Letter from the President / The Trend Freshman Issue
Welcome freshmen and returning students!
Our 103rd year gets underway with one of the finest and best-prepared freshmen classes ever to cross through the campus gates. Our first-time freshmen are coming to USAO this fall with a 23.1 average ACT score and a 3.46 average high school GPA. The profile of these students, along with other enrollment trends and near-occupancy campus housing, are strong indicators that the Mission Enhancement Plan – which incrementally raised USAO’s admission standards to the highest in the state over four years – is working precisely as intended.
No doubt this is why the NBC Today Show featured USAO’s academic quality, the only program’s only reference to a public institution, on Aug. 17 in a special segment on U.S. News rankings.
You are attending a unique institution! No other school in Oklahoma has higher standards, serves the same mission, or is a national historic district. There are many reasons we stand alone.
But this fall, I want to boast on the creative faculty and staff with whom you will be working. I believe no other school in Oklahoma has responded so creatively to the economic downturn. At USAO, state appropriations have fallen by $717,000 this fiscal year and $303,000 last year. To protect the college’s mission, faculty and staff have accepted painful salary cuts of 1-3 percent – last year and again this year. And, in the new USAO Magazine this fall, you’ll find a feature story on the $400,000 in savings generated by their creative approaches.
For example: faculty are putting more course content online, reducing paper waste. The library is cutting its energy consumption significantly. New greener technology is replacing old. The physical plant is doing more subcontracting on major plumbing, roofing and remodeling projects, which will save nearly $300,000 this year – all of which will be used to protect the MEP.
Despite financial exigencies, the mood on campus remains optimistic. Like students, faculty and staff who came before them at OCLA and OCW, the current campus family lives the college’s liberal arts philosophy and legacy with a stubbornly hopeful outlook and a resilient dedication to excellence.
That’s what I love most about USAO. It’s people and their spirit – what they bring when they come, and what they leave behind. This fall we welcome a new crop of faculty and leadership to replace those departing. This summer, after many years of loyal service to the mission, we said farewell to Dr. Sanders Huguenin, who becomes provost at the University of Virginia at Wise; and to Julie Bohannon, who leaves alumni development to raise funds for the Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma.
Proving you can go home again, Dr. Dex Marble returns to campus this fall as vice president for academic affairs. Many alumni remember him as history professor and stalwart leader in the Interdisciplinary Studies Program. He retired from USAO in 1997 after 25 years in the classroom, pursued a career in law, and recently returned in this new role. This fall, the faculty also welcomes molecular biologist Dr. Ray Willis who earned his Ph.D. from Texas Tech.