From the desk of President Leslie K. Guice

Working through the storms to enable a brighter future

Jan 30, 2016 | Weekly Update

Snow at Reagan

Leaving Washington Reagan after the area’s 4th largest winter snow event

Kathy and I finally got out of DC late Monday. While our time there was productive in terms of connecting with federal, state, business and community leaders, we were ready to get out of the hotel and get back home. It was quite an experience for a couple of Louisiana-born folks to be in the middle of a 26-inch blizzard event that shut down the nation’s capital. I returned to the office early Tuesday morning to meet with my leadership team and my staff. Our focus that morning was on developing strategies and communications plans for coping with the potential $4.62M cut that the institution is facing prior to the end of the fiscal year in June. A cut of that magnitude, particularly this late in the year, cannot happen without severe impacts across our campus. Given the cuts that we have faced over the past few years, there is very little flexibility in our system to absorb any cuts, much less ones of this size. While I remain optimistic that the legislature will find a way to close some of the gap, we have had to implement some policies that limit spending to the essentials. Some of our departments that have access to gift or other sources of funds will use those funds for meeting other important needs. My priorities throughout this situation will be to protect our faculty and staff, who have been so committed to advancing the institution, and to protect our classroom experiences for our students who have invested their future in our education programs. And we remain committed to meeting our goals for Tech 2020 which are essential for the future economic prosperity for our community and region.
Storms at Boca Raton

Waking up Wednesday morning in the midst of an unusual winter Florida tornado warning

Later Tuesday, I went back to the Monroe airport to catch a flight to Boca Raton, Florida for Conference USA board meetings. Boca Raton is the site of one of our C-USA bowl games and that organization has been supportive of hosting conference events such as periodic Board meetings. The Board and athletics directors had a joint meeting this time and in addition to general conference updates, we discussed several issues related to recent NCAA actions as well as issues related to student-athlete experiences and welfare. The Board approved a new policy to restrict certain periods when no mandated athletic activities can be scheduled. Additional information can be found in the Conference USA press release. I had intended to take a few minutes on Wednesday to enjoy a refreshing look at the beach and Atlantic Ocean (especially after the blizzard in DC). Unfortunately, the east coast weather hit once again as thunderstorms rolled through Boca Raton and a tornado passed just a few miles from our hotel. This delayed my flights back to Monroe and I had to rebook a late night flight back to Shreveport. Thankfully, Ryan Richard insisted on driving to Shreveport to get me back to Ruston that night so I could get some rest. Thanks, Ryan! When I returned to the office on Thursday morning, my assistant Carrie Flournoy, welcomed me and immediately advised me to not invest in any lottery tickets given my luck recently. I agreed! I kicked off Thursday morning with a meeting with our VP for University Advancement, Brooks Hull, to discuss our fund-raising plans and other alumni activities. I am very pleased with the leadership that Brooks is providing and I am optimistic that he is going to help us significantly elevate our fund-raising activities in the coming months and years. This is absolutely essential to enabling Tech to achieve our ambitious goals. Later Thursday morning, VP Stan Napper and I drove to Monroe to meet with our IBM colleagues to discuss our new partnership with them. We are committed to support them as they add 400 new employees to their Monroe operations. Our efforts will also benefit IBM’s total expansion in Louisiana including their 800-job technology center in Baton Rouge. CSRA (formerly CSC and SRA) also announced this week that their 800-job expansion in Bossier City is being increased to 1500 jobs. Add to that the 800 jobs that CenturyLink is filling with their new technology center in Monroe. The high-tech job opportunities along the I-20 corridor are continuing to grow at unprecedented levels. Our ability to produce the graduates that are needed to fill these positions is absolutely key to sustaining these companies and their commitments to Louisiana for the future. Will the future of higher education funding cripple this growth or enhance and accelerate additional opportunities for our citizens for the future?
Trees at softball field

New trees planted along Alabama Avenue represent growth and brighter days ahead for Tech

Friday was filled with numerous meetings including one with our academic deans to discuss the potential budget cuts. I was also pleased to welcome to my office Dean Don Schillinger and two representatives of the UTeach Institute from the University of Texas at Austin. They were here to review the UTeachTech program that was funded about a year ago. This program encourages alternate pathways for STEM graduates who may complete their BS degree and couple that with the credentials needed to be teachers. This program has already demonstrated incredible success at Tech with more than 80 students enrolled in the first cohort. The UTeach team told me that this surpasses anything that they have seen across the nation and they were most impressed with the real collaboration that they see between our education and math, science and engineering faculty. Of course, we see that all the time and know that interdisciplinary collaboration and teamwork is a core strength of Tech. This program has huge potential to impact STEM education and college preparedness for students across our entire region. Will the future of higher education funding cripple this growth or enhance and accelerate additional opportunities for our citizens for the future? On Friday evening, Kathy and I attended the Engineering and Science distinguished alumni awards program. Many of the college’s board members, faculty and staff were in attendance. It was most inspiring to hear the stories of these alumni dating back to the 1950s who have had incredible careers. They all shared that the key to their success was the time they spent at Louisiana Tech under the direction of inspiring faculty who challenged and supported them to achieve more than they ever thought they could achieve. And they all talked about their experiences outside the classroom, in student organizations and activities, that were valuable to their professional growth. Their stories reminded me how important it is for us to ensure that we continue to provide our students with challenging and supportive learning environments. That is our commitment… our imperative… and the fundamental driver for our strategic plan, Tech 2020, and the actions that we take every day to fulfill the goals of that plan.