"STATE OF THE UNIVERSITY"
Hello, I’m Dan Jones, Chancellor of the University of Mississippi. As we are about to welcome a new freshman class, it’s my privilege to share with the University Family some of the good things we experienced together this past year, some of what we can anticipate in the coming year, and some of our shared hopes, dreams, and challenges.
I begin here on hallowed ground in the Grove. For generations, the Ole Miss faithful have gathered here in this place under these magnificent trees, where friendships…and romances… have begun. This place is a reminder of what we love most about this university….its beauty, timelessness, strong academic programs, opportunities to develop strengths…like leadership and an understanding of service, the excitement associated with athletic events – and the feeling of family on game day.
It’s a place where prospective students from all around the world come – and fall in love – with Ole Miss.
Here, let us celebrate another amazing year for the University of Mississippi. Last fall, we welcomed more than 19,600 students to our campuses – including more than 3,000 freshmen – a record for our university – a record that we will break again this year. In fact, in just two years we have experienced a 55 percent increase in applications to the university. And we’re especially proud of the fact that as our enrollment skyrockets, the quality of an Ole Miss education becomes even more universally recognized each year. We’ve just received a new national accolade by Forbes. Ole Miss has been named to their “Top 20” list of “Best Buy Colleges” in America. Of the 650 top colleges and universities – as ranked by Forbes – the University of Mississippi and the University of Florida were the only two SEC schools to make the prestigious “Top 20” designation. And in their overall ranking of quality, regardless of price, we were given the fourth-highest rating among SEC schools with only Vanderbilt, Florida, and Georgia receiving higher rankings. Attracting this unprecedented number of students, and maintaining this degree of quality help us achieve our highest priority: the opportunity to transform lives.
Clearly, the university’s continued growth is built on a strong track record of success. The support and encouragement our students receive from our remarkable faculty, demonstrated by success markers such as retention and graduation rates, are proof of our faculty’s commitment – even in these times of severely constrained resources. This year, we expect over 300 freshmen in the Barksdale Honors College - with an average ACT score above 30 – and over 600 freshmen with an ACT over 26 will take part in our Provost Scholars Program.
Today, the university ranks in the top quartile of all public research universities for research expenditures, and is increasingly successful in obtaining highly sought after, competitive, peer-reviewed funding from every major federal agency. This past year, the university faculty, staff, and students garnered over $163 million in external funding to support more than 500 different research projects.
On our campus at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) in Jackson, we continue to set records. We just graduated the largest class of health professionals in the history of the medical center. And we’re especially proud of the fact that our medical center was ranked FIRST – NATIONALLY – in adult patient satisfaction – among academic medical centers in the U.S.
And in addition to these remarkable medical accomplishments, UMMC creates a powerful economic impact by being our state’s second-largest employer – providing jobs for more than 9,000 Mississippians.
We also have reason to be proud of several major construction projects that enhanced our campus during this past year. Among them, the Robert C. Khayat Law Center housing our School of Law, the Lucky Day Residential College, our first new research facility in Insight Park, the renovated Brevard Hall in our School of Engineering complex, and the groundbreaking Center for Manufacturing Excellence – associated with the School of Engineering.
Our students and faculty are also engaged in making the world a better place – close to home and around the world. In Belize our students are replacing miles of plank bridges with essential roadways. It’s because of initiatives like this, transforming the lives of others, that we have been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.
In athletics, it’s an exciting time to be a Rebel! Although we’re coming off a disappointing year, we have the right coaches and leadership in place to take us to the next level. Alumni support and passion for the Rebels as reflected in attendance and financial commitment are greater than ever. In fact, athletics has recently announced an unprecedented Capital Gift Facility Campaign of $150 million….including a new state-of-the-art sports arena that will house basketball – and – the bowling-in of the football stadium. We’re committed to winning championships – and wearing our colors with pride!
One of the most exciting new initiatives for the coming year is our new Strategic Plan, UM 2020. It is a bold vision for a purposeful approach to enrollment in our undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs with strategies to assume a strong student body and strong faculty and staff for the future. It calls for a careful balance between academic excellence and access to higher education, particularly for the citizens of Mississippi. It calls for excellence in every aspect of the university’s life. And it calls for building on our important traditions in ways that will continue to make our university, our state, and our world a better place.
There are many reasons to feel good about the future of our university. But there are significant challenges for us as well, not the least of which is the tough economic environment which will make funding for higher education a continued challenge.
Whether you are a student, faculty or staff member, alumnus, donor, or sports fan, now is the time to come together. We must not allow our passion around issues not central to our mission to divide us – or distract us. The opportunity to transform individual lives is too important. The opportunity to transform the world through service is too important. The opportunity to excel at all we do is too important. Now, more than ever, it’s time for the entire Ole Miss family to come together with pride, with purpose, and with a unified vision of the future.
For more details about many of these exciting things I’ve been sharing with you, I hope you’ll visit us online at “olemiss.edu/chancellor.”
Our successes are many – and so are our opportunities. I invite you to join me in building on those great traditions that ARE Ole Miss. Thank you.