University of Southern Indiana

State of the University Address

Spring 2017 Faculty and Administrative Staff Meeting
January 4, 2017

Welcome back from the winter break!

This presentation will become a new tradition for our spring meetings. It is a mid-academic year assessment of developments at USI, but also a look ahead and a chance to outline plans for future directions. We are calling it the “State of the University” address to inform, invite further discussion and participation, and to spark collaborative effort as we move ahead.

Fall semester was marked by the visit of the team from the Higher Learning Commission. The site visit team expressed appreciation for all who took time to meet with them. The final vote has yet to occur, but I have confidence in the process and in our institutional quality. We remain a strong institution which is mission focused and a force for development in this state. We continue to fulfill the mission outlined by the Board of Incorporators at our founding in 1965. That Board described then ISUE’s purpose as one “to influence the ever changing needs of both the southern region and the entire state in meaningful ways.” It is the good work of everyone in this room and our support staff which defines the excellence of USI.

Our strengths as a university are gaining national and even international recognition as you saw (and joyfully heard) by the wonderful performance of our Chamber Choir at our Fall meeting, fresh from their top prize success at the Mayo International Choral Festival in Ireland. Also, as a result of nomination by colleagues at the University of Virginia, the College of Nursing and Health Professions garnered the NEXUS award for excellence in Interprofessional Practice and Education. These are examples of the quality of learning and dedication to mission that exists across this campus, in every college, in every division, in every office.

I learned last week that USI’s Athletic Program finished the fall semester #10 among all NCAA Division II institutions in a key national ranking, the Learfield Director’s Cup standings. USI was the only GLVC institution to finish the fall semester in the DII top 10. Our standing was the result of highly successful men’s and women’s cross-country teams, and an outstanding men’s soccer team effort. If you see Coaches Mike Hillyard and Matt Santoro around campus, give them a pat on the back. Both of those coaches educate for excellence on the field and both are strong mentors to the student athletes in their charge.

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education visited campus last semester. Their last visit was in 2014 and those on the Commission in 2014 were amazed by the continued development of USI. Deans were given an opportunity to update Commission members on work in their colleges and at least one Commission member is asking for more information because he was impressed with initiatives underway. The Commission finalized its budget recommendations at the meeting on USI’s campus and I will now summarize where we stand in the budget process.

You are all familiar with the two major components of our budget: Operating funds which pay salaries, turn on the lights and heat, and make it possible for us to run this community of almost 12,000 people. Capital funds support new building projects and are key to the physical infrastructure of this campus.

With regard to operating funds, Indiana public universities have been subject to a series of performance funding formulas for the past four biennia. USI has performed well on the various formulas in each biennium, though the formulas have never been fully funded. Not only are they not fully funded, each institution has a percentage deducted from their current operating allocation which is then placed in a statewide pool. Each institution must perform well enough to earn back monies already allocated in the last biennium, and perform very well to earn additional new monies.

For this biennium, USI would receive $2,875,000 in new operating funds if the formulas were fully funded and without a deduction from our current operating allocation. That is the amount I have and will request at every presentation. After adjusting values on units in each formula and factoring in a percentage deduction from our current operating allocation, The Indiana Commission for Higher Education has recommended we receive $918,852 in new monies. The end result would be roughly a 2% increase in our operating appropriation for the two-year period.

There are a few line items in our budget. These are monies designated for very specific purposes. Among our line items:

  • Dual credit courses are funded at $50/credit hour resulting in an allocation of $302,550;

  • Historic New Harmony has been our charge from the state of Indiana since 1985 and we are asking for increases to help cover the costs of our historical stewardship there. The current line is just under $500,000;

  • We have a new line item request for campus safety and security of $750,000 to allow us to move ahead with locating a substation of the Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office on our campus. The monies would also help us to continue supporting our public safety staff. As the only Indiana public institution without a sworn force, I believe this is a needed change. The Indiana Commission for Higher Education agreed and has recommended this request to the state legislature.

  • Finally, we are requesting $2 million in funds to support continued development across our STEM disciplines, and to recognize our STEM education efforts across the southern region of this state.

The most significant new capital funds request we have is $41 million to permit a second phase of renovation for the Physical Activities Center. The Commission has recommended this request to the state legislature. We are also requesting full funding of the state formula for repair and renovation, which for USI would be $3.7 million for the 2017-2019 biennium.

Having presented our requests to the Commission and to the State Budget Committee before the holidays, I go to Indianapolis in a couple weeks to present to the House Ways and Means Committee. Some weeks later it is possible that the Senate Appropriations Committee will request a presentation as well.

