It is an exciting time to be affiliated with the University of Mississippi and it appears that this is no secret. As you may have heard, our overall enrollment numbers are up this fall both at the university and within the College of Liberal Arts despite national data indicating continued enrollment declines across universities, colleges, and community colleges. It appears our success in this regard is due not only to our ability to recruit students within the state, nationally, and internationally, but also our ability to retain the students on campus. We are particularly proud to see our freshman to sophomore retention rates are the highest ever and we are projected to have our largest freshman class in university history. Further, and perhaps most importantly, our graduation rates continue to improve.
Each year when I write this column there is a common theme, how proud we are of our successes and progress. This year is no different. Since my arrival on campus just over 7 years ago, I have witnessed the tremendous impact your support has on the College of Liberal Arts. It has undeniably helped us become a stronger college, which has significantly contributed to the many successes of the university as a whole. If you don’t know already, you will read in the pages ahead that UM is currently engaged in the largest fundraising campaign in state history. You will also see that the broad areas in which we are asking for your continued assistance include enhancing support for our students, our faculty, and our facilities and the foundational commitment of our university’s strategic plan, which focuses on equity.
While not a comprehensive list, below I include examples of our accomplishments made possible by the generous contributions of many.
Support for Our Students
- With your help, we have improved the advising services available to our undergraduate students and increased support to programs designed to help our students graduate and successfully matriculate to graduate studies or employment. During the pandemic, this has been particularly helpful as we have been able to do a better job linking students with available resources.
- Since implementing a program to make our doctoral student stipends more competitive, we have seen enrollment across our 11 PhD programs increase by almost 25% and the number of students graduating with their terminal degree increase by nearly 62%. Graduate stipend support from generous donors has helped to make this happen.
Support for Our Faculty
- We have created eight new College-level awards that focus on the research and creative achievement of our faculty. All but one award has been endowed by generous gifts from alumni and friends. These awards come with a medallion to be worn at graduation ceremonies, a plaque recognizing the faculty member’s achievement, and a cash award.
Support for Our Facilities
- Over the past several years, gifts from generous alumni and friends have assisted us in making $7.5+ million in much needed facility improvements and upgrades. We have focused efforts on three kinds of renovations: acquisition of new space, renovation of existing space to help improve faculty productivity, and renovation of outdated teaching spaces to improve the learning environment of students.
Enhanced Support for Equity
- Along with the faculty, staff, and students in the College, we have worked to create a plan that will truly make a difference. This said, some students struggle with unexpected costs associated with their education, and your generosity enables these students to complete their degrees and live their dreams. Also, we currently find ourselves in a competitive academic environment. Gifts from alumni and friends allow us to provide additional support to attract and retain our very best faculty through endowed professorships or summer research awards.
Our university is strong and getting stronger. Your support of the College of Liberal Arts helps to make that possible. Thank you for your interest, I anticipate that you will enjoy reading about the many accomplishments of our faculty, staff, and students over the past year as you read through this newsletter. Further, I believe you will be proud of your alma mater. Hope to see you on campus sometime soon!