Trustees close 2023 with elections, celebrations of success

Year-end meeting highlighted campuswide achievements, progress

| Author: Kevin Essebaggers | Media Contact:

In its final meeting of the calendar year, Central Michigan University’s Board of Trustees received updates on several academic and student support initiatives, and also elected a new slate of leaders for the coming year. 

President’s report to Trustees 

CMU President Bob Davies began his formal report to the board with a moment of silence for former CMU president Kathy Wilbur, who passed away Sunday.  

“Kathy was a great advocate for higher education and for CMU, and a mentor to many,” he said. “Her absence will be profoundly felt by many at CMU who worked with and were inspired by her, and by individuals throughout the state.” 

Later, Davies outlined numerous university-wide events and activities in the last semester that reflect the university’s new mission statement, “Central Michigan University is defined by the success of our students and alumni, and by our collective impact with the communities we serve.” These included the Media Hall of Fame induction ceremony and the Marcy Weston Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which recognized the outstanding achievements of CMU graduates. 

Davies also highlighted achievements by students and faculty members, including recognition for several student scholarship recipients; accolades for student journalists at CM Life; gubernatorial appointments for faculty members Lane Demas, Department of History, and Alison Arnold, College of Medicine; and national recognition for Tom Masterson, dean of The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow College of Health Professions. 

Touching on enrollment, Davies highlighted a gain in the number of applicants to CMU for the upcoming academic year. He said CMU is experiencing a 26 percent year-over-year increase in the number of domestic, first-time-in-any-college students applying, and also highlighted gains seen in online and transfer undergraduate student applications. 

“This is happening because more potential students are becoming aware, through marketing and recruitment strategies, of CMU’s commitment to deliver an education and experiences that will prepare them for success,” Davies said. 

Finally, President Davies highlighted several of the research initiatives and projects happening at CMU. He announced that CMU ranked for the first time in the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, which provides the definitive list of the world’s best universities with an emphasis on research. 

“CMU faculty, staff and students are researching a wide variety of subjects that have real-world implications and contribute to addressing many issues in communities with which we are engaged,” Davies said. 

Growth in Innovation and Online 

Reimagined in 2022, CMU’s Innovation and Online academic unit focuses on flexible learning opportunities. Innovation and Online Vice President Betty Kirby and Associate Vice President Kaleb Patrick updated Trustees on progress toward meeting their goals, including modifying curriculum and increasing online program enrollment. 

After several years of declining enrollment, online undergraduate program enrollment is up nearly 10% for spring of 2024, and Patrick said overall online enrollment is on track to grow 1%.  The unit also is working to increase the number of degrees and certificates earned in Michigan.  

“We’ve been trying to get into the conversation of what’s going on in the state, and that includes the Governor’s 60-by-30 initiative where we are stepping in and playing a role in how the state moves forward,” Patrick said.  

Areas of focus for CMU Innovation and Online include customizing learning solutions, growing non-credit and professional education, and increasing outreach. Kirby said the unit also is developing new online offerings like the newly added Master's in Counseling degree and the Bachelor's-to-Master’s degree in Special Education.  

The Innovation and Online team also presented details on their plans for a Detroit International pilot program, expanded military outreach, and dual enrollment and noncredit programming. 

“What we have been doing and what CMU does best is relationship building. I think we are making great gains because of the service CMU provides,” Kirby said. 

Immediately prior to the presentation, Davies and Trustee Sharon Heath presented a resolution granting emerita status to Kirby, thanking her for her many years of service to CMU in a variety of roles.  

New academic initiatives 

Provost Nancy Mathews described efforts to update and refresh academic programs to the Academic and Student Affairs Committee on Wednesday. Two programs – a minor in creative writing and a certificate in applied forensic studies – have completed the review and approval process and will begin accepting students as early as spring of 2024. 

Mathews said work continues on CMU’s academic re-envisioning process for the general education program. She said the General Education Ad Hoc Committee has evaluated potential education models and plans to present them to the Academic Senate in the spring semester. In addition, college deans have been charged with leading a review of majors and programs to assess student interest in them, Mathews said. The review should be complete by May of 2024, and may result in both re-imagined and new programs that stimulate student interest. 

