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February 16, 2012

Dr. Nick J. BrunoA message to ULM faculty and staff from ULM President Nick J. Bruno

Dear Colleagues,

I wanted to provide you information as to my actions since my presentation during University Week. I hope your semester is going well. Thank you for all your efforts on behalf of ULM and our students.


1. Vice President for Academic Affairs

A search committee has been formed, and Dr. Benny Blaylock is serving as chair.  The following individuals have agreed to serve on that committee: Dr. Anthony Walker, Pharmacy; Dr. Benny Blaylock, Pharmacy; Dr. Charles Holloway, Arts & Sciences; Chris Ringo, Staff Senate; Dr. Don Smith, Library; Dr. Keith Parker, Business Administration; Patti Calk, Health Sciences; Paula Griswold, Health Sciences; Rebecca Stephenson, Arts & Sciences; Shannon Banks, Pharmacy; Dr. Stanley Williamson, Business Administration; Dr. Thomas Junk, Faculty Senate; Dr. Wendel Ray, Education and Human Development; and Dr. Wilson Campbell, Education and Human Development.

The deadline for priority consideration has been set for March 1, with a goal to appoint the Vice President by July 1. Dr. Blaylock informed me yesterday that he has received 7 applications thus far. You will be kept informed of their progress.

2. Distance Education

Since arriving I have heard numerous comments relative to our distance learning process. These comments, as well as discussions with faculty and administrators, indicated that it would be beneficial for us to step back and review ULM's distance learning strategy.

I requested that Interim Vice President Pani halt all development of distance courses except for those which required that existing online degree programs already in development continue so as not to delay student progress. Dr. Ron Berry agreed to chair a committee to evaluate our current process/strategy and provide recommendations that will allow us to offer the very best distance learning program possible.

Serving on this committee are: Dr. Ron Berry, College of Business Administration; Dr. Harper Gaushell, Education and Human Development; Dr. Ralph Brown, Arts & Sciences; Dr. David Caldwell, Pharmacy; Mr. Andy Allen, Health Sciences; and Ms. Janis Weber, Business Administration.

3.  Marketing Committee

A critical need for our university is to develop and implement a marketing plan.  We must standardize our brand so that we are not always using three or four different visual representations of ULM.  Increasing our name recognition, first throughout our state, and then throughout portions of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Texas is also important.

I have established a marketing committee, which Laura Brownell will chair, and members include Dr. Richard Hood, President's Office; Ms. Robin Taylor, Athletics; Mr. Adam Jonson, Athletics; Mr. Brook Sebren, Auxiliary Enterprises; Ms. Cynthia Rodriguez, College of Education and Human Development; Mr. Lindsey Wilkerson, Office of Public Information; Mr. Chris Mapp, Arts & Sciences; Ms. Christi Bailey, Graphic Services; and Ms. Kelsea McCrary, Recruitment/Admissions.

4. ULM Athletics

This is another area that is frequently discussed by both our internal and external constituents. Mr. Bobby Staub and I have discussed the need to do a thorough self-study to determine what challenges and opportunities exist in order to formulate a strategy for success. The budget reductions over the last several years have impacted our athletic program, as it has other areas of our university.

Since this area is so important to our external constituents, as well as our public relations and recruitment efforts, we must explore how we can maximize our opportunities for success. A committee, primarily of external stakeholders will be formed shortly to begin that review.

5. The ULM Foundation

Our Foundation recently hired Mr. Larry Simpson as its new Executive Director. Mr. Simpson is meeting with alumni, business leaders, and our deans to formulate a strategy to increase support to our university so that we can advance our mission.

6. Enrollment

This spring's enrollment reflects the following compared to spring 2011 counts: total headcount down 1.6% or 128 students. Spring headcount is 7792.  Our graduate and professional student count is up by 56 students.  You should be aware that we adjusted our policy regarding fee payment. Prior to fall 2011, students who registered but had not paid their fees were not dropped from classes.

In fall 2011, students were dropped for non-payment. Unfortunately, this change in policy does not allow us to compare accurately student counts to the prior year. Despite that lack of consistent data, it appears our enrollment continues to stabilize and those targeted areas, such as graduate programs, are showing growth. This next fall will allow us to compare and evaluate the effectiveness of our recruitment and retention efforts more fairly.

7. Lastly, the Budget

As you have no doubt read or heard, the governor's budget provides that higher education would remain at this year's funding, after our mid-year reduction if a number of other bills were to be passed by the legislature. As you know, the legislative process will be long, and considerable debate will ensue throughout the term of the session. It is too early to predict the eventual outcome.

Therefore, our fiscal planning process will continue throughout the respective university divisions and will allow for input and feedback. We must plan for the worst and pray for the best. As I have repeatedly said, we must all work tirelessly to recruit and retain students. This is within our control and success in those areas will minimize the negative impact any state funding shortfall will have.

In closing, I met with our legislative delegation last week and shared the data I shared with you during University Week. I wanted them to see the impact and magnitude of reductions sustained by our university over the last three years.

They understand the impact these reductions have had not only on our university, but also on our region. I shared with them your numerous personal and organizational accomplishments that continue to occur despite these reductions.

Thank you again for your hard work and dedication to this great institution.  I know it is difficult to maintain a positive attitude with all of the day-to-day pressure our economic conditions place upon our university, and upon you personally.

Although I cannot predict what we will face over the next several months and maybe years, I can predict that this university will continue to strive and grow because of you.

Nick J. Bruno, Ph.D.
President