By Lander University Interim Provost James Colbert
August marks a special time of year in the life of a university. While some faculty and students have engaged in summer classes and a variety of scholarly endeavors, and our hard-working staff have worked to prepare the university for the new academic year, many of us have been away from Lander this summer enjoying a change of pace. As Interim Provost, it is my pleasure to welcome everyone back to campus for the fall semester and a time of new beginnings.
I am acutely aware that returning “to campus” has taken on a new meaning for many of us. Lander University has experienced significant growth in enrollment in the past seven years. One driver of that growth has been the development of several new online undergraduate and graduate programs, which means that an increasing contingent of students and faculty experience the return “to campus” through virtual or remote venues. Some students and some faculty never set foot on the physical campus. So, regardless of the format you choose to interact with Lander University, welcome back!
One of the “new beginnings” we are excited about at Lander University this Fall is the Lander Launch event scheduled for August 17 on the Friday before classes begin. This event is a re-envisioning of the traditional Fall Convocation event. The theme for the inaugural Lander Launch is “Invest.” Lander Launch serves to remind students that they are investing in their education, that Lander University is investing in support services to help them succeed, and that focusing on academic priorities helps students protect their investment. This theme emphasizes the fact that student success at Lander University is the result of a partnership between the student and the university and that both have responsibilities that determine the ultimate degree of success achieved.
Our physical campus is also experiencing some “new beginnings” as a result of numerous summer construction projects and renovation efforts. The swimming pool construction project is progressing with anticipated completion in late fall semester. The Academic Success Center in the Genesis Building has been rebranded as the Student Success Center, and the building has been remodeled to provide improved delivery of academic support services, including more space for tutoring and mentoring. The circle drive in front of Chipley Hall has been redesigned with new pavement, sidewalks, lighting, and landscaping. The Science Building and Laura Lander Hall received new flooring in the first-floor hallways. In addition, sidewalks, ADA access, and drainage improvements were completed around the Genesis Building and several parking lots were repaved. While these were the most visible projects, other work was accomplished on vital physical infrastructure, such as enhanced wi-fi connectivity.
Several members of the Academic Affairs leadership team are also experiencing “new beginnings” as they transition to new roles. Dr. David Slimmer, Dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, has returned to a full-time teaching position, and Dr. Jennifer Yates has been named Interim Dean of that college. I want to thank Dr. Slimmer for his many years of service as Dean and convey my best wishes for him in his new role. Dr. Mark Rollins, formerly Dean of the College Arts and Humanities, has accepted a new position as Interim Assistant Provost to assist me with a variety of policy review and revision projects as well as provide additional support for implementation of new software and processes in Academic Affairs. Dr. Lucas McMillan, Dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, will add an additional role as Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities. I congratulate all of these individuals on their transitions and look forward to working with the Academic Affairs team throughout the year.
The most exciting “new beginnings” are those of our new students. I want to offer you a special welcome. Whether you are a first-year student, transfer student, dual-enrolled high school student, or graduate student studying in-person, online, or in multiple formats, we are thrilled to have you here. You are joining a vibrant, thriving university filled with impressive students, a place where talented, dedicated faculty, staff, and administrators are devoted to your success. And, fall semester is only the beginning. The university has experienced tremendous growth in recent years, and Lander will continue to develop new programs, amenities, facilities, and support systems while you are here. Lander University will get even better during your time with us.
Welcome to campus and best wishes for a fantastic fall semester!