President Feaver Sets Ambitious Goals for Final Year as Science & Arts’ Leader
By President John Feaver
Welcome to the spring semester here at the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma! Though 2023 will be the year I step down as university president after more than two decades in this position and more than four serving this institution, I have no intention of resting on my laurels. Instead, I have an absolute duty to capitalize on the fantastic things we are now accomplishing in order to set the next president up for success, not to mention for the students, staff and faculty who are the true measure of this university’s legacy of excellence.
Probably the most important new initiatives that Science & Arts has embarked on recently are the several partnerships that we are developing with other public colleges and universities involving shared functions, programs and services. These innovative collaborations include academic and administrative ties with Redlands Community College, Murray State College, Cameron University and Western Oklahoma State College. Additionally, to help address Oklahoma’s critical nursing need, we have signed an agreement with the University of Oklahoma College of Nursing that will provide students with the benefits of a broad-based liberal arts education in addition to the technical training required for a successful career as a registered nurse. This next year my goal is to not only strengthen these partnerships, but look at additional opportunities for collaboration. We will also be increasing online classes available at this university, both for regular students as well as non-traditional ones looking for additional credentials, certifications and other ways to advance their careers. While these all stand as important initiatives that will help Science & Arts meet the challenges of the 21st century, they will also ensure we are able to meet the needs of both our students and Oklahoma’s workforce.
Beyond our academic collaborations, Science & Arts is also hard at work forging community partnerships focused on the revitalization of Chickasha’s historic downtown commercial district. Art Wrecker Studio has proven to be a highlight of downtown not only as a professional gallery space to exhibit original artworks and other performances, but also as a distinctive venue for special community events. We are also developing plans for the renovation of additional historic downtown architecture into mixed-use space that would include student housing, retail and commerce, as well as recreational, entertainment, and arts and cultural opportunities for the entire region.
We also provide innovative programs here that are beyond the scope of many other universities, and these endeavors are not just academic in nature. Our Neill-Wint Center for Neurodiversity is one of the only programs in Oklahoma designed to provide support for students with autism spectrum disorder while they are pursuing a college degree. Since we began the program in 2017, it has run at capacity with a significant waiting list, and shows no signs of slowing down. Already the recipient of several major gifts in its few years of existence, one of my goals is to see the Center secure the kind of support that will ensure it can operate indefinitely.
Given that Science & Arts exists on what were historically Native American lands, and that we receive significant support from the U.S. Department of Education through their Native American Serving Non-Tribal Institutions grant, it is imperative that we pay attention to teaching and learning in the culture and history of these peoples as well as reenforce our relationships with the tribal governments operating in our state. My fervent hope is that we are able to create two new endowed chairs, one in American Indian Education and the other in Oklahoma Native American Art this year.
Of course, as with any university in this day and age, increasing our enrollment, retention and graduation numbers is a paramount priority. Over the past two years, we have made great strides in this area, with record numbers of first-time freshmen choosing the distinctive interdisciplinary education that they can only find at Science & Arts. Before I hang up my presidential robes, I would like to see Science & Arts’ full-time enrollment continue to grow on the strong positive trajectory that is has established in recent years, as well as significantly increase the numbers of students we retain through to graduation.
While these goals certainly appear ambitious, Science & Arts is already well-positioned to achieve them thanks to the extraordinary work that our staff and faculty put in every single day. I am most pleased that the people who work and teach here consistently demonstrate a common understanding that by effectively teaching our students about the diverse nature of the world in which we live it will lead to better human cooperation, better relationships and ultimately a better society. As I close out my long tenure at the helm of this fine school, I know that there is still much to accomplish. I also know, however, it is simply a part of upholding and continuing our proud tradition, and the essentials of our historic institutional missions and purposes.