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Photo by Laura Hancock / Members of EOU’s Board of Trustees gather for a portrait in the Inlow Hall Welcome Center. Artist and alumnus Don Gray painted the mural in the background, fittingly titled “Welcome to EOU.”
LA GRANDE, Ore. April 26, 2016 – Eastern Oregon University’s Board of Trustees convened on campus Thursday, April 21 for its regular public meeting in Inlow Hall, Room 201.
Board Chair David Nelson, of Pendleton, opened the meeting with a moment of silence for Hanna Cashell, an EOU student who was killed in a car accident April 11. Two other EOU students were involved and are recovering.
Cashell is the daughter of Rob and Heather Cashell. Rob is the university’s former athletic director and current Cascade Collegiate Conference commissioner. Heather is the executive assistant to EOU President Tom Insko.
More than 1,000 people attended a celebration of life for Cashell April 18 in Quinn Coliseum.
“It was a difficult week and still is,” Insko said, his voice filled with emotion. “The blessing of any tragedy like this is seeing the community response for the Cashells and for EOU.”
In other announcements, new technology enhancements are helping make EOU board meetings more accessible, open and transparent. The university’s audio-visual department implemented higher-quality live streaming capabilities and multiple camera angles create a more dynamic viewing experience, allowing the online audience to see who is talking at a given time.
Several activities and accomplishments of EOU students were highlighted next, including legislative advocacy in Salem, and Professor Kelly Rice’s class and the stress free zone they organized on campus during finals week.
Two teams of EOU students competed in a recent mathematics event and placed sixth and 24th out of a total of 92 participating teams from 16 states and four foreign countries. The success of student-athletes and the recent C.E.A.D. Conference on diversity were also noted.
“It’s important for you to hear about what all of our students are doing,” Insko said.
Insko also announced EOU is moving forward to implement a new global food systems management concentration under the business administration major.
“We’re building something that serves this region where we see the opportunity to establish ourselves as a leader in a niche market,” he said.
The program will serve the Hermiston and Ontario areas primarily, where there is a need for skilled workers that EOU could fulfill through partnerships with other institutions, Insko added.
For the featured presentation, trustees received updates from the overarching Trek Leadership Team and three sub-charter teams from the College of Business, College of Arts and Sciences and College of Education.
Insko launched the team in January and since that time the group has been working to create and sustain a robust system for attracting, enrolling, retaining, graduating and supporting students in pursuit of a successful career or graduate studies.
Trek Leadership Team Update
Interim Provost Sarah Witte and Vice President for Student Services Xavier Romano opened the presentation as co-leaders of the team.
“This has been an extraordinary lift by the students, faculty and staff involved in this process,” Romano said. “Individuals have taken on this project in addition to their regular work, and that’s really important to note. All of the charter teams are working at a remarkable rate and you will be impressed by what you hear today.”
Romano reported that the Trek Leadership Team is on target with its efforts to address enrollment and retention, and is yielding many short-term deliverables.
Witte followed with an explanation of goals set by the team and the structure of the process. Under the main charter team are three sub-teams all working toward specific goals.
The main goals of the central charter are to: grow enrollment (FTE) 2.5 percent by fall fourth week 2016; improve retention of first-time freshmen from 57 percent to 65 percent by fall fourth week 2016; improve four and six-year graduation rates; and involve 100 percent of employees in contributing ideas by January 31, 2017.
College of Business Charter Report
The College of Business Charter, represented by Professors Gary Keller and Laura Gow-Hogge, was the first to report to the board on university best practices that have been developed.
“Recruitment and retention are two areas that are very near and dear to my heart,” Gow-Hogge said, “so I am so pleased to be leading this team and thankful for this opportunity to break down walls and work across campus. The networking of this group alone has been tremendous.”
Trustees heard how the business team focused on both short-term immediate results and long-term sustainable impacts using enrollment data as a guide. Their retention goal is to improve by 20 percent over last year. Currently the College of Business has a 93-percent retention rate from winter to spring terms.
