Thursday, February 22, 2018

Campus Improvements: Lighting the Way for Future Savings

LeTourneau University recently updated our campus lighting all across campus to install environmentally friendly LED lighting. Congratulations to LETU Vice President for Finance and Administration Mike Hood and Assistant Vice President for Facilities Services Ben Haywood for their initiative, project management and success on a job well done!

LETU's lighting upgrades included installing new LED head fixtures on all existing street, sidewalk and parking lot poles, along with the bell tower flood lights, the Solheim gymnasium lights, Belcher gymnasium lights, natatorium lights and tennis and volleyball court lights.

Besides durability, rapid cycling, instant on, and increased brightness, these new LEDs across campus use about 50% less energy.

The financial benefit to the university amounts to electrical savings of over $55,000 per year from this year forward. Those energy cost savings pay for the initial upgrade charges within seven years, with the LED lights projected to last maintenance free for 14+ years.

The timing of the conversion to LEDs was right, since SWEPCO offered a $23,400 rebate to us for installing more efficient lighting at a time when their rates jumped between 7.5% and 13 % this January.

The switch to LEDs also lowers our labor and maintenance costs and lift rental costs that were required for changing light bulbs on campus.

Our new LED lights enable us to reduce our usage, allowing our electrical supplier to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, along with lowering carbon dioxide emissions.

The trend across the country is for universities to reduce the need for fossil fuels. Harvard University recently announced it plans to be fossil fuel neutral by 2026 and fossil fuel free by 2050. Other universities that also have converted to LEDs include Belmont College in Ohio, Howard University in Washington and Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. University of Maryland is currently developing an energy efficiency project that includes LED lighting upgrades.

Areas of campus that previously were not as well-lit are now much improved, such as at the tennis courts that now have almost double the lighting level for our teams and those who play tennis in the evenings.

But of all of the improvements we have seen from these LED lights, I believe the greatest improvement was to our sidewalks and walkways all across campus. A well-lit campus is more appealing and safer for our students, faculty, staff and guests.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Foundation Funded Microscope Furthers Research

The collaborative effort of several of our LeTourneau University faculty has resulted in LETU receiving a significant $250,000 grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation for the purchase of a new Scanning Electron Microscope.

The new SEM will benefit students across several disciplines, including materials joining, civil engineering, biology and chemistry.

This new SEM will allow LETU faculty and students the ability to see objects that are thousands of times smaller than what we can see with the naked eye. The addition of this new equipment enables us to modernize our existing courses in materials sciences as well as in biology and chemistry. It will provide our students practical experience using this equipment on research and projects that they can add to their resumes.

The SEM provides three-dimensional imaging that has a wide range of practical research, industrial and commercial applications. They can be used in welding metallurgy to find deformities in welds that would be otherwise undetectable. They also can be used in biology and chemistry to enable students to see individual viruses. In industry, the they are used for inspecting things like semiconductors for quality control on the production line in manufacturing microchips for computers.

LETU's collaborative grant proposal has resulted in a successful award that will have a significant impact on ongoing research projects.

Thank you to Darryl Low in engineering for his efforts as lead in writing the grant proposal, along with other LETU faculty including Yoni Adonyi (emeritus), Richard Baumer, Paul Boggs, Gary DeBoer, Dave Dittenber, Wes Downing, Vivian Fernand and Greg Frederick for the work they all did to help secure the funding.

Their contributions to show how the grant would have a broad impact on students is a key component that resulted in LETU being awarded the grant.

Plans are for the new equipment to be purchased and installed in the Kielhorn Lab on campus this semester and ready to be tested by summer and used for a variety of projects this fall. Access to the SEM and appropriate training will be open to all interested LETU faculty, supporting research and education across departments.

We are grateful for the Keck Foundation for their generous support and for how it will impact students for years to come. 


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Christian Higher Education: Where God is King

Last week, I attended the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities 2018 International Forum near Dallas, the largest gathering of Christian higher education professionals.

A LeTourneau University delegation joined campus leaders from 180-plus CCCU member schools from around the nation and the world. Campus presidents, academic and student affairs leaders, technology and financial leaders, alumni relations and public relations professionals, among others were there.

This diverse group all shares a mission to give students the opportunity for a Christ-centered higher education.

The purpose of the Forum was to engage in discussions, share perspectives and experience, build relationships, identify challenges, collaborate on solutions and be equipped to prepare for the future of Christian higher education. A host of dynamic and diverse speakers provided challenging insights for us to consider.

Sessions covered issues of faith integration and formation and how we can best prepare our students to pursue biblical truth in their lives. Breakout sessions gave opportunities for sharing best practices and creative innovations to meet a wide variety of challenges our institutions face. Discussions examined demographic, technological, legal and cultural forces impacting the work of our institutions and how we can best respond.

It was also a time of spiritual enrichment.

We began each day with thought-provoking devotionals from Andy Crouch. Jim Denison reminded us that the underlying narrative of the gospel is that God is a king, not merely a Sunday morning hobby.

Today's culture has separated our worship on Sunday from our work on Monday mornings, and turned the Bible into merely a collection of religious stories. Denison encouraged us each to love God with all our hearts, souls, mind and strength. God must be our King, not our hobby.

Our commitment as leaders in Christian higher education is to create a higher education where Christ and the spiritual formation of our students is central.

Students who love God with all of their hearts, souls, minds and strength -- as their king -- is our measure of success. As we do, His kingdom will come, His will can be done on earth as it is in heaven. This is our place of ministry.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Next Steps: The Leading Christian Business School

LETU School of Business Dean Dr. Van Graham has assembled a school advisory council, and it was my pleasure to meet with the group this week. Input from alumni, employers and civic leaders is essential in crafting a vision for the future growth of our business school.

We are unique as the only university founded by a Christian business professional. Mr. R.G. LeTourneau's life is the ultimate story of faith and business. We offer students an eternal perspective on work. We offer employers a business school graduate of both competence and character.

Business programs are important to LETU. 373 students are studying business with us. That is about 17% of our total degree-seeking student body. Business students represent significant numbers in our residential and global programs and both our undergraduate and graduate programs.

As in past years, business administration remains the most popular field of study for college students. Nationally, 364,000 students earned undergraduate degrees in business in 2015. As a point of comparison, 98,000 engineering bachelor degrees were awarded. The same is true for graduate students. The MBA is the most popular graduate program, representing one of every four graduate degrees awarded.

Serving on the advisory committee are Citizens National Bank Vice President Greg Colquitt, Henry & Peters President Jana K. Broussard, Texas Bank and Trust Senior Vice President Craig Chaikin, and Martin Resource Management Executive Vice President and General Counsel Chris Booth.

I'm grateful for their input and encouragement to advance the business school.

Our calling is to build the leading business school in Christian higher education. Going from good to great is our next step.