BIG RAPIDS – In a State of the University address on Sept. 4, Ferris State University President David Eisler discussed the University’s past and future. The address was one of several activities coordinated to celebrate Founders’ Day, in honor of school founders Woodbridge N. and Helen Gillespie Ferris.
“If you went to Ferris State, you know who founded your University. There’s this wonderful link and tradition at our university to our founders and the values they stood for,” Eisler said.
In a wide-ranging presentation, Eisler traced the University’s roots from its first class of 15 students in 1884, who attended class in a rented space, to its current enrollment of more than 13,000 students at an 800-plus acre campus in Big Rapids, an urban campus in Grand Rapids and other satellite facilities throughout the state.
The president also reviewed the work the University has done in the past year in terms of strategic planning, as well as adopting the first University-wide diversity plan.
Among the physical changes to campus, Eisler touched upon the ongoing classroom renovation project, and the need to create spaces for students to continue to study and collaborate outside the classroom. One success he emphasized in terms of expanding the area for students to work together is the Interdisciplinary Recourse Center/Business building connector. This is an area that has study carrels and work space, in addition to a recently opened Starbucks outlet.
Future physical plant priorities the president identified include upgrading residence hall facilities to meet incoming students’ needs and expectations, implementing a comprehensive energy conservation plan, and configuring parking to meet commuter needs.
Financial challenges and successes also figured prominently in his presentation. The president noted state figures from 2000-01 to 2006-07, which show the impact of budget cuts on the University.
“No institution had its appropriations reduced more per-student than Ferris State. During that period, our appropriations are 27.9 percent less,” he said. “Nonetheless, considering state revenue and tuition increases, the University’s overall amount of spending at Ferris has increased an average of 2.1 percent over those years – less than the general 2.6 percent rate of inflation and the 3.6 percent Higher Education Price Index.”
Considering the public funding landscape, Eisler said the University is looking to launch its first comprehensive capital campaign. He also said scholarship resources for students need to be increased – especially for graduate and need-based students.
Additionally, the president talked about upgrades to the University’s emergency preparedness, environmental sustainability, and employee and student wellness initiatives.