Michigan Tech Cautiously Optimistic, Positioned for Growth

By Jennifer Donovan | Published

In these dire economic times, it's rare to hear upbeat news. But, although the Governor and Legislature have spared higher education immediate budget cuts, Michigan Technological University has positioned itself to weather future financial storms, President Glenn D. Mroz told the University's Board of Trustees at its regular meeting on the Michigan Tech campus on Friday, Dec. 12.

"Because of actions taken over the past several years, I am pleased to report that Michigan Tech is healthy, moving forward and poised for even greater success in the years ahead," said Mroz. "We carry a real sense of optimism."

With the nation in the grip of a widespread economic downturn, with endowment portfolios dropping and many states slashing appropriations for higher education, how can Michigan Tech feel so optimistic?

Mroz shared a sampling of measures taken recently or currently under way to safeguard the University’s financial health while continuing to serve the interests of students, faculty, staff and the local community. Michigan Tech:
• Has built its strongest cash position in seven years.
• Maintained an AAA bond rating.
• Embarked on quality-improvement initiatives, including Lean and the Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP). The Lean principles used by many of the most successful corporations are being applied to Dining Services, Payroll/Human Resources and Sponsored Programs.
• Restructured long-term debt to a low 4.75 percent fixed rate.
• Philanthropic support is approaching $90 million in the current quiet phase of a five-year campaign, including three new endowed chairs and four professorships.

Michigan Tech has scored other recent successes that further bolster the University's financial strength and marketplace competitiveness, the President reported. He mentioned:
• Enrollment has grown to 7,017, the highest number since 1983.
• Graduate enrollment has grown to 984, the highest in the University's history.
• Research expenditures have doubled in the last five years, to $60 million.
• U.S. News & World Report ranks Michigan Tech in the top tier of public universities.
• Michigan Tech is a partner in three of the six Centers of Energy Excellence that the state has established.
• We have seen strong growth in the Michigan Tech Economic Corporation SmartZone.
• IBM invited Michigan Tech to join its exclusive Executive Partnership Program.
• The University is in the top 20 nationwide of students graduating with the least debt.
• Michigan Tech hired new faculty in a Strategic Faculty Hiring Initiative (SFHI) focusing on sustainability. A second SFHI focusing on computational discovery and innovation is now under way.

"The key to these successes, and to Michigan Tech’s position of strength, is also the key to our future growth and prosperity," Mroz said. "A strategic plan adopted in 2006 has guided and continues to guide our decisions and investments every day."

The plan has three simple goals:
• Attract and retain the finest students, faculty and staff.
• Provide distinctive educational programs of the highest quality.
• Conduct innovative research.

"Our vision remains the same, for Michigan Tech to become a premier technological university of international stature, addressing the needs of a complex and rapidly-changing world," Mroz told the Board. "This vision, along with our strategic plan, provides a clear, concise and compelling road map, even in the face of current economic challenges."

In other business, the Board of Trustees:
• Recognized and thanked outgoing Board members David J. Brule Sr. and Rodger A. Kershner.
• Awarded an honorary doctorate in sustainable science and engineering to alumna Susann Blake Nordrum, speaker at the mid-year Commencement on Dec. 13. Nordrum earned a B.S. in chemical engineering at Michigan Tech in 1986 and was a lead author of international greenhouse gas inventory guidelines, for which she shared in the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.
• Was recognized and thanked by Isle Royale National Park Superintendent Phyllis Green for active participation in the celebration this year of 50 years of continuous wolf-moose research on Isle Royale.
• Approved a 2010 capital outlay budget request totaling $225 million, assigning top priority to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Learning Facilities, at a total cost of $50 million.
• Approved an amendment to the University’s academic tenure and promotion policy, enabling the Provost, in cases of requests based on the birth or adoption of a child, to extend a faculty member’s tenure probationary period for one year per child to a maximum of two years.
• Granted professor emeritus status to Bruce Barna, Department of Chemical Engineering.
• Approved the awarding of 260 undergraduate degrees, 27 master's degrees and 16 PhD degrees at mid-year Commencement on Dec. 13.

Michigan Technological University is a leading public research university, conducting research, developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering, forestry and environmental sciences, computing, technology, business and economics, natural and physical sciences, arts, humanities and social sciences.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 60 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.