Monthly Archives: January 2014

January 31, 2014: The Best Value in Higher Education

Last week we broke the good news that Sul Ross State University had been recognized by U.S. News and World Report as the fourth most affordable university in the U.S.A, and by default, #1 in the State of Texas. I also suggested that Sul Ross would be highly ranked on a similar virtue if we were to talk about value since we have the best residential housing in Texas, wonderful instructors and staff, very small classes where faculty get to know every student by name, and arguably the best year ‘round weather in the country. Of course I forgot to mention campus safety. Enjoying an intimate, small campus environment in a small town naturally lends itself to a campus where students can experience a level of safety that they probably won’t find anywhere else in the world. These are all good things by and in themselves, but in conclusion I also argued that students attending Sul Ross and our Lobo Alumni necessarily must be some of the wisest people on earth for having made such a good decision to attend college here.

But I got to thinking a bit later about something else. Fourth in the U.S. and first in Texas are pretty good accomplishments but we are even better than our published numbers in two important respects which may make us #1 in BOTH categories. First, we have made considerable progress in the past year developing a dual college credit program with high schools in the region that will significantly impact the price of college for secondary students who take advantage of this opportunity. Think about it. Cutting out one or two years of college before they ever set foot on campus means that these students can reduce by one-fourth or up to one-half of their tuition, fees, and housing costs. So maybe we beat the University of Wyoming after all?

A second way that our numbers really do not accurately reflect and may well overstate student college costs is in terms of our students who elect to pursue the Rio Grande College experience. At RGC, students ordinarily transfer from Southwest Texas Junior College (SWTJC) where they pay $1308 per semester for 15 community college credit hours. This is a significantly lower amount per year than our undergraduate students pay for upper division coursework their junior and senior years at Sul Ross. And that’s not even bringing into play the $10,000 degree options in Biology and Mathematics that are available at RGC!

One more thing while we are on the subject of college affordability. Our preferred business partner at RGC is presided over by Dr. Hector Gonzales, none other than a Sul Ross graduate himself! President Gonzales has worked at SWTJC since 1999 and became President last August. Before that he was chief academic and financial officer of the College. During that time he was recognized by the White House as a Champion of Change for Community Colleges, and immediately following that, the Aspen Institute recognized SWTJC as a Top 10 Community College. We are in excellent company when we partner with Dr. Gonzales and Southwest Texas Junior College. Combined together, we may well offer the #1 most affordable college degree pathway in the United States when looked at from this perspective. Wise as our graduates are, they are even wiser than I originally thought!

January 22, 2014: The Best Choice in Higher Education

We’re in trouble now…our secret is out! U.S. News and World Report has identified Sul Ross State University as the fourth most affordable institution of higher education in the United States. And then it gets worse, they’ve asked us for pictures of the University to let everyone know what our campus looks like!

Up until now, I would wager that SRSU is one of the best kept secrets in Texas, if not the entire country. I would also bet that the vast majority of Texans have never visited the Big Bend Region or know the location of Sul Ross and its four campuses in Alpine, Eagle Pass, Del Rio, and Uvalde.

While anyone reading this blog probably knows a great deal about Sul Ross, most of the world has yet to experience the place where Texas is at its friendliest, most beautiful, and warmest in the winter and coolest in the summer. That of course would be Alpine, Texas, the Gateway to the Big Bend.

Now it is one thing to be the fourth most affordable university in the U.S.A. and #1 in Texas in the same category but I think an argument can be made that we also might be in the top 10 nationally in educational value as well. After all, we have the best residence halls in Texas, one of the prettiest campuses anywhere in the world, excellent teachers and staff, and one of the lowest student to faculty ratios in the state (that means small class sizes where faculty will know every student by name).

So while we could go on and on about what sets Sul Ross apart from other colleges and universities, I suspect that Lobo alums already know everything that could be added to this blog. Suffice it to say that Sul Ross is a great place to learn, at a great price, in a great place. So that means we have to let another cat out of the bag: Students who choose (and alumni who have chosen) SRSU are some of the wisest people in the world to have selected Sul Ross!

January 15, 2014: Campus Spring Preview

This week begins our Spring 2014 semester so I thought I would share a little of what all is going on this term.

In my faculty and staff campus-wide address earlier this week I mentioned that the process for selecting the 12th President of Sul Ross State University is underway. Dr. Perry Moore, Vice-Chancellor of the Texas State University System met last week with our Sul Ross colleagues in Eagle Pass, Del Rio, and Uvalde to hear about their preferences regarding the next president. This week he has been meeting on this campus and in the Alpine community to garner input from a wide array of folks concerning the presidential characteristics they deem most important. Once he returns to Austin I suspect that he then will put together a position description that encompasses what he has learned. Following that, he next will determine the composition of the presidential search committee and identify a professional “headhunting” firm to administer the search. As I mentioned before, this process will be very deliberate and transparent and will play out over several months, likely resulting in the selection of a finalist by June or so. During that time it will be my distinct honor to serve as interim President. I am also very pleased that Dr. Jimmy Case has agreed to serve as interim Provost and Dr. Jay Downing has accepted the position as interim Dean of Arts and Sciences.

