It is a pleasure to welcome you back to campus for the spring 2020 semester at Illinois State University.  I hope you had an enjoyable and healthy break and are looking forward to a productive and exciting spring term.

As classes begin, our total spring enrollment will be about the same as our spring 2019 enrollment despite a large fall graduating class of over 1,300. Still, when the 10th day census arrives, we expect a robust total enrollment of over 19,300 students.  Meanwhile, we remain busy recruiting for the fall 2020 class.  Illinois State has already received more than 14,000 applications and has offered admission to more than 10,600 students for fall 2020. Enrollment deposits are running an impressive 8.4 percent above this time last year.

The new calendar year also ushers in a fresh legislative cycle, and the 101st General Assembly is back in action, with Governor Pritzker’s budget address set for February 19.  You will remember that this fiscal year, the Governor and General Assembly began reinvesting in public higher education, adopting a FY2020 operating budget for Illinois State of about $69.6 million—a 5 percent increase over the FY2019 appropriation.

They also increased to $25 million, Illinois State’s funds for the Monetary Award Program, or MAP, which assists our students with the greatest financial need, and added $4 million in funding for the new Aim High Program, which provides students some merit-based funds at the state level. In total, Illinois State is providing $66 million in aid this year, including student employment, benefitting more than 17,000 students.

In addition, a capital bill appropriated $62 million for the Wonsook Kim Fine Arts complex renovation and construction, $82 million for Milner Library, and $40 million for a host of capital renewal and deferred maintenance projects that will span the next six years. During the coming months, I will continue working with our local and state legislative leaders and the Governor’s office to continue investing in Illinois’ future through meaningful funding for public higher education, including increased MAP funding.  I will also be pressing for the release of already appropriated capital funds. Illinois State remains the third largest educator of Illinois students among the state’s 12 public universities but still receives the lowest appropriated share per student of any of the state universities. I will continue my efforts to gain support to increase the University’s share of the total appropriation for public higher education.

Meanwhile, I am thrilled to report that the Redbirds Rising campaign has surpassed the $170 million mark, attracting more than 54,000 donors, including more than 22,600 new contributors. Almost $66 million of that total is earmarked for student support.

The search for Illinois State’s next provost and vice president for Academic Affairs continues this semester.  We will keep you updated on the search progress as well as the eventual public sessions for finalists.

Among continuing spring semester construction projects are the space for our Cybersecurity major and the Bone Student Center revitalization. For the Student Center, work on the Dean of Students offices, Timbers Grille and Star Ginger dining venues, Bird’s Nest gathering area, Faculty-Staff Commons and the Prairie Room will be the focus of this semester’s efforts. Meanwhile, planning is underway for a new ISU Multi-Cultural Center. The Instructional Technology and Development Center (ITDC) staff have been relocated to Williams Hall and the Multi-Cultural Center will occupy the former ITDC building west of Main Street. Construction is planned to start in the summer and the Center is scheduled to open in the Fall of 2020.

Upcoming events this semester include our January 24 Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Dinner featuring Angela Rye. Illinois State’s Black History Month will bring to campus Adolph L. Reed on Thursday, February 13, offering a keynote address on the 1979-1981 Atlanta Child Murders. The following week is the Illinois State Founding Celebration on Wednesday, February 19 and Thursday, February 20. The newly-styled event will honor the many accomplishments of our faculty, staff and alumni. The University will also observe such traditions as the Faculty/Staff Appreciation Luncheon, Loyalty Circle Breakfast, Bell Ringing Ceremony and the Alumni Awards Banquet.

On April 18, Illinois State will be the host venue for the Lincoln Academy of Illinois.  This community event will honor individuals whose contributions to the betterment of humanity have been accomplished in or on behalf of the state of Illinois.  Among those being honored are two ISU icons—Ambassador Donald F. McHenry and basketball great Doug Collins.

As we prepare for a busy and successful spring semester, I will look forward to seeing you at our many academic, cultural and athletic events.  I will continue to seek and appreciate your feedback and support, and I wish you the best for the coming months.


Larry H. Dietz