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Gaertner Addresses State Of University

President Jim Gaertner

University President Jim Gaertner addressed such issues as construction, enrollment and SHSU recognition and accolades during the annual faculty/staff convocation Wednesday afternoon.

—Photo by Brian Blalock

Sam Houston State University President Jim Gaertner emphasized growth in various forms as he kicked off the academic year during the annual faculty/staff convocation on Wednesday (Aug. 22) afternoon.

Unofficial figures are estimating a 3.07 percent increase in student enrollment, or 491 students, giving SHSU a total enrollment of more than 16,400 students, with minority student enrollment growth a .5 percent a year as a proportion of student enrollment, he said.

In addition, the SAT average for SHSU’s incoming freshmen is 1032, which is 35 points above state average and 11 points above national average.

Gaertner attributes SHSU’s growth to the university’s “outstanding academic programs and friendly, welcoming and caring atmosphere,” as well as upgraded facilities, higher admissions standards and the student retention efforts of the Student Advising and Mentoring Center and the Enrollment Management division.

“Parents want to see their students go to a university that has high standards,” Gaertner said. “Growth happens if you do these things right, and we do these things right.”

Academic growth includes new doctorates in history and math education, pending approval by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and bringing SHSU’s total number of doctrates to seven; a Bachelor of Science in history; a Master of Science in accounting; a Master of Science in information assurance and security; and a Master of Arts in speech communications.

“National Science Foundation Grants represent the hallmark of excellence in research in the sciences, and in 2007-08, Sam Houston will host six NSF grants,” Gaertner said.

Accolades received by SHSU in the past year include a second-time naming to Princeton Review’s “Best of the West” list, as well as recently being one of 12 colleges and universities nationwide featured in the US News and World Report online edition’s “America’s Best College” publication.

Headlined “Growing Fast But Staying Friendly,” the SHSU article highlighted the student population growth of more than 22 percent in past five years, new buildings and student apartments.

“Incoming students who might flounder without extra attention find Sam Houston State relentless,” the article said. “All freshmen receive six weeks of instruction from upperclassmen in study skills, test taking, and time management.

“Once they've been to the Student Advising and Mentoring Center for the basics, director Bill Fleming hopes they'll come back if they need a tutor or a confidant,” the article continued. “If they don't, faculty members notice when students are failing or skipping classes—and the center follows up.”

Current areas of the university’s physical growth include the $2.25 million mall area extension, scheduled to be complete by October; new surface parking where the Colony Apartments are located will add 350 new spaces by November; and the $30 million classroom and office building, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, is expected to be completed by this time next year.

Future construction projects that have been planned, some of which are awaiting approval by the Texas State University System Board of Regents, include a $7.25 million dining facility across from the Student Health Center, with construction expected to begin in May 2008; and a $35 million performing arts building for dance, music and theatre, with a 15-18 month construction anticipated to begin in the summer of 2008.

In addition, the university has sold the 13.2 acres where the university’s agricultural operations are currently located, across the highway from Raven’s Nest Golf Course, for new hotels and a conference center.

By January 2009, Huntsville should have a completed Fairfield Inn and a Garden Inn, both by Marriott, and a 7,000 square foot conference center with three new restaurants to be constructed on site.

The agricultural facilities will be consolidated at Gibbs Ranch with a $2.5 million allotment to do so.

Finally, plans are being made for the finalization of the 2009-2018 Master Plan, “our blueprint for what should be done on this campus,” that is anticipated to be completed by May 2008, Gaertner said.

The university’s Capital Campaign has also undergone considerable growth, from only 37 living individuals contributing $25,000 or more in 2003 to 71 current donors contributing $25,000 or more, including seven seven-figure gifts.

The campaign has raised $36 million of the $50 million goal with more than 10,000 total donors and 63 percent of the university’s employees participating.

“Our focus is on scholarship, endowments, professorships and chairs, in that order,” Gaertner said of the goals for the money raised.

Among the areas the university needs to address are state funding, for which Sam Houston is currently listed as 32nd out of 35 for funding per full-time equivalent student; and the University of Houston Tomball campus, which was defeated by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board but is still a concern for SHSU because of its potential effect on SHSU’s enrollment.

“As the (Texas State University System) chancellor and I know, they’re going to come back or some other university is going to come back to that area between here and Houston,” Gaertner said. “We’re going to have to stay alert and do everything we can to have a more permanent presence in The Woodlands.”




SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt
Aug. 22, 2007
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