At my campus address I also asked two new, permanent hires starting in January to stand and be recognized. DeWayne Roberts has been hired as our new volleyball coach and John Pearce has been selected as our new Lobo head football coach. I also asked that our temporary coach in an important spring varsity sport be recognized as well. Antuan Washington, our Director of Recreational Sports will be coaching track. Previous news releases have provided quite a bit of detail about these hires so I won’t take up space here writing about the same information. But I will say I have tremendous confidence in all three of these men and am very excited to see what Lobo athletics will do under their leadership and that of Coach Mesker, Lobo interim Athletic Director.

At the faculty and staff meeting I also announced that noted artist Paul Tadlock visited campus earlier this month to review locations for our new bronze statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross. While it was an unusually bitterly cold morning, Paul, his wife and I took off in a “heated” golf cart (meaning it had a windshield) to tour campus and review our options. An ideal location was found and after thawing out a bit, detailed plans were made with Jim Clouse to erect the statue. Ironically, Paul and I, and Yvonne Realivasquez, the Executive Assistant to the President, noticed a very strong resemblance between Jim and Lawrence Sullivan Ross but as best we could tell, no common family heritage could be established. Jim, along with Don Sugarek, President of the SRSU Alumni Association, led an advisory committee to review photos of Sullivan Ross and ultimately develop an inscription that will accompany the statue. The inscription that they came up with is nothing short of inspirational!

While it may pose a challenge for the foundry, we are cautiously optimistic that the statue will be finished by early May, with a tentative unveiling date targeted for the week of our Spring ‘14 commencement. Funded by alumnus Charlie Nichols, the statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross will be a life-size replica of our namesake and accessible to all who would like to be photographed with him whenever they visit campus. While we still hope to find a donor to cover the cost of the granite base for the statue which is a significantly lesser amount than the $95,000 check that Charlie wrote for the bronze, I am confident that someone will step forward.

Some challenges ahead still include making sure that we recruit the right students, but more importantly, that we retain them as well. I’m not sure what the exact costs are at Sul Ross but I’ve seen figures from elsewhere where it is estimated that every student lost from a university costs the institution $8000 on average. We got a good, campus-wide response to the invitation to help mentor students when we asked for volunteers last Fall so I am optimistic that together we can develop a strong mentoring program to reach those students who are struggling to adjust to college as new freshman.

Campus will be closed on Monday to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King but some other important dates for anyone who runs or enjoys Western art are coming up in February. A “Love Your Community 5K Fun Run” is scheduled for Feb. 15 that at least partly benefits scholarships for Sul Ross students; our Annual Trappings event kicks off the following week at the Museum of the Big Bend. So make plans accordingly!

January 7, 2014: Discerning a Future for SRSU

The New Year promises to be one for many significant developments at Sul Ross. In addition to a new head football coach, we soon will begin the formation of a search committee to determine the next university president. Other important items on the horizon include an important interim review of the university that occurs every five years or so by our national accreditation body, the unveiling of a statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross on the Alpine campus later this Spring, and the release of the 10-year strategic plan. So there will be much to blog about throughout the year!

As I listened to my wife’s sermon this past Sunday at the Presbyterian Church in Marfa, I thought how appropriate it was not only to talk about discernment this time of year as it applies to church but also how this fits with the University at this point in our history. Dr. Perry Moore will be here next week to begin the process of gathering information from the academic and local communities about their vision of where the University should be and who might take us there. That essentially is discernment regarding what we are about and what we might strive to be in the future. Similarly, the new strategic plan that was begun last Spring will be released soon and it also lays out the mission and vision of the University. That also is a document of discernment.

As we move forward in 2014, I encourage all of the Lobo family to engage in the discernment process that soon will begin. The first campus community forum concerning the selection of the next president will convene next Monday morning, but beyond that, there will be opportunities to provide input to the committee, to meet candidates later in the year, and to think about how you might become involved in supporting the new administration. Another opportunity to engage in discernment is to read the strategic planning document that will be released in the next few weeks and determine where you might fit into that plan.

Coming to campus to visit during the unveiling of the statue of Sul Ross, attending athletic and educational events are other ways in which we welcome your participation in the life of SRSU. Signing up for on-line classes at our Uvalde, Del Rio, Eagle Pass, or Alpine campuses whenever you see something that might interest you is still another way to get more involved with the University. And while there are many other ways to participate in the life of the University your financial support to build scholarships for future Lobos is always appreciated as well!

In closing, let me thank you in advance for your discernment in shaping the direction of Sul Ross State University in 2014 and beyond. There will be much to do in 2014 and we invite your input and good will to make all Lobos proud of where we are heading!