A Message from President Burns Hargis

President Burns HargisNovember 2011

Dear Friends,

The fall semester is flying by and I wanted to update you on news and activities at Oklahoma State University.

Many of you were here for one of our biggest and best homecoming celebrations. It truly is a special time for our campus and the Stillwater community. We drew a record 80,000 to this year’s Walkaround. Every year I am amazed at all the time and effort our students exert to create “America’s Greatest Homecoming Celebration.” I also applaud the Alumni Association for sponsoring our homecoming.

If you have been on campus this fall, you probably noticed it’s crowded. In fact, with the help of one of our largest freshmen classes ever, enrollment on our Stillwater and Tulsa campuses topped 24,000 students for the first time. We also have record enrollment for the entire OSU system of more than 36,000.

We have had three consecutive years of growth in freshmen students, growing the class 27 percent over that period. And our freshmen continue to come to OSU with strong academic credentials: the average ACT is 25.0, more than 1,100 have an ACT of 27.0 or higher, and 554 entered with a 4.0 GPA. The class is the most diverse ever, with 25 percent students of color. The class is roughly two-thirds in-state students and one-third out-of-state.

I hope you have had a chance to see the newly renovated Student Union this fall. The project has taken a little longer than anticipated, but the results are spectacular. Most of the current work should be completed by the end of the year and then we will renovate the ballroom and west plaza area.

Thanks to a number of major gifts, including $5 million from Chesapeake Energy, we announced in early October that the Spears School of Business has more than $15 million in commitments toward its goal of $60 million in private support for a new, iconic structure along Hester Street between Morrill and Athletic. The impressive, state-of-the-art building will create a learning space that best prepares students for the business world.

We also were proud to honor one of our most admired graduates when we unveiled a bust of Henry Bellmon in the interdisciplinary research center that bears his name. The Henry Bellmon Research Center is the first of a multi-phase complex designed to enhance our research capabilities. It is aptly named given Bellmon’s strong belief in research and creativity.

The College of Human Sciences welcomed 21 undergraduate students from China’s Sun Yet-Sen University this fall as part of a 2+2 agreement. The Chinese students will spend two years on our campus working alongside our hotel and restaurant administration students. I enjoyed talking to two of the students for an episode of Inside OSU. In 2012, Human Sciences, under the leadership of Dean Stephan Wilson, will send students to China, Kenya, Switzerland and Sweden to broaden their learning experience.

Hearing from leading thinkers and world figures is an important part of the university learning experience and we were pleased to bring Tony Blair, former prime minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, to Oklahoma this semester. Thousands of students heard his optimistic message about the future when he spoke on our Stillwater campus.

My greatest thrill as president is watching our students excel as they develop the skills that will lead to success once they graduate. Student Government Association President Ashley Leonard left this month for Russia. She and a handful of student leaders from across the U.S. have created collaborative projects to improve the lives of the citizens of both countries.

Betty Thompson, an elementary education honor student, will be representing Oklahoma in the Miss America Pageant on Jan. 14. Betty, who grew up on a dairy farm outside Davenport, Okla., is a proponent of healthy eating and lifestyles. She is a great ambassador for OSU.

For the second year in a row, Oklahoma State led the nation in the number of American Indians who graduate with a bachelor’s degree. OSU also is ranked first in the number of American Indians who earn degrees in 11 high-demand educational categories, including engineering, biological and biomedical sciences, business, architecture and agriculture.

A number of you are participating in a new program to actively recruit students to Oklahoma State. Volunteers have been representing OSU at college fairs, calling prospective students, assisting with on-campus visits and hosting senior sendoffs. Thanks for your help!

The Alumni Association has started 12 new regional chapters and watch clubs this year, including two overseas for our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. OSU alumni chapters gave more than $180,000 to student scholarships last year.

We are pleased to welcome Bill Path to our leadership team as the new president of OSU Institute of Technology in Okmulgee. Bill joins us from Northeast Community College in Nebraska. We expect him to build on the strong industry partnerships already in place and to continue to make OSUIT a leader in providing students an associate degree and the technical skills they need to excel across many industries. We appreciate the job David Bosserman has done as interim president.

OSU-OKC President Natalie Shirley and her team launched their 50th anniversary celebration with the grand opening of a LEED-certified building to house energy degree programs such as wind turbine technology and renewable and sustainable energy. In Tulsa, Howard Barnett is president of both OSU-Tulsa and OSU Center for Health Sciences. OSU-Tulsa enrollment was up nearly 20 percent to more than 3,000 students. CHS expanded its mobile fleet when it unveiled a $1 million cardiology diagnostic lab to serve rural Oklahoma.

Thanks to the support of more than 70,000 donors, we are nearing $830 million toward our Branding Success Campaign goal of $1 billion. We are less than two years into the public phase of the campaign, yet have raised funds for 764 scholarships and created 126 endowed chairs and professorships. The remaining dollars will be a challenge, but I have been overwhelmed by donor response and I’m confident we will hit our target soon.

What a year it has been so far! Football, women’s soccer, men’s cross country and equestrian are all ranked among the nation’s best. Football has ignited unprecedented excitement on campus and among Cowboy faithful. Soccer completed an undefeated regular season. Cross country is aiming for its third straight NCAA championship.

I have been honored to represent OSU in the Big 12 Conference alignment discussions. Thanks to our success and facilities, OSU is in a strong position. The disruption to the Big 12 has been regrettable, but we are pleased to welcome two outstanding institutions, TCU and West Virginia, to our conference and look forward to an exciting future.

There has been much discussion nationally and within Oklahoma about the cost and value of higher education. While the cost of a degree has risen at OSU, in part due to the trend of a lack of growth in state funding, tuition and mandatory fees for in-state undergrads remain the lowest in the Big 12 and 26 percent below the average of land-grant universities nationally. OSU is a great bargain.

In today’s global economy, it is believed that 90 percent of the fastest-growing jobs will require a college degree. Today, in this difficult economy, the unemployment rate for college graduates is half that of high school grads. Employment for workers with college degrees is expected to grow twice as fast as the overall job market. College graduates strengthen a state’s economy, lift up communities and earn about twice as much over a lifetime as high school graduates. I often say that a college degree is a passport to prosperity and a hedge against poverty. It’s true!

With your support, OSU will continue to deliver a great education and great value. Go Pokes!

Burns Hargis
Burns Hargis
President, Oklahoma State University

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