Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Importance of Intercollegiate Athletics

The American Southwest Conference President's Council is meeting in Dallas today. I'm honored to report that I was selected to serve as Chair of the President's Council for the 2015-16 academic year.  This year is my first of a two-year commitment to serve on the Executive Committee. 

Members of the Council are presidents from the conference schools: Belhaven, Concordia Texas, East Texas Baptist, Hardin-Simmons, Howard Payne, LeTourneau, Louisiana College, Mary Hardin-Baylor, McMurry, Ozarks, Sul Ross State, University of Texas-Dallas, and University of Texas-Tyler.  The University of California-Santa Cruz is an affiliate member in women's golf.
The American Southwest Conference (ASC) is an NCAA Division III athletic conference. More than 180,000 student-athletes compete at 450 NCAA Division III institutions across the nation.  Academics are the primary focus for Division III student-athletes who do not receive athletic scholarships and compete in shorter practice and playing seasons than student-athletes at Division I and Division II schools. In addition to serving this year as chair of our conference President's Council, I'm also a member of the NCAA national president's advisory group.
The ASC was founded in 1996, and LeTourneau joined the NCAA conference in 1998. Today, the conference is one of the nation's largest Division III conferences, stretching from far west Texas into Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. The ASC awards championships in 16 sports and LETU competes in 13 of them. 
Today in Dallas the conference presidents are reviewing progress and considering proposed changes in conference rules. 
Intercollegiate athletics are important at LETU. More than 200 student-athletes are enrolled. 24 student-athletes were among those who graduated from the university in our May commencement. A member of our men's tennis team, Morgan Weaver, is a mechanical engineering major who was this spring elected student body president. 
Our LETU Athletic Director, Terri Deike, is a recognized leader within the NCAA, and the students in her athletic program are consistently earning grade point averages higher than the overall LETU student body. Assistant Athletic Director and Head Coach Robin Harriss led our baseball team to LETU's first NCAA conference tournament championship last year. Our courts and playing fields are among our largest classrooms and our coaches are among our most influential teachers.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Celebrating Graduation and the 2014-2015 Academic Year

We just graduated over 300 new professionals Saturday, and this weekend the Enrollment Services and Student Life staff are hosting our first SWARM event for new Fall 2015 students. 

One academic year closes with pomp while the next year gears up with enthusiasm.  It seems there is little time to rest and reflect between the end of one academic year and the beginning of the next.

When I did take the luxury of stopping to reflect on 2014-2015, it was easy to list several major advancements for the university:

For the 21st time, LETU was ranked by US News in the top tier of our peer schools: #27 in the Western US region and #13 on their list of "Great Schools at Great Prices."

According to a study conducted by PayScale, LETU is second only to Rice University among Texas independent universities in ROI (return on investment). Is a college degree worth it? The answer is a resounding "Yes!" here where a LETU degree pays great dividends for students in the job market.

This year saw our largest-ever enrollments in a number of important categories:  largest graduate student enrollment, largest international student enrollment, and largest engineering school enrollment in the university's history. These results come from our work the last five years to become a university of global influence and the leading STEM university in Christian higher education.

Enhancements to our campus facilities continued last year. It was the first full year operating our beautiful Anna Lee and Sidney Allen Family Student Center. We opened three new labs for engineering students: the Keck Mobility Lab, the NSF-funded clean room microfabrication lab, and the Maker Lab.  Our new School of Nursing also opened a new nursing skills lab in MSC.

Finally, this last year saw LETU demonstrate servant leadership to East Texas. One of our own, Deena Shelton of Psychology, was named as a "2014 Emerging Leader" in Longview. The number of local high school students concurrently enrolled in LETU classwork grew significantly and our new health sciences partnership with Pine Tree ISD was welcomed enthusiastically. Our Counseling Center continues to reach out into the community with much-needed mental health services.  The Longview Chamber of Commerce flattered me with their 2015 Chairman's Award.

I'm grateful for your dedicated service that the Lord has blessed in the academic year just completed.  Now, on we go to 2015-16!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Celebrating Success

In the next few days at the Lunsford house, we are celebrating Mother's Day, my birthday, and our 30th wedding anniversary.  And for LETU, it's a time to celebrate the successful end of our academic year. 

Students are finishing finals and over 300 are preparing to walk the stage on Saturday to receive their hard-earned and well-deserved diplomas.

We have 145 graduates in the morning ceremony in aviation, arts & sciences, education and nursing and 170 graduates in the afternoon in business and engineering.

