President McKinney Presents State of Valdosta State Address
Monday, May 12th, 2014
As Valdosta State University concludes another academic year, President William J. McKinney presented the State of Valdosta State address to faculty, staff, students, and members of the community on May 2.
McKinney began the address with a letter he received from Valdosta State alumnus Evan M. McAllister, a 1988 graduate who wanted share how his college education has benefited him personally and professionally.
“While I do believe it is very important for you to report on the state of VSU and its current accomplishments,” said McAllister, who received a notice from VSU’s Alumni Office about the State of Valdosta State presentation, “I do believe there is another side to the college; this is the state of the alumni. Those who have traveled the path through college and are now walking across the globe from our time at VSU, formally Valdosta State College during my tenure, we have all received success from our education at Valdosta State.”
McAllister works for an engineering firm and is involved in his community as a volunteer firefighter and assists in writing grants.
“The degree I received from Valdosta State has followed me through my entire walk of life,” wrote McAllister. “In many cases it was the determining factor that allowed me to achieve a greater goal. So in essence the state of the alumni has turned out well. I realize that I may be only one person in the entire life of Valdosta State, but I definitely exemplify the long-standing tradition of your graduates. We have walked the successful path and are reaching out to our communities for the betterment. So you may also include that the college has a strong state of the alumni.”
McKinney stated that McAllister’s letter illustrates the important work that Valdosta State’s faculty and staff do every day and how that has a positive impact on students while on campus and as an alumni.
“We never know the consequences of our actions,” said McKinney. “You can take this letter and multiply it many folds. All of you in this room will transform the lives of our students in the most positive ways. This is just one example of what we do, why we are here, and what this is all about.”
Using the five goals outlined in Valdosta State’s 2013-2019 Strategic Plan, McKinney elaborated on the achievements of the current academic year and highlighted the goals and initiatives for the 2014-15 school year.
“The strategic plan is the result of many of you in this room, a lot of conversations and a lot of work,” said McKinney. “We finally emerged with a new strategic plan that we can all be proud of. What you are going to hear today is about the centrality of academic quality at Valdosta State, which is why we exist.”
Goal One: Recruit, Retain, and Graduate a Quality, Diverse Student Population and Prepare Students for Roles as Leaders in a Global Society
In 2012, Valdosta State developed the Complete College Georgia (CCG) plan as part of a statewide initiative to add more than 250,000 post-secondary graduates to Georgia’s workforce by 2020.
Valdosta State’s CCG plan includes strategies that strengthen existing programs and creates new programs designed to improve overall student retention, progression, and graduation.
“I am proud to say that as we move through our CCG program we have met or exceeded all of our targets the past two years,” said McKinney. “This year in particular we have all-time highs in many of these areas and certainly success in the last several years.”
Included in the CCG accomplishments was a significant increase in recruiting more academically talented students. This year’s average high school GPA of 3.15 for first-time, full-time students is the highest average since 2006. In addition, this year’s first-year, full-time class had an average SAT score of 1018 (out of a possible 1600 points).
As VSU strives to recruit the best and brightest students throughout Georgia and nationwide, the university’s retention rate continues to increase.
McKinney stated that he was especially pleased with a 2 percent increase in first to second year student retention rates.
“If you look at national numbers on increasing persistence for college students, moving the needle half a percent in the year is thought to be a good year, if you move 1 percent it is a banner year, and 2 percent is what we do at Valdosta State,” McKinney said with pride.
Building partnerships across Georgia with two-year institutions is the focus of VSU’s Pathways Program. Articulation agreements have been established between VSU and Technical College System of Georgia institutions. These agreements allow students who earn an associate degree to transfer to Valdosta State and work toward a bachelor’s degree.
The Pathways Program recently expanded to included agreements with community colleges in North Florida, as well as the Community College of the Air Force.
Providing easier access to student services is an important part of helping students through the registration process, as well as retention, progression, and completion of their college degree.
McKinney thanked Valdosta’s state delegation in securing $1.9 million to renovate the University Center and develop a single location for student services. Once it is completed, the renovated space will include the Registrar, Financial Aid, Centralized Advising, Student Success Center, Career Opportunities, and the Bursary.
“All of these services will benefit first-year students, many of whom are first-generation college students and have never had a family member set foot on a college campus. We are putting those services under one roof,” said McKinney. “One of the things I am adamant about is the only hurdles we should place in front of our students are the academic challenges placed by our faculty. When it comes to everything else we need to make it seamless; we need to make it simple.”
Before students are officially admitted to the university the process of how prospective students and their parents, as well as other external constituents, view the university is crucial to the enrollment process.
