Thursday, September 25, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Margaret Estes Davis

LeTourneau University said goodbye to a dear friend Tuesday. We were honored to host the funeral on campus.

Margaret Estes Davis, 96, died in a Dallas hospital last week after a lifetime of leadership, service to others and passion for education.

Margaret was an eye-witness to the founding of LeTourneau University.  In 1945, her husband Carl Estes brought R.G. and Evelyn LeTourneau to Longview in hopes they would build a manufacturing facility creating good jobs in post war Longview.  When God revealed a vision for the transformation of Harmon Army Hospital into a technical school to train returning veterans, Margaret was there, and with her death an era in our university's history has closed.

In 1967, she became the first female trustee of the school who was not a member of the LeTourneau family.  She served on our Board through the 1970s.

When LeTourneau College needed to build a library in 1971, Margaret used her  considerable influence as publisher of the Longview News-Journal to encourage the community to support it, and today, the Margaret Estes Library and Learning Resource Center bears her name.

When the school needed a new science and engineering building, she was again in a leadership role, having donated her 500-acre ranch just south on Estes Parkway to the university to help with its funding.  Today, the Glaske Center is home to our largest-ever enrollment in engineering, science and technology. 

College trustee, newspaper publisher, and rancher:  Margaret was a woman who got things done.  When the university opened a new residence hall in 2005, it was dedicated in  her honor as the Margaret Davis Residence Hall.  She was heralded as a "pioneer among women in leadership."  That she clearly was.

When the university needed a new chapel and performance center, she led again, by providing one of the initial gifts toward the S. E. Belcher Jr. Chapel and Performance Center, which serves students and the community.  I know she was most proud of the Belcher Center because it brought together her passions for LeTourneau students, the Longview community and the arts

Margaret's love for Longview and for LeTourneau University is enduring. We didn't say goodbye Tuesday.  Instead werecommitted ourselves to telling future generations the story of this pioneer among women in leadership. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Enrollment & Retention Numbers Rise for 2014-2015 Academic Year

Fall 2014 enrollment numbers became official last week, and we have much to celebrate!

On-campus Longview enrollment is up 2.4% from Fall 2013 census date.  Dr.  Cruse and his crew in enrollment services, as well as many faculty and staff across campus, put together a great plan and executed it well.

Within that overall result, several points jump out for us to celebrate.

The number of new freshmen students is up 7% from last year, and more of them are coming from within Texas, and more specifically from East Texas, as we work to spread the word that LETU is a school they should consider. 

More students are living in our residence halls and apartments this year: a 3.6% increase over last year.

Retention was remarkable this fall!  83% of Fall 2013 freshmen students returned for Fall 2014, our best number ever!  Dr. Coyle tells me this puts our retention performance among the top 10% of all universities in the nation! 

Our dual credit enrollment is also a record, up 71% from last year, with 178 high school students seeking dual enrollment credits.  This trend is due to great partnerships with local area high schools, including Hallsville and Longview.  Some of these local students will become future fulltime LETU freshmen.

An increase in our international student enrollment marked a record this fall with 118 international students from over 40 countries including India, Nigeria, Japan, China, Spain, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Netherlands, South Korea, and numerous other points all over the world.   

New student enrollment in our global campus programs was at its highest level in 6 years, with 463 new starts reported in the 2014 census. 


Friday, August 29, 2014

Is Your Attitude Contagious?

I read recently about "mirror neurons" while preparing for a talk I had been asked to give on leadership. Do you know of this from neurology research? It explains why we yawn when we see someone else yawn (See that research here.)

It may also explain that our emotions and attitudes are contagious too. That's something to think about as we encounter each other and our students many times a day.

One well known hotel chain understands this. They developed what they call a "10/5 policy." When a hotel staff member passes within 10 feet of a guest, they are to make eye contact and smile. When a hotel staff member passes within 5 feet of a guest, they are to smile and say hello.

t may sound trivial, but when a large hospital system implemented the same policy, they experienced an increase in employee and patient satisfaction; even an increase in health outcomes.

I heard it again recently: visitors always find LETU a friendly place. I pray our good natures will continue to be contagious to all we meet.

On another note, many of you know that my administrative assistant Vanessa Hutchinson resigned recently to move to Houston. She was a great asset to me for six years and is missed each day. Today I'm happy to report that Denise Bailey has a greed to become the new Administrative Assistant to the President.

Denise has been at LETU nearly 10 years and currently serves as assistant to Dean Matthew Henry. She'll start in the Office of the President on Monday, Sept. 8, and will be a great asset to the university. I know Denise's good attitude is contagious to all around her.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Returning to Campus at LETU

College campuses have always been special places to me. As I returned to our campus Monday,  that familiar sense of appreciation for the campus flooded over me.   I'm happy to be back.

I am grateful to Dr. Coyle for his leadership in my absence. He and Mike Hood are valuable assets to LETU and friends to me, personally. I'm excited to be back working alongside them daily.

Although just back, I'm already traveling again. Today I'm in Indianapolis at the offices of the NCAA. I have been appointed to the President's Advisory Council for NCAA's Division III. My first meeting with this group is today.

LETU is proud to be a member of the NCAA. Our own Athletic Director Terri Deike has already been serving on an important NCAA national committee. Just this summer, LETU's baseball team earned our first NCAA post-season appearance in a team sport. Our student athletes in golf and cross country in the past have also competed in NCAA championships.

