May 2011

This is my last update for the 2010-11 academic year. Tomorrow morning Pat and I leave Harrisonburg for a three-month sabbatical. Most of our time will be spent in retreat settings for reading, exercise, and family time. Twila Yoder will be monitoring my EMU email messages and forwarding only those that are critical for me to know before I return to the office in early August. Fred Kniss, provost, will be serving as acting president May-July. I am grateful to the Board of Trustees for encouraging a sabbatical that is to be primarily given to self-care and renewal, and I am very grateful for a strong team of leaders who will carry on in my absence.

Strong number of tuition deposits

We are pleased with the strong number of deposits received to date from new first year students for next fall. It is considerably higher than any year of the past decade at this time of the recruitment cycle. Of course, we remind ourselves daily that we cannot “count” these as students until they arrive on campus. And, we fully realize that total enrollment comprises many programs and that retention of current students is a major factor. The undergraduate admissions office, under the leadership of Stephanie Shafer, has worked very hard to bring us to this point. The many phone calls, notes, and other contacts by faculty and staff have also made a big difference. Thank you!

A busy academic year

The past two weeks have seen a flurry of activities to wind down the academic year as we traditionally think of it, ending with Commencement Weekend just concluded. There is much more to come before we close the books for the year on June 30:

  • several cross-cultural groups leave this week
  • Summer Peacebuilding Institute begins soon
  • Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival in June
  • continuing the renovation of Maplewood residence hall
  • hosting many conferences and events
  • inviting donors to contribute generously to the University Fund
  • recruiting more students
  • planning for 2011-12 and beyond
  • and much more

The unsung heroes among us are the many folks who work long hours behind the scenes to make sure our campus is gorgeous for major events like Commencement. I am reminded of what a former president at JMU once said to a parent who made a complimentary comment about the beauty of JMU campus on a special weekend, “We should thank God for creating such a beautiful campus.” To which the president quipped something like, “Yes, but God couldn’t have done it all without our help.”

Strategic Planning Council

Several days ago the Strategic Planning Council enjoyed an ice cream party to celebrate the significant accomplishment of completing our goals and objectives for the next several years. Kudos to Provost Kniss for the staff leadership he has given to the process. Our primary work for next year will be to monitor progress on each of the goals and to meet with various stakeholders to strengthen operational planning toward those ends.

Campus projects

The solar project on the roof of the library has been performing beyond our expectations. Since going online in November the installation has produced 45,000 lbs of carbon offset and saved 32 trees. Anyone can watch the output in real time by going to www.emu.edu/solar. Checking the site for the last week confirms that the weather on campus was a beautiful sunny day last Saturday and not so sunny for Commencement Sunday!

We continue to pursue the possibility of doing a much larger second array above the parking spaces in the north of the University Commons. It is a complex process involving financing and construction challenges, and we will continue to update the campus community as plans develop or are abandoned (at least for this year). There is no question that this would be a great step for the environment and for EMU as a leader in sustainability efforts, but we have to ensure the project’s viability financially to minimize long term risks.

Recent reading

Some of the books I’ve been reading:

  • Blue Zones by Dan Buettner
  • Going Home to Glory by Dwight Eisenhower
  • Inner Productivity by Christopher R. Edgar
  • A Leader’s Legacy by Kouzes and Posner
  • Integrity by Henry Cloud; 9 Things a Leader Must Do by Henry Cloud
  • Peace and Par by Michael Shingleton (this is one for those who like the game of golf!)

I am very thankful for my iPad—I will take dozens of books along on sabbatical without boxes in the trunk of our Sonata.

Our best wishes go with our students for the summer months and particularly for those who marked the completion of their undergraduate or graduate programs this weekend. May God grant each of you great joy and energy in the days ahead as you transition to new places and take on new commitments.

Blessings, Loren