After a summer of relative quiet, Fort Hays State University President Mirta Martin welcomed faculty and staff back to campus at the fall convocation with her vision for the new era and direction for the university Wednesday.
“We have to shift to a culture of engagement and of new beginnings,” Martin said.
She is starting her second year at the university and challenged those present to grow and change as the world is changing.
“Last year, we had great conversations about what we wanted to accomplish,” she said. “Together, we envisioned a new beginning for FHSU — one that builds on our strengths, our programs of distinction and our people of excellence.
Students, faculty and staff engaged in discussions and were asked for honest opinions during the last year, she said. They found they were great at many things, but there was room to be better.
“We needed to break from the status quo and to leave behind the attitudes ‘because it’s been that way always or just tell me what to do,’ ” Martin said. “We needed to respond to technological changes and rapid growth.”
The result was to develop a new plan for the university.
“Our new structure will increase flexibility, speed execution, bolster student success and create a better environment for innovation and for thinking,” she said. “The ownership of this new era at FHSU belongs to all of us. I want you to constantly ask yourself, as leaders, is what we are doing today in the best interests of our students and our university.
“Change is already taking place,” she said, acknowledging change is never easy and there will be bumps in the road. “We are creating a stronger community that will encourage problem-solving, tolerance, cooperation and critical review, and support personal and professional growth to create leaders.”
Martin said FHSU must change to stay relevant.
“We must shift from a culture of access to a culture of completion,” she said. To make this a reality, employees must make “an intentional decision by all of us to be engaged in the life of our students and in the success of our university.”
That can be accomplished many ways, she said.
“One basic function of the university is to facilitate a well-educated citizenry,” Martin said. “A citizenry that is capable of making good and informed decisions that benefit society as a whole. It follows then, we should be engaged in and produce graduates who can think for themselves, who are articulate and persuasive, who write strong, well-constructed sentences, who are critical, creative and collaborative and technologically proficient.
“We want graduates who will contribute to the well-being of Kansas, our nation and the world. Graduates committed to improving the human condition.”
Martin said retention of students is everyone’s business. All FHSU employees need to be involved with students, even calling them if they don’t come to class or to give support when needed.
A video showed how quickly computers are changing the world.
Throughout the morning, the theme, FHSU Destination of Choice, was repeated.
Ulises Gonzales, president of the Student Government Association, was the first student to speak at the invocation in the history of the university.
Wednesday was an illustration of an effort to send the message that everyone there is a member of the FHSU family, Gonzales said.
The faculty and staff were all reminded to wear Tiger gold on Friday, in support of the university.
The university will begin several new initiatives this year to make a difference. They include pairing students with alumni mentors and a Hispanic college week to introduce first-generation Hispanic students to navigating the institutional system.