at Gulf Park, a wholly new building that will be shared by CoH and CoB. Planning for both projects is now fairly well advanced, though far from complete.
- New externally funded projects for valuable work across a broad range, in both the research and service arenas, totaling millions in new funding over a multi-year span, much of it arriving with the much-coveted “full Facilities & Administrative rate” attached.
- Far, far too many planning efforts, curricula revisions, project developments and student-centered quality improvements to detail here.
So, certainly we’re witnessing some really good changes in the college; and, just as certainly, there are more of these good things to come. At the same time, we face some very significant – if hardly “new” – challenges, including compressed budgets and reduced staffing, difficulty of complying with some accreditation standards, inadequate space for teaching and research (even with the renovation of Joseph Greene), and painfully limited capacity to respond to new educational, research and service opportunities aligned with our mission of health promotion.
That qualification aside, let me conclude by affirming that the heart of who we are as a college, the core of my standard “elevator speech,” if you will, remains true, despite the many obstacles we face –
First, we are about excellence in professional education, producing annually hundreds of health professionals, without which the local and regional health and human services infrastructure would rapidly falter.
Second, we about conducting applied research that meaningfully impacts the quality of life of individuals, families and community – from child nutrition, to rehabilitation of disabled vets, to preventing and reducing obesity, to improving the ways we can help kids speak, to treating psychic trauma, to plotting the path of integrated health services, and much more.
Third, we are about community and pubic agency partnerships – We boast 400+ instructional sites, contracts for work with six state agencies, and a half-dozen research collaborations – that strengthen communities and extend agency capacity and impact on the health and well-being of Mississippi residents and others in the region, and indeed the nation.
That’s who we are, and we’ll keep doing what we do until…, well, until we can’t do it anymore. Thank you for being here, thank you for bearing up, thank you for never giving up the movement forward, despite the many obstacles along the way.