Greetings and Happy New Year. I am pleased to welcome you back for the spring 2017 semester at Illinois State University. I hope each of you enjoyed a healthy break and are ready for a busy and productive spring term.

I want to give a special shout out to the hundreds of you who participated in the University-wide Teaching & Learning Symposium at the Marriott Conference Center last Thursday. Our Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology does an outstanding job in producing the conference, and this year’s theme, Start Where You Are: The Journey Towards Cultural Responsiveness, speaks to a lot of what is currently happening on campus.

The President’s Task Force to Address the Campus Climate Assessment has completed its first report. In accepting the report, I want to express my deepest gratitude to the Task Force Steering Committee and Membership for investing hundreds of collective hours to analyze the Assessment, learn more about current University diversity initiatives and make recommendations to the Task Force Sponsoring Leadership. You can read the report at the Office of the President website. As the spring semester begins, the Sponsoring Leadership and other governance leaders will begin to address the report’s recommendations. While I cannot promise all recommendations will be quickly implemented, I can promise all will be thoroughly discussed. As the Task Force continues its inspiring work, I know we all understand that making ISU a more inclusive and welcoming community is everyone’s responsibility.

The progress of the Climate Task Force and start of the spring semester also present members of our Illinois State community the opportunity for renewed commitment to our stated values of Learning and Scholarship, Individualized Attention, Diversity, Integrity, and Civic Engagement. With this in mind, Academic Affairs and Student Affairs are working with the campus community to develop initiatives that foster collegial spirit as part of a campaign titled, “What it means to be a Redbird.” I look forward to the positive impact this effort will have on students, faculty, and staff.

Some ISU leadership changes will be coming to our Board of Trustees, as Trustees Betty Kinser, Anne Davis, and Jay Bergman said farewell to Board activities last week after a combined 35 years of service. As we await the governor’s appointment of new Trustees, we thank the trio for their outstanding service to the campus, community and state.

The state budget for ISU and the rest of public higher education is much the same as it was at this time last year. As the 99th General Assembly closed last Tuesday, there was increased budget communication, but again, no action on a fiscal year 2017 spending plan. Illinois State remains strong and stable because of its high enrollment, low debt, and careful spending. We have also made the commitment to our students to provide all Monetary Award Program (MAP) funds. Meanwhile, we continue to press the governor and 100th General Assembly to invest fair and predictable funds into college and universities, and to make good on their promises to MAP grant students.

The coming days and weeks will be filled with campus activities, including the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Dinner, Founders Day, Speakers Series presentations, and a variety of artistic, academic, and athletic events. I invite you to enjoy everything Illinois State spring 2017 semester has to offer, and I thank you for your service to our students, families, alumni, and friends.