2023 State of the University Address centered on positive impact
President Davies emphasizes power of CMU’s strategic plan
With a focus on the future, Central Michigan University’s 15th president, Robert O. Davies, delivered the 2023 State of the University Address Thursday, November 16, in Plachta Auditorium.
Proving the value of higher education
Titled “Action to Make an Impact,” the speech began with a discussion of the many significant challenges facing CMU — and all institutions of higher education in the country at the moment.
“Americans are losing trust in the institutions of higher education. Institutions that, for decades, were unquestionably seen as the best way to achieve higher economic status, to grow intellectually and to improve social mobility,” Davies said.
He cited several factors that have eroded confidence in the value of a college degree, including rising costs and student debt, along with a growing but inaccurate belief that college fails to provide better career outcomes.
One result has been lower college enrollment over the last decade, which has been difficult for CMU and catastrophic for other universities, Davies said.
“We have to overcome the perception that earning a degree is not worth it, because the perception is not the reality,” Davies said. “We have to meet the challenge of declining faith in what we do, because we know that what we do is valuable to our students and to our communities.”
A plan for success
To overcome the significant challenges, Davies said CMU has adopted new mission and vision statements, as well as a strategic plan that is transformative and differentiates CMU from other universities.
Davies outlined CMU’s new mission statement, which defines the university by the success of its students and alumni. The new vision statement defines the university’s aspiration to be known for preparing innovators, learners and leaders who have an impact on the world.
“We have outstanding ideas in our strategic plan, now we will take action that will make an impact,” he said.
The strategic plan contains four main priorities that offer CMU a guide to success.
The first priority is inspiring student and scholarly success. Davies said the focus is on ensuring CMU students “receive an education that not only imparts knowledge but equips them with the skills, mindset and motivation to succeed, lead and thrive.”
The plan’s second priority is to engage communities forming partnerships that ensure a lasting impact.
He said, “We can leverage the knowledge, skills, expertise and passion of our university community to help to address community needs.”
The focus of the third priority in the plan has to do with enhancing organizational culture. Davies said CMU wants to be a model for having an inclusive campus while facilitating courageous conversations around polarizing topics. The result, he said, will be a campus where students have access to all perspectives on issues, can think critically about them, and decide for themselves where they stand.
Finally, the fourth priority of the plan is ensuring institutional sustainability. Davies explained sustainability is more than being environmentally friendly; he said it is also about efficient business practices and investing in educational offerings.
“We can simultaneously set a good example and position ourselves for greater relevance in a changing world.”
The state of CMU
After explaining the direction CMU is heading under the new strategic plan, Davies said, “The state of the university is strong, and taking bold action on this plan will make us even stronger.” He pointed to ways the university is already working to meet the goals of the plan.
Citing renewed marketing and recruitment efforts, Davies said CMU is on a course for growth after turning around more than a decade of new enrollment declines.
“In an ever-crowded field of competitors, and in the era of declining public support for higher education… we are reaching more potential students and more are deciding to come to CMU.”
Davies said when students decide to learn at CMU, they find their education and experiences as valuable as ever. He pointed to successful outcomes such as the First Destination survey results showing that more CMU graduates reported finding employment within six months than those from nearly every other public university in Michigan.
“We are equipping graduates with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed while instilling a fired-up attitude motivating them to achieve great things,” he said.
At the end of his speech, Davies took a moment to thank all members of the university community for the role they play in supporting students.
“Because of you, an education at CMU is as valuable as ever,” he said. “We are ready to take action to make an impact on the lives of students, alumni, entire communities and the world.”
A full recording of the event is available here: 2023 CMU State of the University Address