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August 2010 Issue

Chairman Willis Potts Addresses the Board of Regents

Chairman Willis Potts Addresses the Board of Regents

On August 10, Regent Willis Potts addressed the full board for the first time in his new position as Board Chair for FY11. His remarks are below:

I welcome everyone to our first Board meeting of the new fiscal year. At the outset, let me formally and publically state what I have said to my fellow regents informally: I appreciate the support and confidence of the board in selecting me to serve as your chair for the coming year. I pledge that I will do my absolute best to validate your confidence. And I will be very ably assisted at the board level, by Regent Felton Jenkins as the vice-chair and by each of you who have so graciously assented to serve as committee chairs.

We all know that we have a number of very significant challenges and opportunities ahead, and it will take the ongoing attention and participation of all. I’m going to doff my engineer’s hat for the next few minutes in order to outline our agenda over the next year in the most concise and succinct manner possible.

I will start with a quick summation of the structure and process we have developed for our work and our meetings over the coming year. Then I will move into our key areas of focus, which will be:
*Our students and how we enable them to be successful,

*Our research and economic development efforts,

*Our relationship with our educational partners, and

*Our strategic plan.

We will organize our meetings this year towards achieving a few specific goals:
*To provide greater opportunities for your exposure to and participation in issues before the board;

*To increase the transparency of our actions and inclusiveness of the board in the process;

*To use your time effectively and efficiently; and

*To have at least one substantive discussion topic at each meeting.

To help us achieve these goals, we will have eight operational committees in FY11:
*Student Success, chaired by Regent Larry Ellis;

*Research and Economic Development, chaired by Regent Jim Bishop;

*Academic Affairs, chaired by Regent Dink NeSmith;

*Organization and Law, chaired by Regent Larry Walker;

*Internal Audit, Risk and Compliance, chaired by Regent Kessel Stelling;

*Real Estate and Facilities, chaired by Regent Jim Jolly;

*Finance and Business Operations, chaired by Regent Ben Tarbutton; and

*Health Professions and Education, chaired by Regent Ken Bernard.

The special committees on Residency Verification, also chaired by Regent Jolly and Personnel and Benefits, chaired by Regent Wanda Yancey Rodwell, will continue on an ad hoc, time-limited basis, until their charge is completed.

The key point I would make about our process and structure for the year is that topics of interest/importance to all Regents, or that would be educational for all, will be conducted in committees of the whole.

Moving on to key areas of focus – first and foremost is what we as a System are about: our students. And for the year ahead, I want to continue our long-standing emphasis on improving student success. That is the primary rationale for the creation of the new Student Success Committee. We must recognize that student access is important, but that we are defined by STUDENT SUCCESS.

As you have heard me say, I consider it unethical and immoral to take students’ money and then not do our utmost to provide academic quality and academic support. We need a paradigm shift from how students experience us to how we experience them. And that means a renewed sense of how this University System serves our students – each as a unique individual.

Let me just highlight a few points regarding student success.

The Retention, Progression and Graduation Committee this past year has been a very positive development for the University System. Through this committee’s work, we understand the challenges associated with retaining and graduating students. We will have a full report from the committee in October, but please know that we have made progress and our campuses all now have three-year plans to improve retention and graduation.

One thing I have learned in our study of retention and graduation is that the key is engagement — tethering students to the campus and faculty. There are hundreds of ways to do this, manifested differently on different campuses, but it is the key to boosting our graduation rates.

Just to give you an example, engagement can mean everything from a coach keeping track of how all his or her athletes are doing, mid-term, to a professor asking for undergraduates to assist her in a lab. The nature of engagement isn’t as important as putting the labor in to make it happen. I admit that back in March when I discussed graduation and retention I just may have sounded a bit harsh. Let me publically thank the presidents for their dedication to this effort – it is having a positive effect!

One thing I did not mention, in March, however, was the role of students themselves in student success. We need our student leaders to step up and help presidents boost student engagement on our campuses. I say this because I know students are up to taking responsibility for their own education and success. Also during the year, we shall learn about accreditation from Southern Association of Colleges and Schools representatives and how this supports our focus on student success in terms of academic excellence.

In addition to the issues we must address by the very nature of who we are, I want to bring emphasis and Regent education to key parts of our vision and mission that we do not normally spend much time addressing – research and economic development.

This is a great system and we have tremendous assets and investments in terms of basic and applied research as well as economic development. We all know our research stars – Tech, UGA, the Medical College and Georgia State. But there is research occurring throughout this System. And there is the exciting potential for more and new research – perhaps in places we have never considered or provided either resources or motivation to pursue.

Since the mid-1990’s the Board of Regents has placed an emphasis on employing the power of the System to help the state’s economic development efforts. The successful ICAPP program is the most visible product of this emphasis. And at the institutional level, the Archway program at UGA is another, more recent example.

Unfortunately, budget reductions have served to shrink our effort at the System level. But I believe that in these current economic times, now more than ever we need System-level efforts to spur growth. And that is why I have established our new Research and Economic Development Committee. I want us to explore how we can step up our efforts in these two critical areas of our overall mission.

Over the past several years, we have been engaged in an ongoing conversation with the Technical College System on a number of issues. If our focus is on students, then I believe we must continue our dialogue with the best interests of students in mind. This is another area of focus during my term as chair, with the goal of creating a more transparent and closer working relationship with the Technical College System.

We welcome the dialogue and we look forward to how our two systems, together, can increase opportunities for students and success for them as well.

As I thought about these remarks, I reviewed the Strategic Plan this Board adopted in 2007.

This has been a very good blueprint for us – one that as Chancellor Davis has noted, has been even more important in these very turbulent economic times. But the times “they are a’ changing” and so we must be flexible in our plans.

With all that has happened, is happening, and will be happening, some of our assumptions are now out of date. Therefore, this year we will review the Strategic Plan.

And I looked at our vision statement. Our vision statement is very easy and plain to read and understand. In the midst of all that we are currently addressing – budgets, admission, growth, success and access – I want us to do our best to keep our focus on this vision statement.

Let me just read that statement: “The University System of Georgia will create a more educated Georgia, well prepared for a global, technological society, by providing first-rate undergraduate and graduate education, leading-edge research, and committed public service.” A copy of the full vision and mission statement has been placed in your board book.

This is a good way to continually remind ourselves of our purpose and our focus: on teaching, research and service.

Now, I’m putting my engineer’s hat back on and saying some Geeky stuff. You’d be disappointed if I didn’t!

Several years ago, I had a fascinating conversation with Andy Dolich, who at the time was President of Business Operations for the NBA Memphis Grizzlies. I’m not sure how the conversation evolved, but we wound up talking about the need for “Scopes” in making an organization successful. Here are SEVEN: *MICROSCOPE – to look at the little things – to make visible the fascinating details of those worlds within worlds all around us.

*TELESCOPE – to look at those remote objects we can only dream about.

*STETHSCOPE – to check on the heart of the organization.

*PROTOSCOPE – to venture to those places where you don’t want to go, but you must.

*GYROSCOPE – to keep everybody centered on the target, even during rough times.

*PERISCOPE – to stealthily figure out what the rest of the world is doing so we can capitalize on it.

*HOROSCOPE – a mix of science and sorcery – to conjure up our plans for the future.

It is my hope that during this challenging academic year, we can use our own metaphorical “SCOPES” to focus our energy where it is needed.

Again, thank you for your attention and for all that you will undertake on behalf of our students over the coming year.

Posted by Sonja Roberts on August 31, 2010
Published in: Board of Regents

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