President's Letter to Campus - Spring 2006

Monday, March 27, 2006

Steadman Upham, President

Dear Colleagues,

Some of you may have been as stunned as I was to read the following report from the Chronicle of Higher Education (from Today’s News, March 17, 2006):

"A study released on Thursday of the most distant light in the cosmos has allowed cosmologists to probe the universe in its first moment of life, only a hundred-billionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after it blinked into existence in the Big Bang.

The data, collected by a NASA satellite called the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, or WMAP, strongly support the so-called inflationary theory, which holds that the universe expanded from smaller than a marble to its currently visible size in less than 10 to the minus-35th seconds."

Now, if we could just get our campus construction on the same time schedule!

More seriously, campus construction is moving ahead rapidly. We are on schedule, and I will provide more details below. I know, however, that many of you are curious about the progress of our planning for a new capital campaign. Let me begin my spring letter to the campus community by providing you with an update.

In February, the board of trustees gathered in Oklahoma City with senior university administrators and Faculty Senate President Bob Howard to discuss TU’s future. Coming out of two days of intensive and spirited discussion was a general consensus on the need to undertake a new capital campaign as well as preliminary agreement on the strategic "cornerstones" of such a fundraising effort. The cornerstones are assembled from the strategic plans of the collegiate deans, and represent foci for fundraising in the future. They include efforts to:

  • recruit and retain outstanding students and faculty
  • broaden and deepen the international focus of the TU Curriculum
  • strengthen and expand opportunities for interdisciplinary research and collaborations across campus
  • enhance TU’s fine and performing arts
  • extend TU’s reputation in Division I-A athletics
  • support the sophisticated and ever more costly tools of learning upon which the best universities depend (libraries, computer infrastructure, scientific instrumentation, equipment, and facilities, etc)

The goal remains to move TU into the top 50 national universities, and in so doing to strengthen all facets of the university. The board of trustees will continue their conversations and deliberations at the May board meeting, and will adopt a specific plan sometime thereafter. I will keep you abreast of details as we progress down this exciting and potentially transforming path.

These important discussions about TU’s future have already begun to bear fruit. I am pleased to report to you that in the fall, we will inaugurate a new program called the Wellspring Professorships. This initiative results from generous new funding from the Chapman Trusts, and is intended to help TU expand and diversify its faculty in accordance with the goals of the strategic plans of the collegiate deans. Specifically, the Wellspring program will create nine new junior faculty positions. We will commence searching for the following tenure-line positions in August 2006:

  • Assistant Professor of African American Studies/Women’s Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences (this individual will also serve as director of the Women’s Studies program)
  • Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship, Economic Development, and Business in the College of Law
  • Assistant Professor of International Business with a specialization in China in the College of Business Administration
  • Assistant Professor of Biochemical Engineering in the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences
  • Assistant Professor of Cyber Security with a specialization in hardware in the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences
  • Assistant Professor of Materials/Nanotechnology in the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences
  • Assistant Professor of Film with a specialization in production in the College of Arts and Sciences
  • Instructor of Chinese in the College of Arts and Sciences
  • Instructor of Portuguese and Spanish in the College of Arts and Sciences

The name Wellspring Professor derives from the hope that adding these new junior faculty positions now will help TU manage the wave of faculty retirements that will come over the next decade, while allowing the university to build in areas of strength and strategic opportunity. I have asked the Faculty Senate Equal Opportunity Committee to serve in advisory capacity to each of these searches to make sure we take full advantage of this opportunity to diversity the faculty.

Campus construction projects remain on schedule and within budget. The south side of campus is particularly disrupted by the construction of two major new campus buildings and Bayless Plaza. These disruptions are likely to become even more complex this summer, when most of the existing buildings between 11th Street and 8th Street (from Florence to Delaware) will be razed to make room for new student apartments and TU’s front entrance. We are also seeking to amend the campus master plan so that we can build new graduate and law student housing on the northeast corner of campus along Harvard Avenue. Our goal is to move toward having 80% of all TU students living on campus, up from about 65% at the current time. Importantly, our ambitious timetable has some of these new housing units on the south side of campus available for the fall 2007 semester.

Several ad hoc university committees and task forces have been hard at work this academic year, and have either completed or are nearing completion of their assigned tasks. I want to extend my personal thanks to the dedicated faculty, staff, students, and trustees who have served so effectively on these committees. The following committees and task forces are progressing in their work:

  • The Ad Hoc McFarlin Library Budget Reallocation Committee has finished its report. In early March, committee chair Dale Schoenefeld reported on the committee’s work to the Faculty Senate. The report and a discussion site are available on-line via WebCT Vista ( ). The report is also posted on the Faculty Senate website at ( The ad hoc committee has made important recommendations that build on the work of the Faculty Senate Library Committee. I encourage you to read and comment on the report’s recommendations.

  • Provost Roger Blais has appointed several committees to examine aspects of the Tulsa Curriculum. These committees are focusing on writing and mathematics, languages, Tiers I and II, Tier III, and internationalization. Each is making good progress and will have a report available for campus discussion in the next few weeks.

  • Vice Provost Winona Tanaka and Associate Athletic Director and SWA Crista Troester continue to advance the work of TU’s NCAA Compliance Committee. This committee’s charge is significant, and has involved working groups comprised of numerous faculty, staff, and students. The committee’s report will form the basis for the NCAA Compliance review site visit that is scheduled this coming October. When the report is finished, it will be posted on-line for broad campus review and discussion.

  • The Long Range Parking Planning Committee continues to meet and develop its recommendations. I have been briefed on the group’s work by committee chair Charles Colby, and I am encouraged by the comprehensive nature of their thinking and on the creative problem-solving approach the group has taken. The committee’s report should be available in a few weeks. It, too, will be posted on line for campus review and discussion. I am confident that this report will provoke many comments, all of which will be reviewed and vetted before any final actions are taken.

The entire TU Family has ridden the wave of excitement and pride with the TU women’s basketball team. The Golden Hurricane are C-USA regular season champions and C-USA Tournament champions, two historical firsts for the program and the university. It is also the first time that a TU women’s basketball team has participated in the NCAA Championship Tournament, where the Golden Hurricane progressed to the second round. Congratulations to Coach Charlene Thomas-Swinson, and to the players, assistant coaches and support personnel for representing the university so well on the national stage.

TU’s spring men’s and women’s sports teams (tennis, track and field, golf, rowing, and softball) are also doing well. I encourage you to support our student-athletes by coming out to watch a match, meet, regatta, or game in the next few weeks. All of our teams are competitive, and several are in contention for record setting years.

All of you know that this has been a challenging budget year in many ways, and I want to end my spring letter to our campus community by thanking each of you for doing your part to keep us on track financially. We will balance our budget by fiscal year end because of your stewardship of the university’s resources. Ending the year with a balanced budget is an especially important achievement now as we attempt to expand our campus, improve salaries, and recruit and retain outstanding students from around the country.

I send my personal best wishes to each of you.

-- Stead