We are truly honored to have Ray C. Davis, the principle owner and the co-chairman of the Board of Directors of the Texas Rangers Major League Baseball team, as our commencement speaker Saturday. 

Originally from New York, Ray graduated from LeTourneau in 1966 with a business degree.  After leading STEMCO here in Longview, he went on to build a distinguished career in the oil and gas industry. 

He was a founder of Energy Transfer in 1995 before taking it public in 2004.  He retired from there in 2007 as co-CEO and co-chair of the board.  Today, Energy Transfer operates 71,000 miles of pipeline.  In addition to leading the Texas Rangers, Ray is now the chairman and CEO of a family-owned diversified investment company called Avatar Investments, L.P.  
He has served on the board of directors of Crosstex Energy and as Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of Cornerstone Natural Gas. 

In 1980, he was elected to the Board of Trustees of LeTourneau College and served our school during an important time of transition.

Recognizing his business expertise,  he was appointed to Major League Baseball's Executive Committee in 2015.

I know him as a man who values hard work, integrity, and faith in God.  I pray that is something others will say about every one of our new LETU graduates.   

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Building & Strengthening LETU Connections in South Korea

This week, I am in South Korea with Dr. Kelly Liebengood, Alan Clipperton and Dr. Joonwan Kim building new relationships and strengthening old ones with several university presidents here. 

Monday, we visited Catholic Kwandong University President Dr. Myung-Hun Chun in Kangnung and had an opportunity to present LETU, talk about our graduate engineering programs and promote a dual degree program.   We talked about developing a nursing license program and talked about the TEACH program and recruiting exchange students.   

From there, we traveled to Pohang to meet the new president at Handong Global University, Dr. Soon Heung Chang, who is an MIT-educated nuclear engineer.  Our last partnership with this evangelical Christian school was signed in 2005, and while I was here, we renewed our longstanding partnership agreement and discussed ways for further collaboration.  HGU has about 3,600 undergraduate and 450 graduate students.   

We also visited Daegu University,  where LETU engineering professor Dr. Joonwan Kim graduated.  We met for the first time with Daegu University President Dr. Duckryul Hong, learned a lot about the school and signed a partnership agreement.  Daegu University has 17,500 undergraduates and nearly 2,000 graduates and is not affiliated with any religious organization. 

From there, we visited President Dr. Hyung-Tae Kim at Hannam University, an evangelical school of about 12,500 undergraduates and 1,273 graduate students.  This was our first visit to their campus, however Hannam University president visited LETU last May, so it was my pleasure to return the favor. 

Wednesday, we visited and signed our first agreement with Dr. Augustine Jungku Lee at Sungkonghoe University, which is an Anglican Church-related school of over 3,000 undergraduates and nearly 500 graduate students.  We also met the dean of Student and International Student Affairs Dr. Daniel Seongchan Kim, whose son is studying electrical engineering at LETU.

Before we come home, we are scheduled to have a short meeting with Hanyang University President Dr. Young Moo Lee in Seoul to learn more about the school and discuss ways we can work together. HYU is ranked 4th in Korea and about 250th around the world, with nearly 23,000 undergraduate students and over 6,500 graduate students. It has no religious affiliation.  We have hosted and sent exchange students to and from HYU for over a year.  Alan Clipperton has worked a lot with this university in his former place of employment. 

Also while in Seoul, we have plans to meet with and renew our friendship with former HGU president Gil Young Kim, who is now employed with the United Nations.

This trip is important for expanding our international relationships.  Korea is LETU's gateway to Asia. It is essential for our graduates to be exposed to this region of the world.  And for students in Asia, a Christian university focused on STEM programs has much to offer.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

LETU Students Organize Event to Remember Rwandan Genocide of 1994

LeTourneau University is blessed to have citizens from 37 different nations on campus.  They come here as students of our academic disciplines and the U.S. culture.  But, these students can also be teachers. 

This Saturday, on April 11, is a great example.

Several of our Rwandan students will become our teachers as they have organized an event "Urumuri Rutazima," which means "Flame of Eternal Peace," in commemoration of the Rwandan genocide of 1994.   

The student-led event has attracted the attention of special guest Professor Mathilde Mukantabana, ambassador of the Republic of Rwanda to the United States, who will speak at the event. 

April, which was the month that the genocide began in 1994,  has now become a month when Rwandans across the globe pause to remember the atrocities and seek to heal their country through forgiveness and reconciliation. 

