On Wednesday morning September 30th, LSU Shreveport hosted the inaugural Dr. George and Rita Kemp “State of the University” Forum. A large crowd was in attendance for this event. The audience was comprised of: LSU Shreveport professors (both current and retired), politicians, local business leaders, LSU Shreveport alumni and LSU Shreveport staff. LSU Shreveport Chancellor Larry Clark (keynote speaker for the event) introduced and recognized Dr. George Kemp (long time Professor and Chair of the LSU Shreveport Dept. of Psychology) for his many contributions to the university during his long tenure. Dr. Kemp was also personally responsible for the planting of the many trees (most of them now quite large) which surround both the perimeter and main grounds of LSU Shreveport. Dr. Kemp gave LSU Shreveport the endowment funding that made this event possible. Dr. F. King Alexander, President of the LSU System, made the trip up from Baton Rouge for this event. In his remarks, Dr. Alexander mentioned several key targets and initiatives for the entire LSU system – specifically as they relate to LSU Shreveport.
First of all, Dr. Alexander mentioned that LSU Shreveport has the greatest potential for growth of any school in the entire LSU system. Dr. Alexander went on to say that he wants to see the day that LSU Shreveport has a student enrollment of around 8,500 students in this “new day” of higher education. In quoting Dr. Alexander, “Let it be said that this campus is not going anywhere! The need is too strong for higher education in this region. We are not a flagship institution if Baton Rouge is our only campus.” He went on to elaborate as to just how important of a part LSU Shreveport plays in the success of the entire LSU system. Dr. Alexander also included our local LSU medical school in his comments. He concluded by saying that our LSU students need to both change and transform their respective local economies.
Before Chancellor Clark’s keynote address, LSU Shreveport Foundation President and local businessman/banker Harold Turner thanked our local state legislative delegation (many of whom were in attendance) for their continued support of LSU Shreveport. Mr. Turner also mentioned the 38 new scholarships that the LSU Shreveport Foundation has been instrumental in developing in recent months. Sarah Kirkpatrick (President of the LSU Shreveport Alumni Association) also talked about LSU Shreveport’s significance in preparing her for law school. She also spoke of “alums” giving back to our community.
Next, it was Chancellor Clark’s turn to deliver his “State of the University” address.
Chancellor Clark spoke of an initiative to develop more activities for LSU Shreveport students which will in turn help to build the university’s undergraduate student population. Chancellor Clark also mentioned the great success of the LSU Shreveport Debate Team (and the team’s 2012 national championship). The success of the LSU Shreveport Bass Fishing Team/Club (and how they have maintained a #1 national ranking for the past 18 months) was also mentioned.
Chancellor Clark also talked about the university’s new student engagement initiative “School of Rock” (for reading and tutoring). In terms of athletics, Chancellor Clark jokingly stated that the campus does not yet have Saturday football and seriously mentioned that soccer is not expected to return any time soon.
Most of all, Chancellor Clark made it clear that LSU Shreveport is a place where students matter. He also mentioned the university’s new purple and gold logo which both brands and helps to further establish LSU Shreveport’s connection with the A&M (main) campus in Baton Rouge. Furthermore, Chancellor Clark mentioned the university’s New Student Initiative for Fall 2015: “Metacognition.” For 2016, the New Student Initiative will be the Student Success Center which will focus on student retention. Clark said that the “Student Success Center” will be a place where good students become great students. Chancellor Clark went on to say that 31 local doctors have agreed to give their time in helping LSU Shreveport pre-med students prepare for medical school. And, he further stated that over 100 “alums” (who are now professionals in our local community) have agreed to help mentor current LSU Shreveport students.
Nearing the end of his address, Chancellor Clark also mentioned that LSU Shreveport must work with other Shreveport-Bossier based institutions of higher education such as Southern University Shreveport and Bossier Parish Community College. He further mentioned that his university must also work with Barksdale Air Force Base. A greater focus on international students was also mentioned, along with some focal points for the new academic year such as: enrollment, budget and short-term/long-term goals. Chancellor Clark also made the audience aware of the fact that LSU Shreveport is now only two years away from it’s 50th anniversary celebration. Forming an even better and stronger relationship between LSU Shreveport and our local LSU Health institution (LSU Medical School) was also mentioned by Chancellor Clark.
In conclusion, Chancellor Clark stated that many LSU Shreveport “alums” are employed in our local school systems. He said that LSU Shreveport needs to be a part of helping to build this community. And, he mentioned a new program whereby LSU Shreveport education students will be guaranteed a job in education in the Caddo Parish school system. He went on to say that coming soon, both Bossier parish and our surrounding parishes will be added to this new guaranteed educational employment program .
At the end of Chancellor Clark’s address, questions from the audience were heard.
In answer to some of the questions asked regarding what the community can do to best help LSU Shreveport, Chancellor Clark stated that LSU Shreveport needs to be more about the community and in turn, the community needs to be more about LSU Shreveport. Chancellor Clark mentioned that LSU Shreveport is now the lowest cost higher educational opportunity in the entire state of Louisiana. “However, do not call us cheap,” he said.
In response to another question asked regarding the future of higher education in Louisiana, President Alexander remarked that the state needs to give higher education a predictable budget. “Higher Ed does not need to continue to be the whipping dog of the state budget.” It should be duly noted however that the state constitution will have to be changed/amended so as to first protect higher education. Dr. Alexander also noted that the LSU system as a whole must do a better job in funding research. He also mentioned the need for the LSU system to erase it’s backlog in deferred maintenance. In his final statement, Dr. Alexander said “imagine what could happen if we spend just a little bit more on higher education than we are spending now.”