WKU President Timothy Caboni addressed his hope for the new academic year and the challenges the pandemic presented to the university during his annual Faculty and Staff Convocation on Monday.
Caboni said the university has worked to create a way to combat the pandemic threat and still fulfill the institutional purpose.
“And it is a reaffirmation that our mission, that thing that ties us together, is more crucial now than ever before,” Caboni said. “Educating students, creating knowledge, ensuring that opportunity, should be available to every young person, no matter what the economic condition into which they are born, that our purpose is to alter the trajectory of student lives that higher education transforms.”
With classes on campus restarting for the fall semester, Caboni said the experience of remote instruction last semester proved the importance of face-to-face instruction.
Along with his reflection of the effect of the pandemic on the university, Caboni detailed WKU’s successes over the past academic year, which included the restructured existing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team.
The upcoming academic year saw the largest one-year increase in enrollment in the past 30 years, with 443 more students than last fall, Caboni said. This year’s incoming students had the highest collective high school GPA in WKU history at a 3.45. Caboni also said nearly 84% of first-year students were eligible for scholarship aid and the university awarded more bachelor’s degrees than any other previous academic year.
Caboni said the needs of students and the university are still being balanced.
“We continue to take the actions that are in the best interest of our students demonstrated by our intentional decisions to not increase tuition for the 2020-2021 academic year, to waive the distance learning course fee for one year, and to reduce tuition for Kentucky teachers taking graduate courses required for continuing education,” Caboni said.
Although the university’s operations are different, Caboni said WKU would continue working toward the goals in the strategic plan.
“We will continue to work together and stand up for fairness and justice for every person,” Caboni said. “Recognizing systemic change cannot be accomplished by one person, our efforts to make our campus one WKU will be achieved only if each of us accepts our own role in advancing equality, and inclusion at WKU and beyond.”
Caboni said the WKU Commons and the First Year Village will be completed by the end of this academic year.
In a Monday email sent to faculty, Provost Cheryl Stevens said there are 1,000 more courses available this academic year than in Spring 2019. She said 767 sections converted to online-only, and 838 sections converted to hybrid as of August 10.
“Converting over 1,600 sections to a different modality is a significant achievement and represents the hard work and dedication faculty have invested to ensure this semester proves to be successful for WKU students,” Stevens said.
Stevens also included reminders for students and faculty to adhere to state social distancing guidelines.
“There is no doubt that we are moving into another challenging semester, and I know that many of us will face special challenges at home on top of the ones at work. However, I am convinced that we are up to the challenge. Our faculty and staff are dedicated to the health and well-being of our community and of our students,” Stevens said.