The event begins with prayer at 3 p.m. at Speer Chapel and will include a solemn unity walk around the university loop.  The walk mirrors one that occurs each year in April when the President of Rwanda leads his people from the parliament building to the stadium where just the simple act of being together in solidarity brings healing, peace and reconciliation.  It also represents a time to celebrate the rebirth of their nation. 

The program includes an educational short film, a student-written play and poem, along with a testimony of a genocide survivor. 

One of the organizers was quoted in the Longview News-JournalSunday: "We rose from ashes to a nation," Mutesi said. "Now, there is no more Hutu; there is no more Tutsi. We are all Rwandan, and that is beautiful." 

We are all invited.  I hope you will come to campus Saturday to learn and celebrate God's healing in Rwanda. 
Pictured with Dr. Lunsford, center, are Charity Mutesi, left, and Tamara Birasa,  right, who have organized Saturday's event to commemorate the rebirth of Rwanda following the 1994 genocide in their home country.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Honoring LeTourneau Faculty

LeTourneau University is not defined by programs nor facilities.  It is our faculty and staff and the way we interact with our students and community that define LeTourneau University. 

That's why it was a pleasure to honor several faculty this week who have recently been recognized by their peers, administration and university trustees for meritorious service to LETU.  At a lunch Tuesday, Dr. Coyle and I gathered with those who have just received tenure or been promoted. A list is found here.

Education transforms lives.  Our faith in Christ transforms lives.  That's been my personal experience.  And the transforming power of education and faith is why we are here.   Our faith and staff at LETU do a great job of modeling the intersection of faith and learning.  It's a combination of powers that God can use to redeem our world.

Professor emeritus standing was awarded to Dr. Paul Kubricht and Dr. John Feezell, in recognition of outstanding service, steadfast and professional leadership, and faithful dedication to the academic and Christian of LETU.
Tenure is the means whereby LETU rewards  contributions by faculty to the university, students and the community and is an earned privilege for excellent service, signifying a greater sense of belonging, institutional acceptance, stability and community with the university. 

Tenure was renewed for Lois Knouse (4th renewal), Matt Poelman (2nd), Dr. Andree Elliott (2nd), Dr. Judy Taylor (2nd) and Brad Wooden (2nd).

First time tenure awardees included Dr. Bruce Hathaway, Dr. Jesse French, Jeff Johnson, Dr. Mark Jonah, Dr. Seung Kim and Norm Reese. Jesse, Mark, Seung and Norm were also all promoted from assistant to associate professor. Jeff was promoted from instructor to assistant professor. Bruce is already a full professor.

Promotions from assistant to associate professor included Dr. Darla Baggett and Dr. Curtis Wesley, while Dr. Karl Payton, Dr. Kathy Stephens and Dr. Judy Taylor were each promoted from associate to full professor.

As you see them around campus, be sure to congratulate them for their accomplishments. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

LETU to Announce Health Sciences Partnership with Pine Tree ISD

LeTourneau University and Pine Tree ISD will soon announce a new dual credit health sciences partnership to begin in Fall 2015.

This new program will allow qualified PTISD students to enroll in specialized dual credit health services courses at LETU to gain dual high school and college credits, starting in their freshman year of high school. 

What this new program does is enable these talented high school students to complete several college-level hours toward a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree by the time they graduate from high school. By streamlining their education, they can complete college more efficiently--in less time and at less cost--because they can begin their freshman year in college with as many as 30 credit hours, nearly a whole year ahead.  LETU faculty and dean will maintain full control of course content, curricular outcomes and assessments.

House Bill 5 that was signed into law by Governor Rick Perry creates a high school diploma that provides students a variety of postsecondary options in school and workforce by earning endorsements in one of five areas, including Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

HB5 enables school districts to partner with higher education and industry to develop rigorous courses at the local level to address the workforce needs in the community. In the fall of 2013, Longview Regional Medical Center increased its capacity of beds to 230, nearly doubling the number from the previous year. And Good Shepherd Medical Center has added a 74,000-square foot outpatient and 24-hour emergency center. 

The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that a third of occupations expected to see rapid growth are related to health care in the coming years.  Employment for registered nurses is expected to increase by 26% before 2020.  More than 700,000 more nurses will be needed, partly due to the aging population and increase in people with multiple, chronic health conditions requiring increased care.

The growth in the number of people needing health care coupled with professional nurses reaching retirement age increases demand for nursing education programs like the one we have begun at LETU.

This new dual-credit partnership will help us meet these needs for qualified, compassionate, Christ-centered nurses who make a difference in the future for all of us.