Mathews also detailed plans for CMU’s new space in the Traverse City Connect building, noting that the location will expand the opportunities to collaborate with partners in northern Michigan and increase visibility and engagement with stakeholders throughout the region. 

Resolution for CMU College of Medicine 

In other new business, Trustees adopted a resolution to support CMU’s continued exploration of opportunities to strengthen the College of Medicine through an expanded presence in Saginaw, Michigan.  

The resolution follows recommendations from the Board’s Health Care Special Committee, presented in 2022, and empowers the president and his leadership team to continue “developing and implementing a new structure aligning CMU’s Undergraduate Medical Education (CMED) and Graduate Medical Education (CMEP) under a CMU-controlled and unified entity.” 

Board leadership transitions 

Thursday’s meeting was the last to be held under the leadership of current Board Chair, Isaiah Oliver. Oliver joined the Board in 2019 and was elected chair in December 2022. He is a graduate of CMU and a recipient of the Alumni Service Recognition Award. 

The Board’s nominating committee recommended the following slate of officers for 2024, and Trustees unanimously voted to approve: 

  • Chair: Trustee Todd J. Regis 
  • Vice chairs: Trustee Denise Williams-Mallett and Trustee Michael A. Sandler 
  • Secretary: Mary Jane Flanagan, chief of staff to the president 
  • Treasurer: Mary Moran Hill, vice president of finance and administrative services and chief financial officer 

As he welcomed the new Board leaders into their roles, Trustee Ed Plawecki also recognized Oliver for his service and leadership as Board Chair in 2023.  

Highlights from committee meetings 

During the Finance and Facilities committee meeting on Wednesday, Jonathan Webb, associate vice president of Facilities Management, gave an update on maintenance and facilities projects. Webb said interior renovations are underway in Wheeler Residence Hall, with a completion date set for April, 2024. Additionally, Merrill Dining Hall renovations are set to begin in summer 2024 as is the demolition of Northwest Apartments starting in July. Committee members also received an update on investments from NEPC, including an update on endowment assets and an investment outlook. NEPC provides investment consulting advice on the endowment to CMU staff and the university’s Investment Committee. 

In the same meeting, Jennifer Cotter, interim vice president of University Advancement, said CMU alumni and supporters “showed up strong” for Giving Tuesday. Cotter said the university’s goal for the one-day fundraiser was $425,000 and that CMU donors contributed significantly more — a grand total of $510,000 raised. “That is the highest giving day in CMU’s history, so thank you to everyone who participated,” Cotter said. In her fundraising update, Cotter also said that so far in this fiscal year, CMU has documented four individual gifts that exceed $1 million. 

In the Academic and Student Affairs Committee meeting, Jennifer DeHaemers, vice president of Student Recruitment and Retention and Sarah Kasabian-Larson, director of Scholarships and Financial Aid, provided an update on application and enrollment numbers, retention efforts, financial aid and changes to the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. DeHaemers also shared an update on a new student success seminar set to launch in January.  

The meeting of the Trustees-Faculty Liaison Committee included a presentation by faculty, staff and students from the College of Business Administration. Their focus was on a new office called The HUB – or the Student Engagement and Professional Development Office. Faculty member Amy McGinnis described The Hub as an office that ensures every student has access to resources, programming and support. 

“Great things continue to occur at CMU every day, and appreciation to all of those who are Fired Up and making it happen,” said Trustee Heath. 

And, after hearing presentations from several student leaders in the Trustees-Student Liaison Committee, Trustee Regine Beauboeuf said, “I want to express my gratitude to the student leaders on campus for their spirit of service and the use of their voices to advocate on behalf of their fellow students. I am re-energized every time I come to campus and am reminded that our future is in good hands.” 

Other Board action

Trustees approved several items on the consent agenda, including: 

  • Approval of Emeritus rank for eight current and former faculty and staff members. 
  • Approval of fall 2023 prospective graduates. 
  • Acceptance of the Office of Research and Graduate Studies Quarterly Report. 
  • Approval of the 2024-2025 state capital outlay report and project request. 
  • New lease agreements, including space for the College of Medicine, Innovation and Online, and CMU Research Corporation. 

An electronic copy of the president’s report will soon be available on the Office of the President webpage, and meeting minutes will be added to the Board of Trustees webpage following their approval at the next meeting. 

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