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Bachand addresses student success

President Don Bachand gives his State of the University address and discusses campus renovations, university challenges, marketing and student success. Vanguard Photo | Brooke Elward

President Don Bachand highlighted the importance of student success and community outreach during SVSU’s Feb. 6 State of the University Address.

To a nearly full crowd, Bachand reviewed SVSU’s accomplishments so far for the current academic year.

Highlights included making The Chronicle’s Great Colleges to Work for, Military Times’s Best for Vets and ranking fourth nationally for Niche.com’s best dorms.

“The foundation of SVSU remains very strong,” Bachand said. “We have outstanding academic programs and facilities. … We have a carefully crafted financial executive plan.”

Renovations

Bachand said such awards “only skim the surface of the work done in the last year” at SVSU.

Another major upcoming point of pride will be the opening of the new downtown Saginaw location. He said the location will focus on service learning and community outreach.

“We expect the downtown location to be very active,” Bachand said. “Our social work program will be the anchor, but it will also be a center for community engagement.”

A grand opening date will be announced shortly, he said. Another upcoming opening will be the official dedication of the newly modeled and expanded Carmona College of Business, slated for Monday, Feb. 24.

Bachand thanked the 340 private donors who donated a combined $15.5 million to the building’s construction.

“The space and the project have exceeded all expectations,” he said. “It’s outstanding. It will provide state-of-the-art facilities to students and faculty.”

Brown Hall will be the next major renovation, he said. Project planning is underway to make Brown Hall the “type of high-impact learning environment we see in the Zahnow and College of Business,” Bachand said.

Project planning has begun, and updates will be announced soon.

Updates to SVSU’s “unseen infrastructure,” or cyber security, are also underway.

“We are undergoing significant cyber security projects,” Bachand said. “The threat of stolen data and ransomware attacks have serious financial and security consequences on our university.”

Bachand said multifactor authentication will soon be fully implemented, and other security updates will come in the near future.

“Serious challenges”

Bachand shared the “predictable set of pretty serious challenges” SVSU has faced this year.

Those challenges include fewer students graduating from high school, retention, decreasing state funding for higher education and increasing worries about student debt.

“Tuition and fees represent nearly 72 percent of our revenue to operate this university,” Bachand said. “Two years ago, we saw a significant increase in freshmen.”

Bachand said the increase meant SVSU was able to fill dorms to capacity, increase credit hours offered and hire more staff. However, freshmen enrollment again decreased this year, and upcoming new student applications are down 5 percent as of Feb. 7, he said.

“The consequences of enrollment decline are obvious,” Bachand said. “Although several universities are trending in a similar fashion, … I
work here – I care about what’s happening here.”

Marketing

Bachand said SVSU has “taken serious steps to increase recruitment.”

Steps included beginning to work with marketing firm Carnegie Dartlet three to four years ago to create prospective and current student personas. They help SVSU create marketing materials for different types of students.

“This research drove our marketing campaign and still influences are marketing campaign,” Bachand said. “They work with us to develop more effective communication practices, marketing and financial aid.”

The Carnegie Dartlet research led to the #we campaign, an increase in admission recruiters and more financial resources dedicated to student aid.

“Carnegie Dartlet is helping us with the development of new strategies to leverage our finances as successfully as possible,” Bachand said.

Student success

Bachand said student success will be an overarching goal across SVSU’s campus.

“The most common measure around student success is retention and graduation numbers,” he said. “Student success is more than maintaining retention and graduation numbers. It involves engagement on and off the campus, goal attainment and, ultimately, employability.”

Bachand said student success already is happening through student employees being recognized for their reliability and role in making SVSU great.

“Student success is already happening in all kinds of way on this campus, but we need more of it,” Bachand said. “Motivating students to be successful should be the goal of everyone on this campus.”

He said student success includes offering resources so that the pass rates of upper-level courses are higher, providing high-quality courses the marketing is demanding and providing students access to courses when they need them so they can graduate on time.

SVSU will begin offering Student Success Forums so faculty and students can discuss how to better serve students. The first forum is 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11.

Points of pride

Bachand closed the address by highlighting points of pride so far this year.

Those include Student Association raising $20,000 in November 2019 for Midland’s The ROCK Center for Youth Development, even though Grand Valley State University dropped out of the charity fundraiser.

In December 2019, the nursing program’s simulation labs became nationally accredited. Bachand also highlighted the recent successes of Moot Court, the design awards won by theatre students at the Kennedy Center over the semester break and 90 student-athletes being named to All-American teams during the Fall 2019 semester.

Feb. 2-3, SVSU raised $75,000 thanks to 1,100 donors during the university’s annual 2/2 fundraising campaign, Bachand said. The proceeds will go toward athletics and scholarships.

“These are all positive things, and now it’s time for us to ramp up our efforts,” he said. “We are trying to maintain and move ahead. … Doing nothing is not going to improve anything. It’s not an option. … In 2021, we should see an SVSU that is stronger than it is today.”

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