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Ransdell: WKU at Three Crossroads that Impact Budget

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Western Kentucky University via Facebook
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WKU President Gary Ransdell says the university is at a crossroads in three areas: enrollment, state funding, and employee compensation. 

While noting many of the university’s achievements, Ransdell also outlined the school’s challenges to faculty and staff in his opening convocation Friday morning. 

Faced with an enrollment decline in the last couple of years, WKU is focusing more on recruitment and retention.  Dr. Ransdell said some of the efforts are beginning to pay off.

"As of this week, our first-time incoming student numbers are up slightly," Ransdell noted.  "Our part-time undergraduate numbers have stabilized, but our part-time graduate numbers are still tracking downward.  Our biggest challenge, however, is a 23 percent drop in continuing full-time freshmen."

Dr. Ransdell also addressed the continuing challenge of less state funding. 

"The last year Kentucky increased base funding for higher education was 2006," added Ransdell.  "By the time the 2016 budget is considered next spring, we will have suffered through a lost decade of state support for higher education."

President Ransdell said he will ask the 2016 Kentucky General Assembly to restore cuts to higher education and change the way funds are allocated to a performance-based model.  He said given the school’s growth and degree productivity, WKU would fare better in the next state budget.  He added that the increased funding would help pay for faculty\staff salary increases, which Ransdell called a top priority for next year.

The fall semester at WKU begins Monday. 

Dr. Ransdell also presented awards to the following faculty and staff:

14th annual Spirit of Western Award

Robin Ayers, an instructor in the Department of Mathematics, received the 14th Spirit of Western Award, which recognizes an individual who represents enthusiasm for WKU, loyalty to the institution and principles of the WKU experience and its motto “The Spirit Makes the Master.”

Ayers, a WKU graduate, has been in the department for 24 years and never fails to go over the top with all-things WKU. Her office is covered with WKU decorations and team posters signed by players she has had in class. The pride and commitment she has for WKU shows on her face, in her voice, in her classroom, and in her office. 

15th annual President’s Award for Diversity

The award recognizes recipients who advance diversity and is intended to encourage creativity, dialogue, and action through advocacy, role modeling, scholarship, or service.

Employee: Dr. Lacretia Dye, assistant professor in the Department of Counseling and Student Affairs. Her goal in everything she does is to practice Ubuntu, an ancient African concept that translates as “I am because we are” or “a person is a persona because of other persons.” In all of her activities, it is her intention to model and promote wellness for all ethnic, racial, religious, socio-economic groups.

Student: Salvador Hernandez, a sophomore studying International Business who is a member of the WKU Chinese Flagship program, WKU HOLAS (Hilltopper Organization of Latin American Students) and other campus and community organizations. He has supervised the coordination of projects that promote and celebrate diversity on campus and in the community.

Community: Lawrence White of Bowling Green who is known for paying it forward. He has been affiliated with mentoring groups such as Black Men United, Why Try and West Side Camp, each program directed toward young men of ethnic diversity.

5th annual President’s Award for Sustainability

The award honors individuals who exhibit excellence in supporting WKU’s commitment to sustainability by demonstrating exemplary practices and sharing solutions, incorporating sustainability into existing programs, and implementing innovative ideas.

Employee: Dr. Jane Olmsted, head of Diversity and Community Studies. Dr. Olmsted has advanced sustainability at WKU by emphasizing social justice and more subtle but equally important qualities of sustainability such as connectedness, community and place into sustainability programs and related courses that she has developed, including the master’s in Social Responsibility and Sustainable Communities and the Global Pathways to Sustainability graduate certificate.

StudentAlex Hezik, a senior from Campbellsville who is majoring in Sustainable Agriculture and is a member of the Chinese Language Flagship. Her commitment to promoting sustainability led her to develop her own academic program; and to serve the campus and community by promoting sustainability through the campus community garden, the Climate Action Committee and the Community Farmers Market.

Staff Advising Awards

The first recipients of Staff Awards for Student Advisement to honor professional staff who exhibit excellence in supporting the success of and support to WKU’s student population were Dr. Pat Jordan, coordinator of Undergraduate Student Services and Academic Advising for the Gordon Ford College of Business, Staff Academic Advising Primary Role; and Christian Ryan, sustainability coordinator in the Office of Sustainability, Staff Award for Student Support Services.

Faculty Awards

Dr. Ransdell formally recognized the following faculty award recipients, who were announced during May commencement ceremonies: Dr. Eve Main, associate professor, School of Nursing, University Award for Public Service; Yvonne Petkus, professor, Department of Art, University Award for Research and Creativity;Dr. Martha Day, associate professor, School of Teacher Education, University Award for Student Advisement; and Dr. Alison Langdon, associate professor, Department of English, University Award in Teaching.

New leaders

New department heads and program leaders for fall 2015 include: Marc Archambault, Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations; Brent Bjorkman, Director, Kentucky Museum; Ray Blankenship, Chair, Information Systems; Dana Bradley, Associate Director, Honors College; Erika Brady, Acting Department Head, Folk Studies and Anthropology; Linda Brown, Chair, Agriculture; Stuart Burris, Chair, Chemistry; Michael Carini, Interim Department Head, Physics and Astronomy; Neale Chumbler, Dean, College of Health and Human Services; Terry Dean, Interim Director, Dental Hygiene; Michelle Elkins, Director, Kelly Autism Program; Vijay Golla, Associate Dean for Research, College of Health and Human Services; Brad Kissell, Director of Adult Learner Service, University College; LTC Thomas MacMillin, Department Head, Military Science; Mary Lloyd Moore, Executive Director, Suzanne Vitale Clinical Education Complex; Paula Potter, Chair, Management; Jill Sauerheber, Department Head, Counseling and Student Affairs; Larry Snyder, Interim Associate Provost for Research and Creative Activity, Office of Research and Creative Activities; Jean Neils-Strunjas, Department Head, Communication Sciences and Disorders; Harvey Wallmann, Interim Department Head, Allied Health; J. Christopher (Chris) Watkins, Executive Director, Training and Technical Assistance Services; Travis Wilson, Interim Department Head, Family and Consumer Sciences.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.