Friday, September 20, 2013

University of New Orleans President Addresses Student Government Forum

president-forumUNO President Peter J. Fos updates students on upcoming projects for the University of New Orleans and answers questions regarding student life and academics at the Student Government forum.

The University of New Orleans Student Government hosted on Thursday its first presidential forum of the year—an opportunity for students to hear from and ask questions of the University President.

UNO President Peter J. Fos and Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Brett Kemker spoke to more than 100 students and administrators at 12:30 p.m. in the Innsbruck room of the University Center. The lunchtime forum was designed to strengthen the connection between University students and administrators, share information and raise questions and issues.

"It's a pleasure to spend some time with you," said Fos, who once was a UNO student himself.

A proud alumnus, Fos opened the forum by showing students present the University's new 30-second commercial spot and two-minute movie trailer now playing in AMC theatres across the South. "The Search: A Student's Journey for the Perfect University" is a futuristic take on the adventures of finding the right fit during a college search.

Fos told the students he wants to make them proud, then said that on Thursday the University celebrated the 55th anniversary of classes being held at the University.

The University has made a reasonably smooth transition to the University of Louisiana system during the 20 months he has been president, Fos said. During that time however the University budget was slashed $14 million by the state legislature. This fall, the president plans to ask legislators to pass a bill that allows the University to keep revenues from tuition increases, which come to about $4.5 million.

Fos highlighted the success of the new Privateer Enrollment Center and invited students to share any ideas for improvement. The state-of-the-art PEC surpasses benchmark standards, he said, and in the future no students should ever know the hassles and headaches of travelling across campus to get enrollment questions answered.

Fos informed students that the University needs $19 million in deferred maintenance funds to make corrections across campus; upon his arrival at the University, there were none, he said. The state provided $11 million earlier this year and House Bill 671, passed during Fos's tenure, allows the University to receive $48 per student per semester in tuition fees. Changes are coming, he said. 

The president also flagged upcoming changes in dining services, saying that Aramark has hired a new University chef who will oversee and design the weekly menus, adding a daily New Orleans dish.  He hopes to see expanded hours of the Sandbar and The Cove and the reopening of a convenience store on campus, as well as expanded menu options and pool tables.

He said that he and other University of Louisiana System presidents are working with Louisiana System President Sandra Woodley to join a universal database, that links students to employers and identifies skills sets and course requirements expected by employers. The University of New Orleans will have its own system within the system, he said, adding that the change is "coming soon."

Fos also said that the University recently signed merchandising and licensing agreements that will ensure that University of New Orleans and New Orleans Privateers gear will be sold in the public domain. The University will receive eight percent royalties on each item sold, Fos said.

Kemker revealed plans for a new peer mentor program on campus, "a very specific type of tutoring" in place at major universities that has been deemed highly successful over the last 20 years. The program will allow the Office of Enrollment Services to hire high-achieving students to tutor fellow students taking classes in which they have excelled, he said. Peer mentors will hold office hours in the new PEC.

Kemker also alerted students that physical changes will soon be coming to campus property fronting Leon C. Simon Boulevard. Bienville Hall, an eight-story residence hall destroyed by floodwaters following Hurricane Katrina will soon came down, with the help of state and federal funding. Reclaimed green space will be used for affinity housing that can be programmed with Greek Life and an anticipated Honors College, said Kemker, who already has spoken with architects and engineers about plans for three large residence houses on the property.

On the back side of campus near Lakeshore Drive, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will soon be building a permanent pumping station. Build out will reportedly be a four-year process, Kemker said.

The vice president also urged students to flag him on campus with questions or concerns, waving him down with a signature wave and shout, "Geaux Blue!"