Key retention initiatives include mandatory academic advising for all business majors starting spring term; communicating and sharing information between regional advisors and community college partners on the same timeline; prescribed two and four-year schedules for degree completion with no scheduling conflicts; among other efforts.
In terms of recruitment, Gow-Hogge said the team is strengthening relationships with community college partners. She added that serving the technical skills training needs of the region includes offering the bachelor of applied science degree, which dovetails with technical degree programs like welding or HVAC that are offered at community colleges.
“We’ve been working very hard to provide this opportunity,” she said.
EOU’s new TRiO Student Support Services program will be incorporated into all college outreach as well.
College of Arts and Sciences Charter Report
Representing the College of Arts and Sciences charter were Professor and Associate Dean Peter Wordelman and Academic Advisor Cynthia “Sam” McCumber.
“We have a really great team and we’re proud of the work that we’ve done so far,” McCumber said.
The team shared how they examined the cost for an on campus freshman to attend EOU and compared the total to the amount of financial aid available and identified a funding gap.
“The majority – at least 70 percent – of our student population is PELL eligible,” Wordelman said.
Federal Pell Grant funds are awarded on a needs-basis to students who are working on their first bachelor’s degree. The amount of the grant varies based on the student’s expected family contribution.
“Thanks to the EOU Foundation for awarding over $550,000 in scholarships this year,” Wordelman added. “In the big picture, it should be about $2 million.”
Other ongoing initiatives like organic and grassroots efforts in advising, as McCumber explained, include setting up tables in the hallways with information and raffles to encourage students to talk about their major and course load. Events will be repeated focusing on freshmen exploring different majors. McCumber emphasized that outreach to this population includes contacting students to find out about their academic interests and connecting them with the right person.
The team’s spring retention campaign identified students who had financial aid holds on their records and these students were assisted individually to resolve the holds. Alternate one and two credit courses were also offered as a form of credit recovery to help keep students engaged.
In conclusion, three new promotional videos were shared highlighting EOU’s chemistry-biochemistry, music and theatre programs.
College of Education Charter Report
Master of Arts in Teaching Advisor and Recruiter Kristin Johnson spoke on behalf of the College of Education charter and shared the team’s three broad categories of focus: increasing community college transfers to EOU; optimizing existing recruiting practices; and updating program websites.
“We’re connecting with advisors and faculty within the community colleges we’re trying to serve, asking them to send their students to us and highlighting the TRiO program,” Johnson explained.
The charter is working with University Advancement to update department promotional materials and increasing faculty involvement in the campus visit experience, which Johnson said is yielding positive results. Campus tours now include stops at the physical activity and health lab, where current students regularly use high-tech equipment for experiments and tests.
Testimonials are also being gathered and shared via the college website and through recruitment materials.
“I think this was one of the most meaningful things that we did,” Johnson said of the dozens of statements the team collected from students. “Almost everyone speaks to the relationships that they’ve created here at Eastern with faculty, with advisors and with each other, so I think that really highlights what we’re doing and why students are coming and staying because they’re creating these incredible, dynamic relationships.”
Similar to the College of Business, Johnson identified connecting students in the Oregon Teacher Pathway program to TRiO resources as another opportunity for recruitment.
Johnson reported that retention has been historically good for the College of Education and graduates enjoy high job placement rates. Last year 100 percent of MAT graduates earning authorizations in middle and high school education successfully found jobs.
Program reputation plays a major role in this, Johnson said, and Professor and Trustee Ray Brown added that quality advising plays a part in not only retention, but also the recruitment success of the education program.
EOU Trustee Jer Pratton, of Hermiston, pointed to the collective, results-oriented nature of the charter teams’ work.
“I give this a huge thumbs up and a big thank you to everybody,” he said. “This is good stuff.”
Insko followed Pratton’s comments by acknowledging each of the charter representatives, their efforts and those of admissions and other departments to address recruitment and retention.