The mood of the legislature is cautious after receiving news last month that, once again, state revenue has not met projections. All of this is still early in the process and we will monitor all issues. In fact, that is why Vice President Cindy Brinker could not be here today. She’s in Indianapolis…her home away from home.

I want to turn now to progress on our strategic plan. You will recall that the three goals are:

       Excellence in Learning for the Entire Community

       Access for Opportunity by Design

       Purposeful and Sustainable Growth

It took time to process the feedback from all of you across our departments and units on how you will measure your activity relative to one of those goals. I am also still working to finalize university-wide metrics, but those should be completed soon. You can tap into campus wide feedback by checking the web link for our strategic plan at 

But there has been a companion conversation to the new plan going on for more than a year. Led by alumnus and Vanderbilt University faculty member, Dr. Joey Barnett, a group of faculty and staff have been talking about how to develop opportunities for their learning and growth. They focused on the potential of a “signature initiative” to provide synergy for research and professional development on campus.

Let me take a moment to explain the importance of a deliberate embrace of a synergistic approach. Synergy. Its definition includes “the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.”

The group led by Dr. Barnett also gravitated toward activities that continue USI’s role as a catalyst for change in this region. Remember that phrase I mentioned earlier from the Board of Incorporators at our founding? This university was founded to have an impact on our surrounding community and the state. We remain true to that mission.

But the question is whether to kick off an entirely new initiative, or to take something we are already doing and bring synergy behind it for greater impact. After considerable rumination, the latter approach was selected. This initiative is one that combines an existing community partnership with innovative USI programming. In collaboration with Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation, USI runs three nurse-led, school-based community health programs at Glenwood, Lodge, and Cedar Hall. In a recent meeting called by Mayor Winnecke to discuss those areas in Evansville included in a national “Promise Zone” designation, Lodge School was selected for the meeting site. The meeting included the regional director from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development based in Chicago, and a tour of the USI-run clinic.  If you follow the news, you will recall the Promise Zone initiative was developed to reenergize urban communities of greatest need. Indiana’s inclusion in this initiative was supported by then Governor Pence. The “Promise Zone” designation does not automatically bring funds, but it does give priority status from federal grant agencies to proposals related to those zones. All three schools, Glenwood, Lodge, and Cedar Hall, are in “Promise Zone” communities.

Dr. Barnett is working with a team of USI faculty and staff to outline what this initiative will look like, and he will hold information sessions yet this semester to field questions and hear your ideas as well.

As part of our effort to help faculty discover synergistic research connections with campus colleagues, Dr. Amy Chan Hilton will be leading an effort to create a database of faculty engagement work, with a focus on the signature initiative, but with possibilities to make multiple interest connections.

Our focus on this signature initiative will include investment by the University to support its implementation, once we have a clear outline of the phases of work planned. This work will be in close collaboration with EVSC and other interested community partners.

I am looking forward to seeing our new strategic plan and its companion signature initiative come to life!

In harmony with our focus on greater synergy on campus to enhance excellence in learning for us all, I will wrap up this address by explaining some important changes I will be making in the executive team.

First, our recent highly successful capital campaign, Elevating Excellence, made clear the importance of private monies to spark innovation and support students and faculty. Key to the success of the campaign was the quiet, persistent, engaging leadership of David Bower. Beginning February 1, 2017, David Bower will become Vice President for Development and with this new role he will be integrated into resource planning discussions of the executive team. He will retain his title as President of the USI Foundation. In his new role as Vice President he will be working to broaden private fund development knowledge and skills across our four colleges, athletics, and with alumni.

The second change in the executive team is actually two changes: elevation of Mr. Richard Toeniskoetter to Chief Information Officer and Dr. Katherine Draughon to Chief Data Officer. We are in the digital information age and data are strategic assets. Mr. Toeniskoetter has already brought strategic planning to university information systems and combined with the work Dr. Draughon is taking on to standardize data definitions and reporting, their collaboration will put USI in the forefront of universities in the management of information systems and data quality. Mr. Toeniskoetter will continue to report to Vice President of Finance and Administration, Mr. Steve Bridges. Dr. Draughon will continue to be a direct report to me and will continue to lead The Office of Planning, Research, and Assessment, as well as the Office of Sponsored Projects and Research Administration.

After this meeting I am holding a session with interested folks on the history of USI. I’ll have some political information (of course), and some personal information, but it’s also a chance to talk about this university, its founding and how far we have come. In every meeting with retirees I tell them it was their work that established the spirit of this place. It’s your good work that continues that spirit. I see it every day across this campus. Happy New Year to each of you. May the coming year bring us purpose in our dedication to students, joy in our connections to each other, and resolution that learning helps us to understand and respond to challenges, near and far.


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