VALDOSTA -- President Dr. Ronald M. Zaccari outlined his plan for the continuation of Valdosta State University's reputation as an institution of great promise Monday.
"The talents, accomplishments and wisdom collected beneath the Valdosta State University banner are among the finest anywhere in America," he said during the university's 2005 convocation address. "I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that our great sense of hope for the future is built on the quality of people who have gone before us and those who currently stand with us. This institution is strong today because it has been guided by men and women of uncommon vision and commitment. It's now up to us to continue to build the university, not only for today's enrolled students but those who will follow over the next decade."
Zaccari said he came to Georgia with a desire to chart a new course for VSU, including the building of a comprehensive and systematic plan for the future, a vision of where to go next and how to get there. However, three years of back-to-back state budget cuts forced him to shift financial directions in an effort to protect VSU's core mission of teaching.
"The mission was accomplished but not without sacrifices," he said.
With a different financial environment around the corner -- VSU does not expect a state budget cut during its 2005-06 fiscal year -- Zaccari developed a new list of strategies he plans to implement.
Zaccari said the minimum wage has been increased from $5.15 an hour to $6.15 an hour. Also, salaries have been increased by longevity and faculty ranks.
"I have requested comprehensive faculty and staff salary studies," he said. "The faculty salary study is well under way with support of the Institutional Research Office. The staff project will be more difficult than the faculty project and may require an external consultant to assist. We want to study how we measure up to peer institutions, Southern Regional Education Board data, national data, as well as American Association of University Professors studies."
Part-time instructional salaries will be raised, in essence, by $300 at each degree level, Zaccari added.
Zaccari said VSU must continue to add new degree programs, something he described as "important to our mission." Already, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia has approved a master's degree in biology, which goes into effect during the fall.
A request for a doctoral program in public administration was recently submitted to the Board of Regents. Zaccari expects to submit a request for a doctorate of social work degree program during the 2005-06 academic year.
"We must explore other new programs to support Valdosta State University's important regional mission," he said.
Zaccari said "promising partnerships are emerging and new ones must be identified." He referred to a collaborative doctoral program in nursing with the Medical College of Georgia and Georgia State University and the Intellectual Capital Partnership Program, which partners VSU with South Georgia Medical Center, Smith Northview Hospital, and Archbold Medical Center to address the state's professional healthcare shortage.
Zaccari said VSU needs to be more creative in suggesting tuition increases, including offering alternative plans that would permit better budget planning.
For example, Zaccari toyed with the idea of charging freshmen a 20 percent tuition increase and freezing it for as long as they remain at the university. Sophomores and juniors would be charged a lesser amount.
"If we had those immediate tuition increases, I would propose that one-third of all tuition increases be distributed to deans and directors to support their strategic initiatives and provide flexible funds to support the needs of operating budgets," he added.
Zaccari plans to spend more time with deans, department chairs, and directors, listening to their funding needs during the 2005-06 fiscal year. He said it's time to have closer interaction with key constituent campus groups.
Zaccari said he will initiate discussions about the formation of a new university council, one that will play a greater role in the governance of the university, in the coming weeks. He said all other campus councils will be required to make periodic reports to and seek approval from this entity.
"As Valdosta State University is challenged to grow over the next 10 years, we must be stronger as a unified campus and draw on the exceptional talent and creativity on our campus," he continued.
Zaccari announced the receipt of a $50,000 grant from the University System of Georgia to work with a historic preservation consultant and study the existing neighborhoods surrounding the university. He said, "The study will help determine which university owned buildings fit (the) historic preservation (criteria) and how Valdosta State University and its neighbors can work in harmony to develop a functional, aesthetic, and compatible existence with valuable state-owned or foundation-owned properties."
Zaccari's address can be viewed in its entirety on VSU-TV, Mediacom Channel 11, at 8 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday.
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