Fireside Chat

Each week Delta State University releases a Fireside Chat video to the campus, community and friends featuring President William N. LaForge. This week, LaForge welcomes the campus and community to the 2014-2015 academic year. He notes the quest for Delta State’s 89th year is to continue to build quality and excellence.

As Delta State opens classroom doors and books for the fall, there are five key areas of focus for our university this upcoming year: enrollment, budget, compensation, capital improvements and a vision for growth and excellence.

President LaForge’s focus on enrollment is two-fold involving new students and retention. After experiencing a decrease in enrollment for the past eight years, LaForge says there is good news. The trend has stopped and reversed, and while official enrollment numbers will not be released until later this month, Delta State has more students on campus this fall. In fact, an additional residence hall, Cain-Tatum, was renovated and reopened to accommodate the increase.

LaForge reports that efforts to ensure student satisfaction and success are also key in enrollment. New retention strategies in place include academic advising, an early alert system, an improved first year experience and seminar, and retention data analysis. The first ever, major student retention scholarship program has also been established to honor President Emeritus and Mrs. Kent Wyatt.

The president speaks about our most serious challenge, the budget situation, which is due to several factors that we are working to improve. This year Delta State will operate under an adequate but realistic and conservative budget. Dollar allocation will be directed toward our main efforts of student recruitment, success, and retention and scholarships, but expenses must be evaluated to ensure we return to financial stability.

Long-overdue raises for faculty and staff will be supported when there is improved cash positioning over this next year and an increase in funding from state appropriations or tuition. Salary increases will occur in steps with those at minimum wage and regional minimum salary levels being addressed first, and then merit increases for the entire campus.

Bond dollars provided by the state will allow for some infrastructure maintenance and upgrades. Some of these include improvements to residence halls, academic buildings, our roads and sidewalks, roofs and the coliseum.

On the topic of excellence and looking to the future of our University, LaForge speaks about a new leadership team ready and in place to help carry out the shared mission and vision. The plan is to build on the numerous milestones recently achieved, including the accreditation reaffirmation, historical giving and donation efforts, diversity efforts and awards, international and alumni relationships, communication and outreach, grant funding for new and exciting programs, and strong athletic program activity and support.

Delta State’s first fall week will be busy. Many events will take place on campus including cookouts, information tables in the Union, and a blood drive sponsored by our Student Government Association on Thursday. To keep up with campus events, download the mobile app – OkraMobile – or visit deltastate.edu/events.

For more information on the video series, please contact commark@deltastate.edu or visit the Office of the President’s playlist on Delta State’s YouTube channel.

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