The summer Commencement ceremony is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 19, another sign the end of the summer term is rapidly approaching. The graduating class consists of more than 280 students who are expected to graduate, including nearly 200 who have indicated that they intend to participate in the ceremony.
Our speaker will be Dick Thompson, who has served this university and our students well in a variety of roles over the course of his 40 years here, including 18 years as Dean of Student Affairs and nearly three decades as adviser to Student Association.
We are nearly finished with hiring new faculty for the upcoming year, and when all is said and done, we expect to have around 30 new colleagues joining us this fall. Twenty-one of them are participating in the new faculty institute this week. Erik Trump, professor of political science, is now leading this program, which has proven to be quite valuable in helping newcomers acclimate to our institution. When you encounter one of our new colleagues, please make them feel welcome.
A number of our students are returning to campus this week, too, as student-athletes begin preparing for their upcoming fall seasons and RAs receive training to serve our residential students. Our new class of freshpersons starts moving into residence halls Wednesday, Aug. 21. My thanks to those faculty and staff who have volunteered to help them during the move-in process; it makes a good impression on our students and their families and should serve to remind all of us why we’re here.
As often seems to be the case as we close in on the start of another academic year, our contractors are working feverishly to complete construction projects before the semester begins. We hope to have the major parking lot additions completed by the time classes start, and we should see steel erected for the Ryder Center expansion next month.
Work is proceeding on a number of construction projects. New roofs for Curtiss Hall and the Performing Arts Center have been completed, and new roofing for Ryder Center has begun and is on schedule. Utility work to connect the field house addition to the Ryder Center to gas and sewer lines is nearly finished; the rest of the project will soon go to bid and the building's steel frame should be visible in September.
A number of parking improvements are moving forward, too. Paving is expected to begin next week on the expansion of lot J-1 near Curtiss Hall. Work is just beginning on expansion projects for parking lots C-1 and E, near the Ryder Center, as well as F lot, near Brown Hall.
Many other campus improvements also are moving along; some, such as the conversion to LED exterior lights, will continue into next year, but most will be finished by the time classes resume in August.
In a final bit of construction news, last Wednesday Governor Snyder signed the bill that includes capital outlay funding for a much-needed renovation of Wickes Hall. The project will include $6 million in state funding and a $2 million match to upgrade plumbing, windows, etc., remove asbestos and make other important improvements. We thank our regional legislators for their support.
We will introduce new faculty and staff and I will make one final attempt to inspire all of you during our orientation session next Thursday, Aug. 22 at 4 p.m. in the Field Theatre. The year ahead includes the continued commemoration of our 50th anniversary, a site visit from the Higher Learning Commission, and many other significant events. All of them deserve proper attention. So too does the day-to-day work of ensuring our students receive a quality education.
Following the gathering, I hope you and your family will join us for the traditional “welcome back” picnic in Owsley Grove. If you haven’t already done so, please RSVP online; you should have received an invitation via e-mail on August 6.