The 172nd academic year at Bridgewater State University began with the annual opening day breakfast in the Flynn Dining Commons, where President [b]Dana Mohler-Faria[/b] spoke before an audience of more than 700 faculty and staff, sharing his thoughts on plans accomplished and developments to come.
"This weekend, as students were moving in, I walked around the campus and was impressed with how enthusiastic the students were," he said. "It's wonderful to watch them and look into their faces and see the excitement in their eyes."
[i](Click below for a longer version of this story with more from the president's speech.)[/i]
He said the beginning of a new year at the university is a time for reflection and contemplation. "It's a time for me and for us to reflect where we've been, where we are and, more importantly, where are we going as an institution," he said.
In the pursuit of "an environment of excellence," the president listed a number of developments from the past decade: construction of nine new buildings, including the Science and Mathematics Center; completion of 17 major renovation projects; a new parking garage, as well as a University Park slated to open next month on East Campus; continuing construction of a new 500-bed residence hall, called Weygand Hall; and renovations to Burnell and Hart.
Future plans include construction of a new admissions and financial aid welcome complex, a new graduate school building, and a new faculty development center that will occupy the lower level of Maxwell Library.
"You realize that we have transformed this campus like no other in the commonwealth over the past ten years," the president told the crowd.
However, he added, physical transformation is not worth much if it's just a physical transformation. "It really must have purpose and meaning," he said. "And on this campus, it adds tremendously to the development of our students, to the opportunities for our faculty and staff and for our outreach to our broader community. Our facilities serve a great purpose. We have been on the move."
On the academic front, the president noted a number of recent achievements. They include: a climbing graduation rate; 40 percent enrollment increase over the past decade; 70 new faculty positions created and filled over nine years, with nine more faculty to be hired this academic year; 27 international partnerships, with BSU helping Cape Verde create its own university; a rise in retention rate over seven years from 68 to 81 percent among freshmen to sophomores, and to 79 percent among students of color and low income students; freshmen making the dean's list has risen to more than 30 percent from 19 percent five years ago; and new campus locations established in New Bedford and Attleboro, with potential future sites in Brockton, Canton and on Cape Cod.
The president concluded his remarks by offering what he said is his description of "who we are" at BSU.
"We are people who have come together at this institution not only to educate our students in the traditional sense but to gather together, to pull them together, to teach them about life," he said, "life in the classroom, life beyond the classroom, life as it exists as a parent, as a son or a daughter as a friend, as a co-worker, life as we know they will experience it. That spirit of vision, of commitment, and of understanding who we are." (Story and photo by David K. Wilson, '71, Office of University Advancement)