President gives annual address, shares new campus initiatives

Austin Ramsey
News Editor

Nick Paxton/The News

President Randy Dunn announced a complete revision of Murray State’s strategic imperatives at the State of the University Address Wednesday afternoon, listing new policies and projects he said he hopes to employ to better the University’s position on a national and regional scale.

The new imperatives Dunn announced were excellence through quality, outreach with partnerships and innovation for impact.

Excellence through quality

Dunn said the five-year-old imperatives of fostering excellence, building partnerships and creating community had been acted upon by the entire University since 2006, when he introduced them.

He said they were used to reach several goals such as the Hold Thy Banner High funding campaign, which surpassed its goal of $60 million a year early, and the building of a better-operable Office of Regional Outreach.

“Without drastically changing course of those broad directions we’ve chartered for the University, I do think it’s time to revisit our imperatives,” Dunn said, “and establish this next version or generation of those imperatives.”

Dunn said the imperatives needed to be refreshed with new language to garner new interest, refrained and refined to better serve the interests of students, faculty, staff, parents, investors and all who attribute to the University’s activities.

“It is quality that drives excellence,” Dunn said of his first new imperative.

Dunn said pushes such as high enrollment, signature programs and award-winning faculty are all important to any institute of higher education. But Dunn warned of over-complicating these measures and allowing administrators to lose focus of true quality.

“Any metric or characteristic other than those which promote the performance and ability of our students is an inferior alternative substitute for excellence as a measure of our worth,” he said.

Dunn said the University should no longer continue to spotlight its excellence through typical means, but will now redouble efforts to display itself through every means possible.

A comprehensive program review by the provost and further recognition through third-party publications were all means Dunn said would help build on the University’s goals.

Outreach with partnerships

Dunn said the University’s outreach has been an important factor for many years and has helped gather nearly 100,000 students from the 18-county service region over the last five years.

Through Racer Academy, a program for local high school students’ dual enrollment and the College of Education’s Junior Achievement program, Dunn said the University has operated at a standard best.

But he said more could be done.

“Immediately before coming to Murray State I was in a position where I was in charge of K-12 education for 2.2 million students in the fifth largest state in the nation,” Dunn said of his time as Illinois commissioner of Education. “I do not feel that I’ve capitalized on that experience and expertise enough to lift up primary and secondary education in the backyard of the institution.”

Dunn announced a new K-12 Connect program aimed at developing a stronger University presence in local schools.

“One of the things that I’ve wanted to do in a much better way is to gain connections and linkages between the University and the schools in this region,” Dunn said following his speech. “It helps us directly in better preparing them to coming to Murray State.”

Innovation for impact

Dunn’s final leg of the University’s new strategic imperatives was innovation for impact. He said Murray State’s impact must be more direct, rather than general as it has been in the past.

“We’ve got to continue to take a tough look at what we can’t do well and then shed off some things that maybe we don’t do so well or can’t afford or otherwise justify,” he said.

Dunn said he would be unable to reach his 12,000 students by 2012 goal, and revised it in the speech to become an 11,000-student goal by 2012.

As a part of this imperative, Dunn announced the new extended family benefits for faculty and staff in their open enrollment insurance coming this fall. Dunn said the effects will take place in January.

After the speech, Dunn said the benefits had been drawn from a proposal in the Faculty Senate a year ago and had gone through discussions in the committee on insurance and benefits to finally coming to fruition by presidential mandate this fall.

Peggy Pittman-Munke, president of the Faculty Senate, said she was pleased to see the benefits package announced.

“I think it came at the right time for this university,” she said. “This is a marvelous time to be announcing it since we just had the Diversity Plan approved.”

Jody Cofer, co-chair for the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion, said he was also glad to see the new benefits.

“It was the right thing for the University to do,” he said.

Other administrators said they were simply happy to see the University move in new directions.

“We’ve seen excellence demonstrated in a number of ways, and it takes leadership at the top to provide those ways,” said Bob Jackson, associate vice president for institutional advancement. “Today he announced some initiatives that will put us on the right path for a number of years.”

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