From the desk of President Leslie K. Guice
From Mardi Gras to opportunity to crisis
Kathy and I took the long Mardi Gras weekend to fly out to Jacksonville, Florida for a visit with my son Bret and his family. We enjoyed the time that we were able to spend with the grandkids although part of that time got taken away by a stomach bug that ran through all of us. It was good that we were there so Kathy could help take care of everyone. Fortunately, she avoided the bug. After a wonderful holiday weekend, Kathy and I flew back to Ruston on Tuesday. Wednesday morning, I enjoyed a visit by former Louisiana Tech First Lady Lou Taylor, widow of F. Jay Taylor. It was special to have her in the office and to hear more about her perspectives of President Taylor’s years at Tech. Later Wednesday, my team and I met with the architects who were selected for the Wyly Tower project. We are most excited about the potential of that project to create a great new environment that will support student learning, student success, collaboration, interdisciplinary education & research, and access to information and the tools needed to transform information into greater understanding. After the meeting with the architects, I met with VP Brooks Hull to discuss our fund-raising program. Our fund-raising program will include opportunities to support and enhance our library/learning commons/information commons. On Thursday morning, VP Stan Napper and I traveled to Shreveport to meet with members of Louisiana Economic Development to give them an update on our activities and partnership with CSRA (formerly CSC). That project is going exceptionally well and we were most pleased when CSRA CEO Larry Pryor recently announced their intent to expand their presence in Bossier City from 800 employees to 1500 employees – all of which are new and high-quality jobs. The expansion of this company in NW Louisiana provides a great example of the role that our university plays in partnering with local and state entities to advance economic prosperity for our citizens. Later in the morning, I attended a meeting at the Cyber Innovation Center to discuss the CSRA growth plans as well as our activities to support the expansion of the USAF Global Strike Command at Barksdale AFB. I returned back to the office Thursday to address some new information that we were receiving about the upcoming special legislative session and the likely higher education impacts of the Governor’s budget that is being presented based upon expected revenue for the remainder of this year and for 2016-17. This is a very dire situation and one that is going to require a focused commitment by everyone to resolve. We will keep our faculty, staff, alumni, community and students informed so all can be engaged in encouraging solutions that preserve higher education for the future of our state. Most of Friday was spent in dealing with budget and related issues such as the announcement of a funding shortfall for the TOPS program. This was a particularly critical situation for our students because they were just beginning registration for the Spring Quarter and needed to know whether they would be receiving their TOPS funding. We finally received confirmation that our universities and not the students would be absorbing the shortfalls. While that creates even greater challenges for us, I am pleased that we were able to relieve the anxieties of our students and let them focus on continuing their education. Later in the morning, I drove over to Shreveport to have lunch with one of our distinguished alumni before attending a meeting of the Shreveport Bossier Business Alliance. SBBA had called an emergency meeting to address the upcoming session and potential impacts on higher education and the business community. Several of our higher education leaders were invited to attend to answer questions about the potential impacts. SBBA has been a great advocacy group for higher education and we are fortunate to have such strong leadership in our community.