NCAA is so much more than the "big football schools" seen most often in the news. Most NCAA campuses are like LETU -- places where amateur sport is still the goal and 'student' is still the most important part of being a 'student athlete.'  I've come to understand our courts and sports fields are our biggest classrooms on campus.  When done correctly, intercollegiate athletics yields valuable learning outcomes for our students. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Meeting with Leadership Longview

Does the name John Wooden mean anything to you?  He was the only man elected to the College Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and coach.  He did something that will likely never be repeated:  as coach of UCLA, he won seven consecutive national championships in men's basketball. 

Can you imagine completing your "March Madness brackets" predicting one school to win the championship seven years in a row!  John Wooden's teams did it.

When Leadership Longview met on our campus today and asked me to speak, I was eager to share the leadership wisdom of Coach Wooden who died in 2010 at the age of 99.  He is a hero of mine:  A humble Christian who only wanted to be remembered as a teacher.

In his Pyramid of Success, Wooden described the two cornerstones of success as industriousness and enthusiasm.  Enthusiasm is a joy in your work that ignites the willingness to work hard in a reaction of energy that makes the pursuit of success possible.  Think about it:  these were the traits of our university founder.  We all know those around us who love coming to work each day and never fear working hard.  I have seen that on display in the opening of the new Allen Family Student Center.  I'm so thankful for how our staff came together to open the facility early so our students could enjoy it before they leave for summer.  It was amazing!

I left the group today with one of my favorite quotes attributed to Coach Wooden: "Early on I came to believe that you should learn as if you were going to live forever, and live as if you were going to die tomorrow."  He always said to keep learning especially after you had decided you already knew it all.  That's wisdom that goes beyond the basketball court to all of us in the daily pursuit of success.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Opening the New Student Center

The new Anna Lee and Sidney Allen Family Student Center ribbon cutting Monday was a historic day for LeTourneau University and a day of reflection for me.  

We were blessed with good weather and smart planning so that construction on the building was completed three months ahead of schedule, which gave us the opportunity to open it up in time for our current seniors to enjoy the building before they graduate in May.

The focus this week has been creating opportunity for all to "see" the new building. And it was fun to watch the students get their first look.

The buzz of energy was evident as the students explored the building for the first time, with the aid of student tour guides and creative "passports" they had stamped in 10 locations around the building as a way to familiarize themselves with all the amenities in the building. Those passports turned into entry forms for lucky prize drawing winners.   
   
But just as important is what the students do not see as they enjoy the center. They won't see the university's leaders who more than 20 years ago planned and prayed for a campus community facility like this. They won't see the student leaders who have already graduated who were involved from the beginning in designing what a unique LETU Student Center should be. This week we miss seeing the hundreds of alumni and friends who made financial sacrifices so that this building could be built. Invisible this week are the men and women who toiled to pour four million pounds of concrete foundation and on top of that build 60,000 square feet of structure. And, of course, we can't see what God will do with this building.  

As Christ followers, we understand that what we can see is often beautiful, but what is unseen is even more inspiring.
 
My higher education career is approaching 30 years and I've had the pleasure to be part of several new building dedications. It's a special experience here at LETU because I'm surrounded by those who see God at work in every brick, glass wall and fiber cable.  

What is seen is beautiful. What is unseen is our eternal joy.

I walked through the building late last night, and the Allen Family Student Center has already become a new "home away from home" for our students to gather, spend time together and build lasting relationships as they grow and learn here at LeTourneau University. If you haven't yet had the opportunity to see the new building, you should plan to come over and tour it for yourself. You will see how it is already making a huge impact on the quality of life of our students.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Beginning the Accreditation Reaffirmation Process

Our 10-year reaffirmation of accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) is coming up in the next few years, and work is getting started now. 

As a peer-reviewed process that confirms quality of the education our students receive, the accreditation process is vital to the future of LeTourneau University. 

It is a labor and time-intensive project, but one that affords us the opportunity to review and refine what we do and improve how we do it, as well as giving us opportunity to share the successes of the things God has done and is doing at LETU.
 
The reaffirmation process is focused on demonstrating that we as a university comply with the Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement updated in 2012 and found on the SACS website.  The principles provide guidance to universities regarding standards colleges must meet concerning education, governance, faculty, support services, and library, physical and financial resources.

I have commissioned a Reaffirmation Team to conduct an internal audit on our ability to document compliance to these principles. Dr. Stephanie Kirschmann, John Lommel, and Dr. Pam Johnson will be leading our reaffirmation efforts. They began work in February.  Lommel has begun meeting with all of the departments concerning areas that specifically need to be mindful of compliance. Our onsite visit from SACS will occur in Spring 2016, with our 10-year reaffirmation of accreditation decision expected in December 2016.  A detailed timeline can be found on our website.

Assuring that we are accomplishing our mission is key to the reaffirmation process.  As a result, we will be reviewing our mission statement as a part of this work. It's the beginning of the process of updating our strategic plan as our current plan was meant to guide us to 2015. 

Much of this process focuses on institutional improvement, which will require that we develop a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) that focuses specifically on how we can improve the education and learning experience of our students.  As a Christ-centered university, we want to do and be the best that we can be, to the glory of God.

Over the next several months, we will be gathering broad-based input from our constituencies-including students, faculty staff and alumni-with our LETU Teaching Faculty Organization leading the development of potential QEP plans.  Several topics will be considered and one will be selected by the President's Cabinet  in February 2015.  The full plan will then be developed and we will submit it to the onsite team as early as October 2015.  It will be a key portion of our onsite SACS review in Spring of 2016.  The implementation timeline will be driven by the topic selected, but is likely to begin in Fall of 2016.

The QEP and SACSCOC reaffirmation of accreditation cause us to reflect, review policies, identify weaknesses and determine action steps for the future to sharpen us as a university.