University of New Orleans Reinstitutes Tradition of Convocation
For the first time since 2005, University of New Orleans faculty and staff gathered today for an age-old University tradition: convocation. University President Peter J. Fos said he that he brought back the tradition in an effort to celebrate University faculty and staff, celebrate accomplishments of the last year and look forward.
"I wanted to start a new tradition here, where we could relax and celebrate what happened last year and look forward to this year," said Fos, addressing a full house in the University Center ballroom. "We've been very well received by our eight sisters and we're beginning to be viewed as a leader in our system."
Fos addressed the hundreds gathered by presenting a state of the university in town-hall fashion, highlighting ups and downs of the University budget, of which 27 percent is controlled by annual decisions of the state legislature. He highlighted revenues and swift changes that have helped to increase University efficiency and income.
"Our efforts are continuing today and I promise you: I won't stop," the president said, about efforts to recoup spending and enhance University revenues.
Fos highlighted changes such as new fees related to tuition payments made by credit card and state legislation that allows the University to spend additional income to create new online programs. Still, he said, encouraging an all-hands effort, in the end what matters is increased and sustained enrollment. For that reason, he said, he has continued to invest in making changes to the Office of Enrollment Services and creation of a new Privateer Enrollment Center.
"We have to recruit new students and we have to maintain these students," the president said. Cheers went up as he announced an increase in new students.
A slide presentation entitled "UNO Today" began with the question "Commuter School?"
"Everybody thinks that we are a commuter school, like the one that I attended in 1970," the president said. "I'm beginning to doubt that."
University residence halls are nearly at capacity, the president said. Pontchartrain Halls North and South are at 95 percent capacity, Lafitte Hall is at 92 percent and the academic year is still young. Approximately 1,100 students are now living on campus, the president said. Northwestern State University of Louisiana in Natchitoches, defined as a residential campus, has 1,500 students living on campus.
The president also highlighted university accomplishments – from its ranking as one of the nation's 20 most popular universities to recent recognition by the Princeton Review. He highlighted new collaborations with Delgado Community College and Southern University of New Orleans expected to funnel more students to UNO. He also highlighted top student and faculty achievers, from Luis Tandalla, who won a $50,000 prize from Hewlett-Packard for creating a new program that helps to rank standardized test scores, to Juliette Ioup, a UNO physics professor who recently won the Rossing Prize for her work in acoustics education.
Scholarships awarded by the University are at an all-time high, said the president, who awarded 88 Homer L. Hitt Presidential Scholarships and received 45 acceptances from top students in the greater New Orleans area.
Campus branding efforts continue, he said, pointing to new signage at all five University entrances.
"You're the right person at the right time and you will do the right job," UNO Founders Club President Charles Hadley said he told Fos in January 2011. "I'm happy to say that ship has sailed."
Hadley unveiled ongoing efforts to raise as much as $2 million for the University's new Distinguished Lecture Series, which kicked off the University's Year of Excellence and Presidential Investiture with speakers James Carville and Mary Matali