Tim Foster Column September 14, 2008

MSC is meeting needs of changing student body

If you have a teenager in your life, you know that prodigious text messages and the copious content of their Facebook profile have become a way of life. 

This generation, like every generation, is quickly and aggressively developing a distinctive personality — one that is perhaps more unique in some ways than their predecessors’. Quoting movies has replaced ordinary conversation, Google is competing with encyclopedias, iPods have replaced radio and cell phones have been added as the human body’s newest appendage.

Those of us in higher education are witnessing first-hand how savvy these young men and women are as consumers. Today’s students demand a safe, modern and accessible campus; today’s students vote with their feet when it comes to quality academic programs and world-class faculty; today’s students expect to access and utilize the very latest technologies both in the classroom and out.

At Mesa State College, we have seen this challenge issued to us by our students — we have accepted the challenge and we are stepping up to meet it.

First and foremost, we have invested significant resources in attracting and retaining the best and the brightest faculty and staff. We know that the success of our students is directly correlated to the quality of instruction they receive. And while we still have strides to make in this area, we have made a commitment to being competitive with what the college pays its faculty and staff. As a result of this commitment, we have been able to hire our first choice in nearly every faculty search. We are supporting faculty professional development to ensure currency in their field of study. With respect to our incumbent faculty, who are the foundation of Mesa State, we have increased their salaries by nearly 20 percent over the past several years.

Finally, without much fanfare, we are in the third year of a unique merit bonus system whereby we reward those people who have provided outstanding performance for Mesa State College. 

Although people are our most important asset, educational excellence also requires quality facilities and technologies that are constantly evolving. The physical plant of our campus is receiving a much-needed shot in the arm with new and remodeled facilities. We are expanding our capacity to meet the demands of growth by building new classrooms, upgrading the quality of the space we have currently and investing in the latest technologies that will prepare our students to compete in a global economy.

Important programs have been expanded and renewed; mechanical engineering, landman, construction management, as well as nursing, radiologic technology, graphic design/animation and criminal justice are but a few. One early indicator that our programs are responding to student interest is the support for our new mechanical engineering partnership program with the University of Colorado at Boulder, where enrollment of nearly 50 students has far exceeded our initial projections of 10 to 15 students.

The results of this effort to meet the needs of our students by investing in people, facilities, technology and high-quality programs has been affirmed by a steady, if not demure, response: growing enrollment and student success. Last fall, student enrollment was up nearly 2 percent over the previous year, with student housing at 100 percent of capacity. This fall, enrollment is again up more than 2 percent over last fall and our student housing is once again bursting at the seams. Although we added about 100 new beds in preparation for this year we are still over capacity. Graduation rates are climbing and last year we saw 56 student-athletes receive Academic All-Conference accolades and five students recognized as Academic All Americans.

Today’s students look and act a little differently than our students of just a few years ago — and the need to keep up with new demands continues. But our core mission to help students achieve a quality and affordable education has not changed. We remain energized and committed to accomplish our mission.

So when next year’s freshman class is ready to inquire about what Mesa State College has to offer them, our iPhones and Blackberries will be charged and ready to respond to their flurry of text messages.

Tim Foster is the president of Mesa State College.


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