“This is an example of when you align on commitment, and you let that commitment drive your actions, it’s amazing what you can accomplish,” Insko said. “We’re now projecting 71 percent of first-time freshmen who enrolled in fall 2015 to return, and that’s huge ground gained.”
After lunch, board members heard from Republican Sen. Bill Hansell, representing Oregon’s 29th district, and Tessa Ortmann, an EOU student who interned at his office in Salem.
Hansell has been working with Professor Jeff Dense to bring classes to the capitol during the legislative session and Ortmann also spoke about her internship.
“It was a great opportunity to take advantage of,” said the senior philosophy, politics and economics major. “I needed to spread my wings and see what’s outside of eastern Oregon.”
Ortmann is from Athena, the same town where Hansell was born and raised.
“I expected coffee runs and stapling, but that’s not what happened at all,” Ortmann added. “I was really involved, and the duties I was assigned expanded the knowledge I’ve gained here at this university. Having an internship and being able to go to Salem was probably the best thing I could have done to aid my education.”
Hansell then addressed challenges ahead in the next legislative session including the unfunded PERS liability, impact of the minimum wage increase and the state’s perception of the authority of regional boards to make decisions for their institutions.
“Eastern Oregon University is my priority,” Hansell said. “This is a very important district and I’m honored to serve in the capacity that I do.”
The board unanimously approved the following consent agenda items: January 21 meeting minutes; teacher education equity proposal; and third quarter management report.
First on the list of action items for board consideration was approval of the 2017-2019 capital request, up for review by the Higher Education Coordinating Commission and then approval by the Legislative Ways and Means Committee.
Restoration of EOU’s track and field facilities is a top priority, followed by an information technology equipment facility, phase one renovations to Loso Hall, construction of an athletics field house, phase two of seismic renovations to Inlow Hall and reconstruction of Inlow Hall’s Grand Staircase. The vice presidents of finance and administration at all seven public universities are collaborating on these capital requests.
A review of the resolution on the responsibilities of individual trustees followed, including evaluations, fiduciary responsibilities, time commitments and overall behavior.
Evaluation of presidential performance was reviewed next. The board policy details the process for conducting annual evaluations with comprehensive analyses occurring every five years. The board chair and vice chair conduct the evaluation with input from the president, trustees and shared governance. An amendment passed allowing for this group to also seek and consider feedback from staff reporting directly to the president on his or her performance.
All action items were approved.
University Council Chair Colleen Dunne-Cascio reported on the ongoing work to update EOU’s constitution. She also explained that the council is undertaking a project at the request of President Insko to identify and articulate the values and principles of the university. The goal is to have these defined by June 7.
ASEOU President Addie Beplate invited trustees to attend the next student government meeting May 2, which Sen. Hansell and Rep. Greg Barreto will be attending. Setting tuition for the 2016-17 academic year is also under discussion among various student groups.
Beplate, who is graduating at the end of spring term, expressed appreciation for serving in student government and being involved with the board.
“I’ve loved the opportunity to engage with everybody,” Beplate said. “It’s a lot, but I’ve enjoyed the experience.”
Faculty Senate President John Knudson-Martin addressed the leadership structure of the university, anticipating the announcement of who the permanent provost will be. He also stressed that transitioning the deans from interim to permanent positions is another priority to provide stability for EOU going forward.
Information Items and Conclusion
In closing, Chair Nelson reminded board members that while their roles are evolving, there are two solidifying messages to reinforce.
“This is a work in process and we’re probably going to be making some changes along the way, but we have to keep moving forward,” he said. “Remember our two battle cries are ‘Together, It’s Possible’ and ‘If It’s Measured, It’s Managed.’ That’s where we’re coming from and I’m feeling very good about that.”
Proposed dates for regular and committee meetings for next year were submitted for review. Academic quality is the topic for discussion at the June board meeting and the following board retreat scheduled for August 10-11 in Baker City.
For related documents and an archived live stream of the meeting visit eou.edu/governance.
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