Following approval by our Board of Control this afternoon, Zahnow Library will soon undergo a $12 million renovation project. This is in direct response to student demand for more study spaces, and a move toward a modern library that no longer requires stacks and stacks of hardbound volumes for students to do rigorous research. Work is expected to begin next May and the target completion is August 2017. Renovations will affect all four floors of the library, as well as our adjacent dining facilities. More specific details will be available once a construction partner is selected. My appreciation to everyone who has played a role in planning this improvement over the past number of months.
This is the season of giving, and many of you are very generous to SVSU. Faculty and staff pledged more than $1 million during the recent Talent-Opportunity-Promise campaign. We also continue to receive incredibly strong support from our university’s most loyal benefactors. The Harvey Randall Wickes Foundation has made a $1.5 million commitment to support the library renovation. The Dow Corning Foundation has pledged $381,000 to continue the Dow Corning Foundation-SVSU STEM Community Partnership for three additional years. In its first two years, this program aimed at improving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education at the middle school and high school levels has resulted in remarkable success. Please join me in thanking these two foundations and everyone who donates to SVSU for continuing to express their confidence in our university.
It is no surprise, but it is welcome news to be formally notified that our nursing program received renewed accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Both our baccalaureate and master's degree programs in nursing are accredited for 10 years; this level of endorsement is rare and should be a source of great pride. In addition, we received initial accreditation for the Doctor of Nursing Practice for five years – the maximum possible – and the post-graduate Advanced Practice Registered Nurse certificate program for 10 years. All of this is a testament to the fine work taking place throughout our nursing program, which now is the largest traditional undergraduate program in Michigan and consistently boasts pass rates well above the national average on the licensing exam. Congratulations to all involved.
One of the highlights of my week was attending a poster session by freshmen who have been part of our Transitions program. These students who might need additional support in their transition from high school to college all took a course that introduces students to the university culture and helps them develop the skills to be successful in college. Based on my conversations with a number of these students, it is working. These students were poised and articulate in expressing that they are learning from their mistakes and developing the self-confidence that comes from overcoming challenges and accomplishing goals. Many of these students have utilized the academic and extracurricular resources we have to offer. Final grades are not in and there is another semester ahead, but I suspect our retention rate for this group will exceed projections because of the hard work and determination of these students, and because faculty in the program are supportive while holding students accountable to real learning objectives. I left that poster session inspired. Keep up the good work!
While final exams were winding down, our campus was filled with energy and excitement Thursday as more than 800 high school business and marketing students from Alpena to Holly were on campus for the regional DECA competition. This is a great opportunity to bring motivated and talented high school students to campus. My thanks to all the faculty and staff who volunteered to judge or otherwise assist with the day’s activities. We want such students to meet the fine people who work here.
On behalf of the young boys and girls who will receive a gift from the Toys for Tots program, thank you to everyone who contributed. More than 300 toys were donated on campus over the past few weeks. Nicole Jewell, an exercise science major from Swartz Creek, took some time between exams to collect the toys from across campus this week. Aaron Mowen, director of campus recreation programs, served as the face of the program for this year’s TV campaign. Again, my thanks to all who support these types of charitable causes to improve the quality of life for people in our region.
The holiday season is indeed joyous, but for the nearly 640 students expected to complete degrees at the close of the semester, nothing is more wonderful than sharing the Commencement ceremony with their family and friends, and the faculty and staff who have made a difference in their lives. I hope to see many of you tonight and tomorrow.