Regents talk student success, mental health

The Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents met Thursday in Welch Hall to discuss several issues, including the establishment of student success metrics, the university’s new physician’s assistant program and mental health awareness on campus.

In attendance at the Board meeting were the two incoming regents, Mary Treder Lang and Jim Webb, as well as several former regents.

The meeting marked the last for outgoing board member Tom Sidlik and outgoing board Chairman Roy Wilbanks.

The results of separate committee meetings earlier in the day were presented, and at the Educational Policy Committee meeting led by Sidlik, EMU Provost Kim Schatzel made a presentation detailing the new system of student success metrics.

“Today what we’re going to do is a back to basics,” Schatzel said.

The report, which Schatzel said will become a permanent agenda item, consisted of three metrics. The first two, persistence towards an EMU degree and the six-year graduation rate, only included freshmen or students that are first time in any college.

The third metric to be reported will be the number of degrees awarded as a percentage of total undergraduate enrollment. The final number includes all undergraduate students, both FITIAC and transfers.

“This is the beginning of a model,” Schatzel said.

Sidik said, “We’re taking the students’ money and they’re not getting a degree. I think that’s just morally wrong. I’m glad you’re analyzing this in a very disciplined way. I think it’s exactly what we need.”

Kevin Kucera, EMU’s associate vice president for Enrollment Management, also presented improvements made to the university’s admissions process.

“There had been consternation about application processing for some time, the efficiency of application processing in particular,” Kucera said.

Graduate applicants will now have the ability to upload necessary documents directly to the online application, and the application has been integrated with Banner to allow for ease of processing.

Undergraduate applicants will now be able to receive a conditional acceptance, including a scholarship offer, within 48 hours of applying online. Final admission will be based on documents received.

“We went out and are making a fundamental change,” Kucera said.

The Faculty Affairs Committee heard from three of the faculty from the new physician’s assistant program. David Vandenberg, Michael Guerra and Eryn Smith discussed what led them to the program and explained the fundamentals of the program.

“I was drawn to Eastern’s new program,” Vandenberg said. “When I heard that you guys were considering starting a PA school, I said ‘Fantastic, good idea.’”

“I was particularly drawn to Eastern Michigan because of its emergence,” Guerra said. “I like the idea of a developing program; it’s a clean slate, an empty canvas, and I think we can do it better than any existing program.”

“It was always my intention and desire to get into academia,” Smith said.

He helped to research the needs of the program and assisted with the design of the initial curriculum.

The basis for the new program will be a problem-based learning model. Students will be given case studies of actual patients with a limited amount of information and are asked to find a final diagnosis.

“They’ll learn a lot of medicine,” Guerra said.

Smith said the model will prepare students to succeed.

“What I would really hope is that because we’re bringing that clinical side right in, right off the bat, day one of the program … they’re going to hit the ground running,” Smith said.

A key discussion item at the Student Affairs Committee was mental health awareness. Oscar Alcaine, a staff psychologist at EMU’s Counseling and Psychological Services, talked about mental health awareness, suicide prevention and the importance of mental health on campus.

“Students struggle with changes that may impact academic, occupational and interpersonal functioning,” Alcaine said.

About 26.2 percent of the population of the U.S. is diagnosed with some sort of mental disorder, according to Alcaine.

“Last year, 850 students came into the clinic. That’s 3.6 percent of students at EMU,” he said.

Standard mental health surveys strictly geared towards mental health were given to students. Questions included whether students have attempted or considered suicide, considered hurting others and status of family life.

“The goal is to prevent, assess and intervene,” Alcaine said. “To help students who struggle with mental disorders and reduce stigma about mental disorders on campus.”

The Finance, Audit and Investment Committee provided an update on the university’s budget and plans for improvements around campus.

The university’s full year budget is $290.6 million, with $180.8 million in revenue and $127.5 million in expenses as of Nov. 30. The auxiliaries fund has a budget of $42.1 million for the year, with $16.8 million in revenue and $14.7 million in expenses as of Nov. 30.

The committee presented reports of an annual audit of federal awards, which was a “significant audit” according to EMU’s Chief Financial Officer John Lumm. According to Lumm, the results of the audit showed the university was fully compliant.

The committee also proposed an amended capital budget of $28.6 million to fund projects on campus, including $3 million in renovations to the Rackham Building, to support the growth of health and human services programs.

“The bulk of the money, importantly, is dedicated to academic activities,” Regent Mike Morris said.

Burt Green has been associated with EMU for more than 60 years as a student, teacher and now an emeritus professor. He came before the board to thank Sidlik and Wilbanks for their commitment to the university.

“I have seen the good times, and the not so good,” Green said. “I think under the leadership of these two regents, this university has changed markedly.”

Green praised Wilbanks and Sidlik for their achievements during their tenure.

“I know them to be men of integrity who have valued what they thought to be in the best interests of the students, the faculty and this institution,” he said.

EMU President Susan Martin gave a report of progress to the board. Applications are up more than 30 percent from last year and the presidential scholarship competition has seen record turnout. According to her report, the campus is more full and diverse than ever.

“I see in my green crystal ball bigger and bigger incoming classes each fall as this community of faculty, staff and students tell the wonderful story of Eastern,” she said.

Near the end of the main board meeting, Francine Parker was chosen as the new chair of the board and Mike Morris was chosen as vice chair.

Resolutions were made honoring both Sidlik and Wilbanks as they concluded their final meeting. Wilbanks took a moment to reflect on his time on the board.

“I feel deeply gratified,” he said. “It has been a labor of love.

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