February 25, 2021

President Thomas tells employees to enhance student’s lives

In an hour-long, campus-wide gathering of employees on Tuesday, College of Eastern Utah President Ryan Thomas focused on meeting the academic and support needs of the students for the next decade.
“We need to have a deep and genuine concern over enhancing our student’s lives,” he said. Even though many students don’t major in art or music classes, the experience that young people have in those classes fundamentally changes their lives and they gain an appreciation for those subjects. That appreciation does last a lifetime. An example is the appreciation of music or creativity in composition that comes out of our music program.
“Again, we may not have students who are able to compose, but they will never again look at a composition the same way after they have had the opportunity to struggle through trying to compose some music.
“Now as we look at that notion of enhancing the lives of our students, there is a simple principal. I think it does give us a basis for orienting ourselves as campuses [Price and Blanding campuses]. It is indeed the story, I believe, we are best prepared to tell as we recruit for our institutions. As the faculty and staff of both campuses know, we must recruit out of area for both campuses to survive.
“Interestingly on our Price campus this fall, our headcount is actually down slightly and our FTE count is up by almost 60 FTE. What that means is that we have more full time students. Full time students almost always are from out of the area. That is a reality in both of the communities where we have campuses. It is very difficult to find part time jobs in either Price or in Blanding if you are a student. Out of the area students tend to be full time students. We are succeeding in attracting people from out of the area.
“But as Todd [Olsen] and his staff go out to tell our story, what is it that distinguishes us, what is it that sets us apart? We have smaller classes. Smaller classes are not necessarily an advantage. They can be an advantage if they provide the opportunity for a faculty member to work more closely with a student to understand more completely the student’s need and to ensure more successfully the student’s lives have been enhanced by the instruction they have been given.
“We are in a period of growth in terms of our physical facilities and that is exciting. I anticipate that within another 24 months or so that we will be ripping up the grass that so recently was put down in front of our Price campus and we will have our new building going there. There will be additional buildings on both campuses over the course of this next decade. So physically we will grow and renew as campuses.
“My hope is that as we are engaged in that process of physical renewal that there will be a renewal in our service and instructional areas that we will consider what it is that we can do uniquely well in our areas to enhance the lives of our students,” he said.
“There are occasions daily for each of us to use skills that we have acquired that really are not necessarily part of our majors. Our understanding of those areas, our appreciation, our ability that is awakened in us through those opportunities, can make a difference in our lives.
“I would like to challenge each of you to think about the area in which you work at the college or think about the college generally. And to think more specifically what we can do more effectively to enhance student’s lives. What is it that we could be doing that we are not doing that would make a difference in the lives of our students?
“As we gather the answers to that question, I think we can create a unified vision of what an institution with two rather different campuses with a variety of dissimilar curriculums can do to come together and what we can do as a group that can make us unique. No one else candidly is focusing on this. It is not the educational objective of any of our sister institutions in the state. It is something that we can do uniquely well and it is a story we can tell. The process involves things that occur in class and out of class,” he continued.
Thomas asked the CEU faculty and staff, “As you identify things that you feel you can do better, I would be thrilled if you would e-mail those to me or talk about them to your deans or others in your department.” He hopes to gather the ideas together because he believes it is something that allows us to reexamine our mission, reexamine our operations, reexamine our instruction in a way that will give us direction for the next number of years.
“That’s your charge. It is a simple one, a brief one, and yet I believe it is an important one. I believe it is one that applies to everything we do on both campuses of this institution.
“Together we have the opportunity for renewal as an institution and I hope that it will be that this notion, simple as it may be, of enhancing, of somehow changing in a positive way the lives of the students which we have the opportunity to work with. It is a principal that can bring us together and can give us direction,” he concluded.

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