Southeastern review praises university's transformation
Contact: Rene Abadie
Southeastern Institutional Review (full report)
BATON ROUGE, La. – An independent review of Southeastern Louisiana University cited its emergence as a leading state and regional institution since the mid-1990s and recommended an even greater focus on the quality of students, faculty and academic programs as the university moves to the next level.
Released last week at a search committee meeting of the Board of Supervisors of the University of Louisiana System, the report, conducted by the higher education consulting firm Keeling & Associates of New York City, lauded the university’s success at recruiting a better prepared student population and recommended the Hammond institution work to implement more selective admissions and ensure that more students succeed and graduate.
The review will aid in the transition of a new president at Southeastern and is consistent with reviews the UL System has commissioned for its other universities in conjunction with presidential searches. With the help of national search firm Greenwood/Asher and Associates and after a number of public meetings and interviews, the UL System hopes to name a new Southeastern president by early 2009. John L.Crain, who has served as provost and vice president for academic affairs for seven years, is serving as interim president until the search is complete.
“The degree of transformation of the university is truly remarkable,” the report said. “Put simply, Southeastern is among the most impressive and positive institutions of its kind that the consultants have visited in more than 20 years of consulting practice and campus experience.”
“Under the leadership of Presidents Sally Clausen (1995-2001) and Randy Moffett (2001-2008) Southeastern was transformed from an open access institution with limited facilities, alumni support, and state investment to a leading university of choice,” it said.
UL System Board Chair Elise Burkhalter of Slidell, a Southeastern alumna, said the report provides a springboard for the next leader.
“This report confirms what we have long known as a board and offers a number of valuable recommendations for the next president. We’ve watched Southeastern grow in exciting ways over the past few years -- it’s a good university that can only get better. Now it’s our task to find the right individual to work with faculty and staff to help the campus realize its full potential,” Burkhalter said.
Keeling & Associates used data and interviews from a wide range of stakeholders to develop recommendations for the next president to consider during his or her transition to the Southeastern presidency.
The firm noted a strong sense of pride on campus, stemming from a number of recent accomplishments, most notably the creation and implementation of Southeastern’s first doctoral program (in educational leadership), major enhancements in Southeastern’s graduate and undergraduate academic programs, renewal of football, better-prepared students and fundraising successes that include $23 million raised during a capital campaign between 1998 and 2002.
While the report was overwhelmingly positive, it did cite a number of challenges and opportunities for the university to address if it is to sustain its progress. Among them, the report said that improving first-year retention and baccalaureate graduation in four, five and six years “will be essential to ensuring continued improvements in the institution’s academic and intellectual standing.”
The report noted that faculty and staff offered many ideas for strengthening retention, including increasing the selectivity of admissions, increasing availability of student financial aid, improving advising and counseling, strengthening the first year experience and improving student performance in first year mathematics.
Other key observations and findings included:
▪ Shared Optimism: “As consultants we were impressed by the many expressions of a shared sense of community and ubiquitous optimism for the future. It is not that students, faculty, staff and administrators at Southeastern cannot see or refuse to acknowledge the existence of problems that require attention; they do – but they have confidence that the University will, in time, address and solve those problems.”
▪ Teaching as Top Priority: “We find at Southeastern an exceptionally strong faculty corps dedicated to teaching as job number one and appropriately engaged in pertinent scholarship, research and service to the campus and regional community.” Faculty “love their teaching, are happy to engage with students, support significant scholarly activities (as long as those activities do not take the focus off teaching), and feel great satisfaction in the positive developments that have taken place at Southeastern.”
▪ Congenial Working Conditions: “There is an unusual sense of harmony; we encountered little of the usual we/them bickering commonly found among faculty, administration, and staff of other institutions.”
▪ Focus on Progress for New Leader: “There is a pervasive belief that what is needed in a new president is “more of the same” – leadership that embraces the vision and continues the direction of the University without changing course.”
▪ Southeastern’s Rising Position in the Region: “In short, there is a revolution of rising expectations for Southeastern; across the parishes of the I-12 corridor, the University has developed and is now counted on for an even greater presence in the agenda of regional economic, social and workforce development.”
Southeastern’s presidency became vacant when Moffett took over the helm of the UL System in July. With more than 15,000 students, Southeastern is Louisiana’s third largest public university. The university was recently named “a great college to work for” by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
A copy of the institutional review is available on the system’s Web site, www.ulsystem.edu/southeasternreview.