Letter to the Campus Community from President, Provost

Dear Columbus State University Colleagues,


We are just in the first six months of the work on the implementation of our strategic plan in which we articulated our vision: “Columbus State University provides world-class education and assures student success through creative inquiry and community, regional, and global partnerships.” Our mission is to “achieve academic excellence through teaching, research, creative inquiry and student engagement.” To support our vision and mission, it is necessary to articulate the roles and expectations of faculty and staff in an engaged university aspiring to academic excellence.

This year, the Columbus State University Foundation invested in a relationship with a Washington, D.C.-based firm, McAllister & Quinn that supports our efforts in seeking external support through grants, contracts and earmarks. We are proud to announce that this week, President Obama approved with his signature funding of $1.6 million to fund the TSYS School of Computer Science in conjunction with the University System of Florida’s Institute for Human and Machine Cognition to support Cognitive Map-Based Modeling and Simulation. Additionally, Columbus State University will receive $150,000 to support laboratory equipment in the STEM areas. We want to personally thank colleagues Dr. Wayne Summers and Dr. Floyd Jackson for their tireless efforts in Columbus and on Capitol Hill leading to these grants. We also owe a great deal of thanks to Representative Sanford Bishop and his staff, who remain exceptional advocates for our university.

In his recent communication to provosts of AASCU (American Association of State Colleges and Universities) institutions, George Mehaffy underlined a number of issues, including continual budgetary tightness, rising enrollments in the for-profit educational institutions, and the increasing emphasis of community colleges on offering four-year degrees, that will affect AASCU institutions. These clearly are important issues that have direct impact on our university.

With a trend of community colleges being more involved in offering four-year degrees, one has to ask: “What is the crucial difference between getting a university four year degree and a community college four year degree?” For if we cannot articulate the difference but for the name, the bit of edge that the word “university” gives us will evaporate soon as community colleges offer a lower cost option. Why would a student choose Columbus State University over a for-profit?

Here is what we would say to a potential student and a parent evaluating different options of a community college or a for-profit online versus Columbus State University:

At Columbus State University, the instruction in your major will be provided by individuals with a deep and current involvement in the discipline. The caliber of your instructors is reflected in the fact that they are continually engaged in expanding the boundaries of knowledge by publishing peer reviewed journal articles in their disciplines, sharing their work with their colleagues regionally, nationally and internationally, and providing leadership in their professional organizations. Not only will you have an opportunity to attend classes taught by these individuals, but you will be able to interact with them on a regular basis through mentoring experiences outside the classroom. You will be able to work on independent research, scholarly or creative projects, and you will be mentored one-on-one by these faculty. You will be able to work directly with an individual whose name appears in world-class journals as a recent contributor. Your professor’s name will also be the name of an artist whose latest exhibitions received rave reviews, or whose performances received critical acclaim. You will be able to apply for our Columbus State University undergraduate research and scholarship grants to support your work and explore a number of study abroad opportunities, including our own Spencer House in Oxford, England.

It is through your ability to work with these high-caliber individuals that you, as a student, will be able grow intellectually and reach the most important expectations of a university graduate: Someone who thinks deeply and creatively, who learns quickly and independently, who is able to communicate clearly, and who can collaborate on a global platform with individuals from a variety of backgrounds. You will also have the ability to grow as a member of our honors program; to participate in an intercollegiate, club or intramural sports team; to engage in academic study abroad; to be a part of the student leadership in a campus organization; and to be involved in our exceptional community Servant Leadership Program. With this quality of undergraduate degree you will have direct access to jobs where employers will invest heavily to attract a high performing rising star, or to graduate school and professional schools.

There are definite lessons to learn from the best for-profit institutions: convenience, customer-friendly environment, agility, diverse platforms for course delivery, and continual assessment of the level of students’ work and engagement. Our Columbus State University Distance Learning Grants reward the development of new online courses, with a special focus on offering complete online degrees, as we are mindful of different needs and life demands of our students. To this end, we are so very proud of the dozens of online courses developed over the past year that support some unique and distinctive, internationally and nationally accredited graduate degree programs in business and education. Indeed, for a treat, link to http://coehp.tv, and see the innovative work led by our College of Education and Health Professions.

“Expect what you inspect” was said frequently by W. Edwards Deming, one of the founders of the total quality management movement. To this end, we have recently recruited a new director of institutional research, Dr. Sri Sitharaman, who will lead reinvigorated efforts related to analytics and appropriate metrics that will facilitate better, more focused decision making. Dr. Sitharaman will work closely with our new registrar, John Brown, to assure accuracy and timeliness of records and reporting essential to our university.

The Task Force on Faculty Performance is being charged with a review and recommendations on expectations in terms of faculty personnel evaluations, including flexible work load agreements that would allow the faculty to contribute to the Columbus State University mission and vision in variety of areas. This task force will include two representatives from each college: one faculty member and one administrator. We are reallocating additional funds to support faculty professional work. A competitive CSU Faculty Mentoring Program is designed to support our faculty work with mentors in other institutions to advance their scholarship/professional activity and grant submissions. CSU's Summer Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities Program supports summer work on external grant proposals, while the Professional Travel Program funds travel to work with funding agencies. These programs supplement existing programs in individual colleges, and an additional university-wide program that provides travel funds to present at professional conferences or support work towards external funding.

Additionally, a new formula-funding model for summer semester, winter-term and Maymester courses should, if the state budget begins to stabilize, provide extraordinary financial support for the colleges across the university. This will greatly facilitate the delivery of courses and ultimately programs in West Point and at Fort Benning.

To make sure that we provide high quality support to our incoming students and place our incoming freshmen in appropriate sections of our First Year Experience Program, we decided to end (except for military and dependents transferred to Fort Benning and select others on a case-by-case basis) accepting students’ applications to Columbus State University on June 30. Leadership development is crucially important, and we are going to continue to provide many opportunities for engagement and growth. As academic leaders working on implementing our mission of excellence, remember:

“Excellence can be obtained if you care more than others think is wise, risk more than others think is safe, dream more than others think is practical, and expect more than others think is possible.”

To this end we are seeking new training and development options and alternatives for faculty and staff, including unique programs for chairs, participating in the University System of Georgia’s Educational Leadership Initiative, engaging in AASCU leadership development programs and identifying unique training and development options for staff. All of these are essential components of a university committed to building talent for the future with existing faculty and staff. Endicott Peabody, Franklin Roosevelt's Groton headmaster said that:

“The great fact to remember is that the trend of civilization itself is forever upward; that a line drawn through the middle of the peaks and the valleys of the centuries always has an upward trend.”

This is, in fact, the Columbus State University odyssey over the past 50 years as we implement strategy for the next half century. We are an aspirational, comprehensive university, committed to academic excellence in undergraduate and graduate programs.

Tim Mescon, President
Inessa Levi, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs