Behind the News
ALMOST IMMEDIATELY AFTER THEIR CAMPUS SUSTAINED heavy damage from a February 5 tornado, officials at <b>Union University</b> in Jackson, Tenn., began a strategy for assessment, recovery, and rebuilding.
Classes at the Christian liberal arts university were scheduled to resume on February 20, says news director Tim Ellsworth, "and given the extent of the damage to campus, we're thrilled with that timetable." He adds, "We're just trying to make decisions on where we are going forward. There's a lot of damage on campus, and we are just trying to make decisions and do the best we can for the students and everyone involved."
COMMUNICATION EFFORTS. In the hours leading up to the tornado, Union's Resident Life Team monitored weather reports and sent updates to students through an intercom system. Later they led students down to the lower levels of the buildings. After the tornado struck, some students were trapped in rubble; as of press time in mid-February, five were still in the hospital with serious injuries. No deaths were reported.
Officials first sent news reports of the tornado's damage through traditional media sources and then launched an emergency blog, according to Ellsworth. As the emergency phase of the disaster concluded, daily information was posted on two websites: www.uurecovery.com, and Union's main site, www.uu.edu. A Union Facebook site also carried information, along with supportive messages and offers of assistance from the public.
ASSESSMENT. Seventeen campus buildings were damaged in some form or another. Approximately 40 percent of residence halls were destroyed, while another 40 percent were severely damaged. Academic and administrative buildings have been affected as well. Union got hit with damaging storms in 2001 and 2002 but, notes Ellsworth, it was nothing like this.
While an initial assessment team from TLM Associates, also in Jackson, found damage to each of the several buildings designed by the firm, they were "structurally fine," reports architect Ginger French. Newer campus buildings were designed to withstand "high earthquake"; those measures don't account for possible tornadoes but mean the buildings can withstand strong winds, she explains. Ground had recently been broken on a new residence hall, but a structure had not yet been started on the site. TLM was not involved in designing the residence halls, which were older buildings.
BACK TO BUSINESS. Students have been allowed back on campus to pick up personal items. For buildings that were considered unsafe for entry, recovery teams bagged undamaged belongings. A local inn owned by a Baptist church will house 300 students through this December. Another 350 students will live in undamaged residential life buildings on campus. About 250 students have secured off-campus housing. Union expects to place about 200 students in the homes of Union faculty, staff, and friends.
Two other IHEs located within five miles of Union did not suffer any damage, attesting to the unpredictable nature of tornadoes. Fred Zuker, president of <b>Lambuth University</b>, a private institution affiliated with the United Methodist Church, says student housing was offered but was not needed, and the administration is standing by to offer other assistance as needed. A prayer service was held on February 7 on behalf of all the victims.
Administrators at <b>Jackson State Community College</b> have offered classroom space, as well as the use of other offices and technology, says spokeswoman Heather Kennedy. In addition, faculty and staff are coordinating with the Red Cross on collections for the greater Jackson community. <em>-University Business staff</em>
JOHN M. RUDLEY IS A FAMILIAR face at <b>Texas Southern University</b>, having begun his higher ed career there as an internal auditor before becoming vice president of fiscal affairs in 1984. Last month, he was named its 11th president.
Along with his financial expertise and leadership experience, Rudley offers reassurance for the historically black institution, which is still shaken from a financial debacle. Former president Priscilla Slade was fired in June 2006 after an internal audit determined she had spent nearly $650,000 in school funds on personal luxuries.
Slade was prosecuted for two felony counts of misapplication of fiduciary property over $200,000. Last October, a mistrial was declared after the jury deadlocked. Three other TSU officials were also indicted, and a former chief financial officer was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Due to TSU's financial state, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed it on probation.
In a media release, Rudley noted his vision is to have TSU claim a rightful place in Texas higher education. "This is where I belong," he adds. "I am home now, and together we will move forward." Board Chair Glenn Lewis acknowledged Rudley's credentials, saying his "experience and demonstrated financial management success are exactly what this university needs."
Rudley was most recently acting in the interim dual position of system chancellor and president at the <b>University of Houston System</b>. He was also VP for business and finance for the Tennessee Board of Regents and served as a senior technical advisor with the U.S. Department of Education. <em>-Michele Herrmann</em>
THE IDEA SEEMED STRAIGHTFORWARD. CONSOLIDATE THE DONOR databases for the five <b>University of Massachusetts</b> system campuses, thus providing improved software and database tools and a potential savings of $840,000. "It's a best practice approach, with safeguards for the campuses to have access to their own information," explains Robert Connolly, VP for communications. But in published reports, the Amherst Alumni Association, which is independent of the UMass system, resisted sharing its membership list because of privacy and fundraising concerns.
This issue doesn't arise often because not many alumni associations are independent, explains Rae Goldsmith, VP for communications at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. "The real question is, 'Does the nonpublic entity have to share information with the public entity?' " The answer is dictated by open records laws in each state.
But it didn't come to a legal dispute in Massachusetts. After some haggling, it was agreed that a dual system would be developed, with the information from the Boston, Dartmouth, Lowell, and Worcester campuses in one section and that from Amherst in another. "Each campus is in charge of its own fundraising and that won't change," says Connolly. "It was just a matter of providing a better database." He adds that the consolidated database is in line with an ongoing effort to improve services and affect cost savings by taking a common approach on various items, such as IT and legal services. "There's been a move to go forward in a joint manner, but respecting autonomy." <em>-Ann McClure</em>
SOME SPORTS PROGRAMS ARE BIG BUSINESS, GENERATING ATTENTION AND millions of dollars for their respective higher ed institutions, but some student athletes still have unmet financial need. A class action lawsuit filed in 2006 sought the restoration of funds for incidental expenses, such as travel and phone bills. Although scholarships covering the full cost of tuition, room, and board are frequently available, a shortfall can occur when the total cost of attending college is considered. Pell Grants are also an option, and eligibility is one consideration for access to assistance funds the NCAA maintains.
Preliminary approval of a settlement in the lawsuit was obtained on February 4. "Student athletes will have greater flexibility to access funds," explains NCAA spokesman Bob Williams. The Special Assistance and Academic Enhancement funds, totaling $218 million, were created in the 1990s and earmarked for specific uses. Through 2012-2013 the funds will be accessible under the guidelines for the Student-Athlete Opportunity Fund, which has a wider variety of applications. The fund money is from an NCAA agreement with CBS and ESPN that expires in 2012-2013. The settlement also creates a $10 million fund to assist former Division I student athletes who were members of the class action suit. Class members will be able to apply for reimbursement for educational expenses such as degree completion. Other terms include a new rule allowing Division I institutions to provide year-round health insurance and permission for Division I institutions to provide basic accident coverage for injuries stemming from participation in athletics. Williams says IHEs will see a minimal business impact from the ruling. Class members will have until May 23 to review the settlement, with a hearing for final approval scheduled for June 30. -A.M.
PARENTS RELY ON COLLEGES FOR INFORMATION on the costs of education-with basic questions needing answers most, according to results of the 2007 Survey of Parents of College-Bound Freshmen, released by Sallie Mae in January 2008. Of the 400 parents surveyed in September 2007, more than one-third saw the college financial aid office as the best source of information on costs.
When asked what they sought most from this office, "an honest assessment of total costs over four years of college" came out on top, with a 39 percent response. And 32 percent sought "basic information about federal loans, private loans, and payment plans." "This points to the need for increased dissemination of the most basic kinds of info," says Sallie Mae spokesperson Beth Guerard.
In communications with families, administrators cannot assume that an understanding of the importance of college translates to being prepared financially. While 82 percent of respondents said a college education is worth the cost, fewer than half said college is affordable. Fewer than one-quarter of families began initial discussions about college payment before or while their child was in elementary school.
Some colleges have acted on the perception of unaffordability with online college cost calculators. <b>Southwestern University</b> (Texas) has a homepage link to its "affordability calculator," which families can use to see that a private institution, specifically Southwestern, can be affordable. From December 2006 to January 2007, the calculator page was viewed 9,579 times, officials report.
About one in 10 parents surveyed for Sallie Mae said they have not filed and don't intend to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
Encouraging families to file it can be done in a multitude of ways, as <b>Abilene Christian University</b> (Texas) officials know. Admissions office marketing campaigns, presentations, and promotional brochures, as well as the merit-based award letter to students, remind families of the need to file. And a financial aid step-by-step website highlights the importance of doing so, says Hayley Webb, director of Admissions. In addition, Abilene Christian staff conduct admissions and financial aid seminars both on campus and on the road, encouraging families to start the college planning process earlier.
With only one-third of Sallie Mae survey respondents wishing they had begun saving for college earlier, Guerard says, "it appears families would benefit from increased and earlier education about saving for college." <em>-Melissa Ezarik</em>
THE AUGUST ISSUE OF UNIVERSITY BUSINESS WILL CONTAIN A FEATURE HIGHLIGHTING student residence halls designed to meet the needs of today's student. These Dorms of Distinction will be chosen for their ability to:
make students feel at home;
foster a sense of community through interior and/or exterior spaces;
help keep students and their belongings safe; and
incorporate "green" elements in an aesthetically pleasing way.
Nominations will be accepted through May 1 for on-campus and off-campus student residences and for two- and four-year colleges and universities. To request more information, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
<b>Crucibles of Leadership: How to Learn from Experience to Become a Great Leader</b>
<em>By Robert J. Thomas, Harvard Business School Press; 2008; 256; p.p.; $29.95</em>
WHAT MAKES A GREAT LEADER? HOW IS it that two leaders, similarly positioned for success, can have two very different outcomes when confronted by a "crucible event"? The answer, says Robert Thomas, is based on the understanding that practice and performance are the same thing.
There are numerous classes and seminars that teach leadership skills, but completing a course does not a leader make. What ultimately matters is how one applies the lessons learned (performance) to a crisis, while simultaneously being aware of the things from their learning (practice) that need to be revised in light of their new experience.
Thomas, who serves as executive director of the Accenture Institute for High Performance Business, interviewed hundreds of successful men and women to devise a series of exercises designed to help readers gain valuable insight from their experiences, insight that will help them realize the complete picture of successful leadership. <em>-Tim Goral</em>
ADMINISTRATORS AT <b>NATIONAL UNIVERSITY</b> (Calif.) are taking the idea of customer service seriously. About a year and a half ago, Chancellor Jerry Lee invited trainers from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company to discuss "legendary customer service" with the leadership staff at the private institution. As a result, a student concierge service was created as a one-stop option for students to get answers to questions ranging from student portal password resets to adding and dropping classes.
"We're trying to give students one place to call," explains Kenneth Goldberg, VP for Student Services. Students can call or e-mail for assistance.
In January the 10 advocates staffing the concierge line handled 5,600 student-initiated inquiries. Goldberg says the advocates, already staff members at the institution, can resolve 80 percent of the calls and track problems directed to other offices through completion. Continual training should keep the resolution percentage high, and careful staffing during peak call times keeps wait times under one minute. Now that kind of service would make any student smile. <em>-A.M.</em>
IT'S BATHROOM HUMOR IN good taste: A venture capitalist paying $25,000 for the rights to name a lavatory on the <b>University of Colorado at Boulder</b> campus. The second-floor men's restroom in the ATLAS building now features donor Brad Feld's name and a plaque with his words of wisdom: "The best ideas often come at inconvenient times-don't ever close your mind to them."
ATLAS, or the Alliance for Technology, Learning and Society, promotes interdisciplinary research and educational and outreach programs, uniting students, educators, and leaders from industry and government. Feld's connection is indirect: He's a board member of The National Center for Women & Information Technology, housed in the ATLAS building.
Feld made a similar proposal to officials at MIT, his alma mater, a few years earlier but was turned down. He mentioned his failed attempt to ATLAS director John Bennett, who, in turn, took Feld up on the offer for his own university.
Opened in fall 2006, the ATLAS building, a $31.1 million project, has other naming opportunities still available. They include a black-box performance space for $1 million, a tower for $500,000, benches for $25,000, and auditorium seats for $1,000 each. There is also a $2.25 million building co-naming opportunity.
And, yes, benefactors can follow Feld's example. "We have other bathrooms people could name," says spokesperson Bruce Henderson. <em>-M.H.</em>
TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY ARE BIG BUSINESS IN Daytona Beach, Fla., and now this city's community college has an eye-catching facility to help prepare students for work in the industry.
FUNCTION: The School of Hospitality and Culinary Management (with classrooms and labs, three instructional kitchens, a "high-def" demo kitchen for broadcasting lessons, a 125-seat restaurant, and five hotel rooms with a registration area), and the Southeast Museum of Photography (with gallery space, work areas, and an 82-seat movie theater)
PROBLEM: An elementary school purchased in 1992 and then remodeled had served both the hospitality and culinary programs. Its single small kitchen and public dining area made teaching difficult. And with classes maxing out at 12 students, "it really limited the growth of the program," says Jeff Conklin, director of DBC's Culinary Management Program. In addition, the campus of this community college needed an impressive gateway. "We were well off of the main road, so it looked like a large parking lot for a mall," says Steven Eckman, director of Facilities Planning.
SOLUTIONS: A new hospitality and culinary facility built over some of that parking lot has provided needed space, plus room to grow. Conklin says it actually takes culinary students less time to clean up after class than in the much smaller original kitchen. The restaurant is now open an additional day per week, as well as one evening. In the hospitality area of the building, students can practice their guest relations skills on actual guests, including friends of the college such as potential new faculty members.
The designers strove for multipurpose use in many areas of the facility, explains architect Joe Sorci. Its large lobby, for one, can be divided into smaller sections for restaurant events, museum special exhibits, or training and instructional activities.
It was key that the facility look sophisticated to those driving by on the main road. Serving as a campus front door, the facility "looks like a resort and feels like a resort," Eckman says. Sorci points to a trellis patio and ornamental metal details, traditional Mediterranean design elements, a large banner space used as an event marquee, a fountain (which uses a storm water collection system), and lush landscaping as resort-like details.
Not surprisingly, enrollment is booming. DBC as a whole has at least 10 percent more students this year, and the hospitality program has more than doubled in less than a year, from about 100 students to about 280, Conklin says, adding that there are now five full-time faculty instructors and three lab technicians, compared to the full-time teaching staff of one in the old facility.
COST: $26 million (approximately $14 million raised from private local donations and matching funds from the state)
TIMELINE: Occupied August 2007, grand opening November 2007 (which served as kickoff for the college's 50th anniversary celebration)
PROJECT TEAM: FLA/Florida Architects, PPI Construction Management <em>-M.E.</em>