Trustees receive COVID-19 update, learn about new university brand

President Davies also presents year-end report, sets new priorities

| Author: Heather Smith

Central Michigan University leaders in health, student affairs, communications and more updated the CMU Board of Trustees this morning on the university's response and planning regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. George E. Kikano, vice president for health affairs and dean of the CMU College of Medicine, said that over the past few weeks, CMU has seen a sharp decline in the number of COVID-19 cases within the university community.

He attributed the decline to efforts of CMU's Emergency Management Team and CMU Health, along with community partnerships.

"If you benchmark CMU to other institutions within and outside of Michigan, we are doing very good," Kikano said. "This isn't due to just one single approach, but I credit the screening app, COVID-19 testing on-site with 24-hour results and surveillance testing."

In his opening report, President Bob Davies also noted the decline in cases.

"I attribute this success to the sustained efforts of students, faculty and staff to protect themselves and others by wearing masks, practicing social distancing and embracing CDC best practices for health and safety," Davies said.

In addition to COVID-19, trustees received an overview of CMU's new brand from John Veilleux, vice president for university communications and chief marketing officer, and Abby Dean, director of integrated marketing. The new brand kicks off this month with a series of print, billboard, radio and digital advertising to appear across the state throughout the next year.

The brand promise — "You will learn to lead in life" — was built through more than a year of work, beginning with extensive market research.

CMU Board Chair Tricia Keith and President Bob Davies have a discussion prior to the Sept. 24 virtual Board of Trustees meeting.

President recaps FY20, presents new initiatives

In his 2019-20 annual report to the board, Davies addressed the intense pressure that COVID-19 has placed on every aspect of the university. Yet he acknowledged the ongoing hard work and dedication of faculty, staff, students, alumni and the community as everyone navigates through the pandemic.

"Through it all, our community has shown a powerful commitment to our mission, vision and values," his report states. "Again and again, they demonstrate their desire to ensure students have the opportunity to pursue their academic goals, and their support for the university keeps us moving forward on many fronts."

The report highlights achievements such as:

  • The first- to second-year retention rate was 79.8%, exceeding a rate of 74% in the previous year.
  • Two students and three faculty members received Fulbright Awards for 2020, and one student received a Goldwater Scholarship.
  • CMU funded the first cohort of projects with The President's and Provost's Fund for Innovation.
  • CMU is the first university to have AACSB accreditation for both the School of Accounting and the College of Business Administration reaffirmed through a virtual visit.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency presented CMU its 2019 College/University Partner of the Year award — the highest individual award a college or university can receive from the agency.

In addition, Davies set forth the following new initiatives for the current fiscal year:

  • Diversity and equity: This is focused on Davies' commitment that CMU will become antiracist.
  • Access and affordability: The goal is to limit costs to students and their families, while increasing the return on investment of a CMU education.
  • Academics and programs: Continued resource reductions are driving prioritization of programs, both academic and service, that enable CMU to serve the most students possible while ensuring they succeed academically at CMU and professionally after graduation.
  • Innovation: CMU must develop alternatives to degree programs and fund programs that expand its ability to serve lifelong learners and individuals who may not be seeking a degree, and programs that address complex issues facing our communities, advance quality and excellence, utilize an interdisciplinary approach and meet new and emerging needs of the communities we serve.

Davies also announced one of the largest estate gifts in the university's history — nearly $10 million — from alumnus Robert M. Richmond. The gift is to be used by Davies to meet university goals and objectives.

"We will utilize this gift to do what we do best, support our students," Davies said.

The complete year-end report is available online soon.

Independent audit and other business

In other matters, trustees received a clean, unmodified audit opinion — with the highest level of assurance — from CMU's external audit firm Plante Moran.

In other business, trustees approved:

  • Emeritus rank for 12 faculty and staff.
  • More than 760 students for graduation this past August.
  • Authorization for President Davies to sign a contract with a campus dining vendor.
  • Revisions to the CART/SmartZone District Restrictive Covenants.
  • Several new naming opportunities, including three in the Culinary Nutrition Center in Wightman Hall and five in the Chippewa Champions Center.

The board also received a report of external grant funding of faculty and student research of more than $18 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30.

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