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.