A Message from President Burns Hargis

President Burns HargisJune 2011

Dear Friends,

We have completed another successful school year and I wanted to update you on news from Oklahoma State University.

In May, we had the pleasure of celebrating with our graduates.  The ceremonies included one of our most well-known graduates, Garth Brooks, who received his MBA.  Garth gladly took photos with many fellow graduates.  Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Lieutenant Gov. Todd Lamb, both OSU grads, spoke at our undergraduate ceremonies.  We provided our graduates a highlight DVD with their diplomas; you can view the video here.

Last fall we had the largest freshman class since 1981 and current applications point to an even larger class this fall, 30 percent of which will be from out of state.  The challenge is to keep students in school and ensure that they graduate.  Too many students who start don’t finish with a degree.  That’s a bad result for the students and their families and the state, which needs more graduates.  Thanks to some generous donors, we are creating the Learning and Student Success Opportunity Center, or LASSO, to help in this effort.

We are also implementing a new category of admission criteria that focuses on an applicant’s creative, analytical, practical, and wisdom-based and ethical-reasoning skills.  Through a series of questions, we explore a student’s ability to form and express opinions, reason, and develop creative ideas.  This initiative will help us attract the best students for Oklahoma State.     

We continue to transform our beautiful campus.  We have completed more than $400 million of the $825 million Master Plan 2025 announced in 2006.  We are completing a $63 million upgrade that will make our Student Union better than ever.  New dining and retail services will open in August and the project will be complete by year end. 

On the drawing board are a new performing arts center, a new and much larger building for the Spears School of Business, and the renovation and expansion of our College of Human Sciences facilities.  Also slated is an academic center for the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences.  We have dedicated resources to campus landscaping.  We have installed a sprinkler system throughout the grounds and, under the direction of Steve Dobbs, we are restoring OSU’s leadership in landscape design.

Many of our academic areas are among the best anywhere.  OSU is a world leader in unmanned aerial systems and we are growing our expertise with the assistance of the OSU University Multispectral Laboratories (UML) in Ponca City.  We have been awarded a five-year Department of Defense contract worth up to $44 million to design and test unmanned aerial systems.  OSU and the UML also signed a memorandum of understanding to assist the Federal Aviation Administration in inspecting instrument landing and navigation systems. 

As you know, Amy and Malone Mitchell’s historic gift established the Riata School of Entrepreneurship in the OSU Spears School of Business.  While it is only two years old, the program is already in the top 10 of the University Entrepreneurship Research Productivity World rankings.  And, the entrepreneurship program for disabled veterans is the model for our country.

The OSU School of Hotel and Restaurant Administration held its second successful Wine Forum of Oklahoma in April.  The event featured international celebrity chef Francis Mallmann and showcased the skills and potential of our students.  Thanks to Marilynn and Carl Thoma’s leadership and the many OSU faithful in the wine industry, the Wine Forum is putting Oklahoma on the wine and food map.

Our students had an excellent year in the classroom.  This spring, 1,411 students achieved a perfect 4.0 GPA and they again won some of the nation’s top honors.  Blake Jackson became the first OSU student to ever win both the prestigious Truman and Udall honors in the same year.  We had another student win the Udall and five students were named National Science Foundation Graduate Fellows.

Bob Sternberg is completing his first year as provost.  Bob has brought great energy and creative ideas to our academic pursuits.  He has led the effort to fill a number of key leadership positions.  Jean Sander joins us from Ohio State University to be dean of the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences.  Sheryl Tucker, who has been at the National Science Foundation and University of Missouri, is the new dean of the OSU Graduate College.  We continue the dean searches for the College of Education and the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology.

Beyond Stillwater, things are going well on our campuses in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Okmulgee.  This past school year we topped 35,000 students system-wide for the first time in our history.  Former Oklahoma Secretary of Commerce Natalie Shirley is the new president at OSU-OKC and we continue the search for a new president at OSU Institute of Technology in Okmulgee.  I did an episode of our Inside OSU video program on the two schools this spring -- http://president.okstate.edu/index.php/inside-osu

Howard Barnett is doing an excellent job consolidating our OSU-Tulsa and Center for Health Sciences operations in Tulsa.  In late May we hosted the inaugural “A Stately Affair” to recognize those who have had a major impact on OSU in Tulsa and the event raised more than $660,000 for scholarships.

We have used reserves and strategic reductions in non-academic areas to weather recent cuts in state appropriations.  We are planning a 4.8 percent tuition increase to address this year’s reduction in state appropriations.  Still, we offer one of the best values in the nation.  The reduction of state support makes our $1 billion Branding Success campaign critical to our future. 

We are closing in on $750 million in donations and pledges toward our $1 billion target.  I know the last 25 percent will be the hardest.  We appreciate the leadership of campaign chairs Billie and Ross McKnight.  We owe much of our success to the generosity and inspiration of Boone Pickens.  In all, more than 65,000 individuals and organizations have given to the effort.

Turning briefly to athletics, we are excited about the new-look Big 12 Conference and our improved conference television agreement.  We have started work on some of the much-needed facilities north of Boone Pickens Stadium.  We had success across all our sports, with men’s cross country winning its second consecutive national title.  Football won 11 games for the first time in school history and hopes are high for the upcoming season.  And, we won Big 12 championships in men’s cross country, women’s soccer, men’s golf and wrestling.

We are more committed than ever to our land-grant mission of training great talent, doing life-changing research and serving our state, nation and world.  Oklahoma State is focused on preparing students for success.  And, we are educating students to use their knowledge to become active citizens and positive leaders who will make the world a better place.  

Thanks for your support of OSU.  Ann and I are having the time of our lives.  Fall semester begins August 22!  Please come to campus often.  It is more beautiful and vibrant than ever.  And, who knows, you might get a ride in the First Cowgirl’s bright orange Pokemobile!  Go Pokes!

Burns Hargis
Burns Hargis
President, Oklahoma State University

Stay up to date on all things OSU by visiting news.okstate.edu or viewing President Hargis' webpage.