In January, VSU launched an institutional identity study to examine its core strengths and determine the best ways to communicate those strengths to key audiences.
“The institutional identity study becomes an important touchstone to how we not only understand ourselves but also how others understand or think they understand Valdosta State,” McKinney said. “As we come to terms with how we will present ourselves to those external constituents and move toward the completion of the study, we will invest more and more into marketing and advertising.”
Goal Two: Increase Financial Support for the Institution
McKinney commended the strategic planning committee on its decision to include a specific goal related to increasing external funds through private giving. He announced that the university will launch its first capital campaign this summer.
McKinney noted that this was a good year in terms of philanthropy. He recognized the recent $1 million gift from Martin and Laura Lynn Miller toward nursing and health professions programs, as well as last year's $1 million gift from Jerry and Kay Jennett to establish a scholarship program to recruit highly qualified academic students.
In addition, the Jennetts established a clarinet and trombone chair within the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra (VSO), donating $100,000 for each position. Local Valdosta residents, Dan Coleman and Carolyn Eager also made a donation of $100,000 in support of the VSO.
“These types of gifts are a vote of confidence and do not come by accident,” McKinney told the audience “This is confidence these generous individuals shows in all of us. It is not just the president, and it is not just the vice presidents; it is everyone. It is a vote of confidence in all of you.”
Goal Three: Promote Student, Employee, Alumni, Retiree, and Community Engagement in our Mission
Promoting the engagement of the university within the community is an important part of Valdosta State’s overall mission.
Last year, the Dewar College of Education and Human Services received the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) Christa McAuliffe Excellence in Teacher Education Award. Recognized for its work with the Valdosta Early College Academy (VECA), a partnership with Valdosta City Schools, this was the second time VSU received the award —making VSU the only institution to win the award twice.
“This unique partnership between Valdosta State and Valdosta City Schools stands as a testament to what a university working in collaboration with the community can do,” said McKinney. “The power of VECA is that it focuses on at-risk students that are now in their junior year of high school and doing college-level work, and are all passing with good grades.”
Another emerging community partnership involves Moody Air Force Base and the College of Nursing and Health Sciences. Students majoring in athletic training and exercise physiology will receive hands-on experience working with Moody’s warrior athletes, which represents military personnel in physically demanding careers. Valdosta State interns will have the opportunity to work with military personnel in assessing and treating various injuries, as well as well as developing individualized fitness programs.
McKinney also noted that this partnership with Moody Air Force Base is unique and will serve as a model for other military bases and universities.
Goal Four: Foster an Environment of Creativity and Scholarship
Throughout the presentation, McKinney emphasized the important work of Valdosta State’s faculty and staff and their impact on the academic mission.
“First and foremost we are an academic institution,” said McKinney. “We will always do our best to foster an environment of creativity and scholarship.”
Within the focus of creativity and scholarship, McKinney announced that since 2010 the university has invested in excess of $20 million toward academic priorities.
Last year, Valdosta State opened the IDEA (Innovative Designs for Enhancing the Academy) Center, which focuses on bringing faculty from all disciplines together to develop new and innovative ways of teaching students in a positive manner.
In the upcoming academic year, the university will launch a program to focus on faculty initiatives. Each year, three to five faculty members will be selected and given a research stipend and lectureship opportunities to discuss their work with students and faculty at Valdosta State and other institutions.
Goal Five: Develop and Enhance VSU’s Human and Physical Resources
VSU’s fifth strategic goal seeks to enhance professional development for faculty and staff, elevate service excellence, and continue to be engaged in concise, inclusive, and purposeful planning.
With the opening of the new Health Sciences and Business Administration building on north campus, there was an opportunity to convert Martin Hall into a Center for Excellence in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Education. The center will provide a place for VSU students and regional teachers in STEM areas to receive hands-on training and collaborate with their peers.
McKinney has also established a campus safety committee that will continue to evaluate safety and security issues and make recommendations for improvements. A master facilities plan committee has started the process of examining the university's future infrastructure and will make recommendations for strategic growth.
In conclusion, McKinney announced three key initiatives for the 2014-15 academic year including:
•ASSCU Stewards of Place II, which will feature American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) Vice President for Leadership and Change George Mehaffy as the keynote speaker during the annual Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce Economic Summit.
•VSU will host the Remnant Trust Exhibit beginning January 2015, a collection of rare books and materials available to college, universities, and organizations to expose students, faculty, and scholars to a unique collection of printed materials.
•Celebrating the “Year of the Arts” will start in June as VSU’s Peach State Summer Theatre celebrates 25 years of professional summer stock theatre. It will continue in the fall with the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra’s silver anniversary concert series