At WKU’s opening convocation Monday (Aug. 23), President Gary Ransdell encouraged faculty and staff to continue their efforts to improve student success and strengthen the academic mission of WKU, to enhance overall campus quality and to achieve the bold vision for WKU.
“When we mix the three A’s of attitude, ambition and adrenaline – and throw in knowledge and confidence and top it off with the WKU Spirit – you get achievement. You get success,” he told faculty and staff at Van Meter Hall. “We get a leading American university with international reach.”
The achievements by students, faculty and staff in the past year include several recipients of Fulbright grants and other prestigious national and international scholarships; national and state recognition for the Gatton Academy and its students; continued national success by speech and debate teams and by the School of Journalism & Broadcasting; four more Emmy awards for WKU Public Broadcasting; a third-place national finish by WKU’s all-female engineering team in a NASA Lunabotics Competition; the Fijis Across America bike ride for Alzheimer’s research; and Dr. John All’s trip to the summit of Mount Everest.
“Everything and everyone contribute in important ways to learning, to the academic progress of our students,” he said. “We are all educators and contributors to learning. We are all valued in the WKU experience. We all add value to the WKU spirit.”
To achieve the bold vision in today’s global society, WKU must think beyond its region, Dr. Ransdell said. “As I travel across our region and beyond, I sometimes get the question: Why international? Some of you may question our strategic priority to fully internationalize WKU. The bottom line is that we cannot be a leading institution in this country unless we think and act trans-nationally and trans-culturally.
Among recent examples of WKU’s internationalism:
*Sending 30 or more students each semester to Harlaxton in England through a partnership with the University of Evansville.
*Participating in the Semester at Sea program.
*Becoming the home of the Chinese Flagship, Confucius Institute and Navitas.
*Expanding study abroad programs and faculty research opportunities worldwide.
*And even hiring two natives of the United Kingdom to serve as vice presidents. Dr. Gordon Emslie of Scotland is the new provost and vice president for Academic Affairs; and Dr. Gordon Baylis of England is the new vice president for Research.
Dr. Emslie and Dr. Baylis both said the university’s bold vision and tradition of academic success attracted them to WKU.
“We are off on an incredible journey to define a new WKU for the world,” said Dr. Baylis, who has been on the job for a week.
In this new era, Dr. Emslie said, WKU will build and strengthen its scope and purpose to provide students with access to success, to improve learning through an integration of teaching and research and to enhance the quality of life in the communities that WKU and its graduates serve.
As WKU continues to emerge from an era of budget reductions and global economic uncertainty, Dr. Ransdell said the campus planning process would remain simple for the next year but that WKU will sustain modest enrollment growth, complete campus projects, grow the Honors College, build international impact, strengthen research capacity and strengthen regional campuses.
“Beginning this time next year, however, we will return to a more aggressive and specific strategic planning process that will chart our course from 2012 to 2022,” Dr. Ransdell said. “We will also be finishing this year a 12-year campus master plan that will guide the continuing physical development of the campus through 2022.”
He listed projects that have been completed in the past year (Van Meter Hall, College High Hall, Preston Center addition, Chandler Memorial Chapel), those that are under way (Knicely Center addition, new College of Education building, underground electrical infrastructure, international village) and those that are in the planning stages (renovations of Thompson Complex Central Wing, Hardin Planetarium, Grise Hall, Downing University Center; a new business college building, new Honors College facility and U.S. Department of Agriculture research laboratory).
WKU’s “A New Century of Spirit” Campaign also picked up momentum in the past year with $19 million in cash gifts, including $790,034 from faculty and staff. Through July, the campaign had raised $164 million toward a $200 million goal set to be achieved by June 30, 2012.
“I often say that no one works for anyone else at WKU. We all work for WKU and we work with each other to achieve our bold vision for WKU,” said Dr. Ransdell, who will soon complete his 13th year as WKU president.
“Of everything we have achieved, these last few years, I am most proud of our changed attitude; our willingness to embrace boldness; to control our own destiny; our willingness to work hard for WKU—for our students,” Dr. Ransdell said.
“We are a hardworking campus. We are all doing the work of multiple jobs; jobs that multiple people would need to be doing and normally would be doing. But, these are not normal times, and none of us knows what the new norm will be coming out of this period of uncertainty. We are, however, strong, growing, improving and efficient. We are serving more students with unlimited minds, but with limited resources. Attitude is everything. Let’s stay strong, stay positive, and remain optimistic. The WKU cup is more than half full!”