SHSU President Gaertner Gives Annual “State of the University” Address

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A new location specifically designated for Sam Houston State University in The Woodlands was one of the highlights of Sam Houston State University President Jim Gaertner’s address to faculty and staff at the university’s annual general meeting on Thursday (Aug. 27) afternoon.

SHSU has been sharing space in an academic building in The Woodlands with five other universities and the Lone Star College System since 1997.

Gaertner told the audience that there were a number of reasons for building a Sam Houston State University facility in The Woodlands.

“It will facilitate easy student matriculation,” he said. “Students will be able to go back and forth between Montgomery College and Sam Houston State University in just a matter of a few feet. It will help students complete their education.”

Gaertner also explained that SHSU had outgrown its space at the University Center in The Woodlands.

“We teach 70 percent of the classes that are offered at the University Center, and we have over 2,000 students taking classes at that facility,” he said. “Our enrollment is practically capped there.”

Gaertner said that it was very important that Sam Houston State move “strongly into graduate education” in the new facility. The university plans to offer junior and senior level courses, as well as graduate courses.

In addition to the new Woodlands academic building, Gaertner talked about construction projects planned for the Huntsville campus, including a new 550-seat dining facility featuring Aramark’s modern “fresh-food” concept in which food is prepared in front of the customer.

The president also gave a progress report on university’s first capital campaign, which officially began in March 2006.

“We are well into the $40 million figure, and we’re hoping to be able to complete the $50 million campaign this academic year,” he said.

With the gifts and bequests that have been made at this point, Gaertner said he believed that over $25 million will be raised for scholarships.

He also praised the generosity of the faculty and staff in supporting the university through the Faculty/Staff Campaign of the Annual Fund. Faculty and staff have contributed $1.23 million to the university over the past seven years.

Gaertner discussed the university’s initiative in offering classes through distance education.

“Distance education has been very important in higher education and is becoming even more important,” said Gaertner. “We (at Sam Houston State) want to be able to offer these classes with academic integrity. It’s a major step for our university, and we want to make sure we do it right.”

The university’s first major offering of the new online initiative is a Master’s degree in criminal justice. The program currently has 35 students enrolled.

Gaertner told the audience that the university is continuing with its efforts to increase legislative funding.

“We are at the very bottom of the list of universities in state appropriation per full time equivalency student,” he said.

“We decided to have a very broad effort both on and off campus this year to address the situation, and I believe that we’ve had reasonably good success,” he said.

For the first time ever, Sam Houston State received $4 million from the legislature for institutional enhancement. There was also a $2 million increase in general revenue, a $1 million increase in employee benefits support, and approximately $250,000 for student financial aid.

Gaertner also mentioned new academic programs that are “on the drawing board” and in various stages of approval including a nursing program and doctoral programs in special education, developmental education, instructional technology, sociology, and library science.

He concluded his talk by reminding the faculty and staff of the noble job they do in educating people and “the impact you have on society.

“I’m proud to have you as my colleagues, and I’m looking forward to our 131st year of operation at this grand old university,” he said.