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April 2, 2007

ULM rebirth is a great model

If you wonder what can be accomplished in a few years with a vision, a plan and a focused team, look no further than the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

During the five-year tenure of Dr. James Cofer, the physical appearance of the campus has been transformed. But the beauty of the transformation at ULM is much more than skin deep.

While the external transformation was occurring, a student-focused approach to education was happening institution-wide.

Facilities like the new apartment-style housing and the impressive new Student Union Building make campus life more enjoyable, but the addition of technology like the 60 new "smart" classrooms has modernized teaching.

Walk across campus, and you'll most likely encounter students and faculty actively engaged in learning.

During Cofer's tenure, both enrollment and the average freshman ACT score have grown. Endowed chairs and professorships are up. The state's only public pharmacy program has been saved. A new health sciences degree will provide opportunities for students to launch health-care careers. Teacher education and programs in the School of Visual and Performing Arts are consistently recognized for their excellence.

Despite enormous financial challenges and the additional stress of Hurricane Katrina-related budget contingencies, the university's operations have become leaner and more efficient.

Yet, the institution's future has never looked brighter. Gifts to the university in 2006 were up to $2.8 million. University supporters also have funded a new student success center soon to be open.

At the institution's recent Envision celebration, the university was referred to as "the jewel on the bayou," and in honor of that jewel, attendees received a tiny sparkling stone.

The university's leadership team, faculty and staff are to be applauded for all they have accomplished in such a short time.

With skill and purpose, they have indeed shaped a raw piece of carbon into a brilliantly cut diamond.

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