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Feb. 25, 2022 LA GRANDE, Ore. – Trustees on Eastern Oregon University’s governing board convened in a hybrid modality on Feb. 16 and 17, with most joining in-person while others participated via Zoom.
The regular board meeting spread across two days to better accommodate engaged discussion, Board Chair Richard Chaves said. Newly appointed board member Chris Warner joined the conversation for the first time. Warner, who serves as director of the Portland Bureau of Transportation, is from Baker County and has also worked in the governor’s office in Salem.
Trustees discussed long-range planning, both strategic and capital. The board reviewed EOU’s 2021 Annual Report and the university’s progress toward achieving six major goals laid out in its strategic plan, “The Ascent: 2029.”
Student success metrics show 87% of 2021 graduates were employed or re-enrolled after completing their degrees, nearing EOU’s goal of 90%. Oregon Strong Start funding supported an expanded Summer Bridge program that led to higher GPAs and greater retention for incoming freshmen this fall.
EOU plans to roll out a new Center of Excellence for Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Belonging, funded by a Title III Strengthening Institutions grant and led by a new associate vice president. The university reaffirmed its commitment to the region through expanded high school initiatives and ensuring that 89% of transfer students were able to apply every previously earned credit. Board members hope to increase the rate to 100% in coming years.
In the last fiscal year, EOU received $8.4 million from grants, sponsorships, donations and other alternate sources, decreasing dependency on shrinking state support while curbing tuition increases. The EOU Foundation saw a 235% increase in cumulative giving, awarding over 300 scholarships.
“Our students are high-need, and dollars that come into the [EOU] Foundation go directly to students and programs, making a directly proportional impact on students’ lives,” EOU President Tom Insko said.
Legislative priorities also have a direct connection to the university during the Oregon legislature’s short session. Universities across the state united in advocating for increased capital project funding to match rising costs and a continuation of the Strong Start program to support students most heavily impacted by COVID-19.
“That was received well at the committee hearing,” Vice President for University Advancement Tim Seydel said. “Help for those students goes a long way, and a lot of EOU students need that assistance.”
EOU has also been involved in workforce investment bills, building community college partnerships and shaping literacy programs.
The university’s next priorities are capital construction, as EOU comes due to renew its Master Plan for the La Grande campus. Upcoming projects include restoring the Grand Staircase, entering Phase 2 of Loso Hall renovations, and establishing a baseball facility. State funding for capital projects is allocated on a biennial basis. EOU will submit its priority list in April for projects that would break ground in 2025.
Starting in fall 2022, EOU hopes to offer a fully online master’s degree in healthcare administration. The program would use elements of the university’s existing MBA program, as well as new courses tailored to meet the growing need for healthcare professionals in rural areas. The 45-credit program could be completed in less than two years through EOU’s College of Business. As a capstone, students will complete a real project for one of the region’s hospitals.
“A very important part of the program is learning from practitioners who have been in the field,” said Ed Henninger, Dean of the College of Business. “And the rural focus is a very unique way to go about this, especially with migration to rural areas and the difficulty those communities have getting qualified individuals into these systems.”
The program will also teach students how to put diversity, equity and inclusion theories into practice, an effort shared by the Board of Trustees.
The board approved its first Statement on Diversity and Equity after over a year of fine-tuning the document through an ad-hoc committee and the standing Governance Committee. Click here to read or download the full Board Statement on Diversity and Equity. It includes new guidelines for trustee training and adds what trustees called “an equity lens” to all of the board’s business and activities.
“I really appreciate that this is not just a piece of paper that sits somewhere, but invites a new way of doing things with those equity lenses on,” Trustee Maurizio Valerio said.
Following third-party evaluations and the results of the Annual Report, the board voted to approve the proposed changes to the president’s compensation for the current year. A 2.5% salary increase and merit awards kept the President’s compensation package flat to what it was the previous year. The next multi-year contract will be presented at the board’s May 18 and 19 meeting.
“President Insko is currently the longest acting and lowest paid public university president in the state,” Chaves said. “The university is in the strongest financial position it has seen in decades, and the President has consistently demonstrated his value through strong fiscal management, improved campus communications, and several other unique achievements.”
Executive Director of the Higher Education Coordinating Commission Ben Cannon shared a draft and summary of the commission’s biennial evaluation of the university, which will be finalized this spring. EOU’s Pandemic Response Officer Luke Aldrich presented an update on COVID-19 protocols as the university anticipates statewide changes to masking guidelines. Shared governance leaders reported on Faculty Senate, University Council and student body happenings.
Full minutes and materials can be found at eou.edu/governance.
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