President Dr. Robert Vartabedian announced the new theme for the General Session from last year’s “You Can’t Keep a Griffon Down,” to the new theme for 2012 “We’re Back.”
Each year Vartabedian addresses faculty and staff just before the fall session begins. The president’s speech usually includes a “state of the campus” type speech. The General Session for fall 2012 happened August 20 at 8:30 a.m. in the Fulkerson Center.
“We have weathered a very substantial financial storm over the last four years,” Vartabedian said. “We are not out of the woods yet, but our financial future is improving.
During his address he outlined the reasons for what he labeled “measured optimism.” The first item credited was the $750,000 annual boost to Western’s budget funded by new student fees which were approved recently by the Student Government Association.
The name given to this SGA legislation is the Student Success Act. Vartabedian noted that he thought the name was fitting because it “will lead to and protect student success at Western.”
The Missouri State Legislature also is helping Western with an $500,000 increase of equity funding for this year. Students and faculty who have been keeping track have followed what was a proposed 12.5 percent cut as it turn into a half million dollar gain. The legislators also helped us by passing a new higher education funding formula which according to Vartabedian can only help Western considering our current position.
Local businesses have also assisted Western with its bottom line by forming a partnership designed to hire and keep graduates employed locally and keep them here. This partnership’s value was estimated to return benefits to Western of an estimated one million dollars.
The last reason for Vartabedian’s “measured optimism” is a new increase in cigarette tax which promises 30 percent of new revenues generated will go to higher education. At the same time, however, Western and the City of St. Joseph are considering smoking bans on and off campus.
None of these income generators existed last year.
“Last year’s speech was a bummer,” Vartabedian said. “A real downer.” This year’s speech however did point out some good news from the past.
Western’s student population has hit record numbers for seven consecutive years. The campus has developed what the president considers high profile partnerships. He referenced the Chiefs having their third successful training camp at Western and the developing relationship between Western and the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.
He also mentioned that during those times of budget cuts over $65 million has been invested in capitol construction on campus. The most recent of those was the renovation of the Baker Fitness Center.
“All of this did not happen by chance,” Vartabedian said. “It took the effort of those in this audience.”