Welcome to a new academic year unlike any other in our history. We are starting this one, just like every other year, with hope for a promising future. However, the past six months have been unprecedented, difficult, and have changed our lives forever. Today, we all come together as a community committed to our mission of education, research, creative activity, outreach, extension and service. We need everybody to work together, be a role model, wear a face covering, and maintain a safe distance. And we need to do this for the long term. The next few weeks will be critical to the success of our commitment to education and our decision to reopen campus to our students.
Nobody on a college campus is a more important role model than our faculty, and this week I had the opportunity to listen to some of our faculty leaders. They were eloquent in expressing a deep commitment to education, to their students, and to the success of NMSU. This group of faculty leaders had concerns ranging from the budget to shared governance. They also asked about a bus metaphor I used. My words caused unintended distress and worry, and got in the way of the good work we are all trying to accomplish. For that, I apologize. The metaphor, from Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, was not intended to divide, but rather to unite. It was a call for all of us to work together, pull in the same direction, support each other, particularly during these difficult times. When we work together, we accomplish great things. When we work together, we can build a better NMSU.
Throughout the 2018-19 academic year, we came together and invested thousands of hours in collectively setting our strategic direction. During this process, we visited every college and every support unit, and we considered thousands of comments. Everybody was invited to contribute, and your contributions strengthened NMSU LEADS 2025. Strategic plans are optimistic documents filled with possibilities for the future. When a year later that future contained some unexpected surprises, NMSU LEADS 2025 served as a reminder of what we had already agreed to do.
When we do well in education, research, creative activity, service, extension and outreach, we do well as a university. But in 2018, our trends were grim. From our peak in 2010, enrollment at NMSU had dropped about 25%, and research funding was down nearly 40%. Last year, both of these metrics started to turn around, and we have early indications that this year’s numbers, even amid all the current crises, will continue that upward trend.
Turning around our research decline, through the heroic efforts of our faculty and staff, is remarkable. But, stopping the decline in enrollment is even more so. We did these things together. If current positive trends continue, it will be because together we set a strategic plan for NMSU, and because together we are implementing that plan. Difficult times are still ahead, but guided by our plan, our mission and our vision, we will get through it, while building a better, stronger NMSU.
Although many of us have now officially returned to campus, we will continue our virtual Town Hall meetings. The next one is scheduled from 3 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 25. This webinar will focus on our return to campus. Please join us to learn more about NMSU Ready and other topics.
Your comments are always welcome at President.Floros@nmsu.edu
Be Bold, Be Kind, Be Safe.