The University of New Orleans continues to build momentum in student enrollment, academic programming, research and fundraising, President John Nicklow said Tuesday. Those key areas offer a snapshot of the University’s achievements and progress over the past year, Nicklow told faculty and staff during his biannual State of the University address.
The objective of the address is to give a “direct and candid” assessment of the University and where it is headed, Nicklow said.
“There is so much to be proud of,” he said. “Congratulations on your achievements and thank you for your commitment to your discipline and your university. I am very UNO Proud of you.”
Last fall the University recorded an increase in student enrollment for the second year in a row, despite a very competitive market, according to Nicklow. Nicklow said he expects that trend to continue as University officials focus more on recruiting and admitting students who have a medium or high likelihood to enroll at UNO.
“In essence, we are buying 50% less names than in past years but focused on students who are most likely to enroll,” he said.
That strategy, which uses predictive models to understand attributes of students who are most likely to enroll, might mean lower application numbers, but it is expected to yield higher enrollment figures, Nicklow said.
“In other words, our freshman application numbers may be down, but that’s by design. If our predictive models work as intended, our admits and enrollments should be up,” he said.
The University is also evolving how it handles orientation for new students, Nicklow said. The Student Affairs-led event will be expanded to four days this fall, starting with New Student Move-In Day.
“It is called MAMBO Week,” Nicklow said. “It’s an acronym that stands for Move-In, Academic preparation, Making memories, Building connections and Orientation. The four-day orientation is designed to immerse new freshmen in the Privateer experience.”
Along the engagement front, the Student Activities Council and the Alumni Association this year are collaborating to combine Crawfish Mambo and SUCbAUF. The transformed SUCbAUF event is slated for April 16 in the quad and Kirschman Hall parking lot.
“We are hoping this joint effort will bring out even more students and alumni to take part,” Nicklow said.
Nicklow announced that renovation work on the first phase of the chemistry undergraduate teaching lab is complete. Those renovations are courtesy of a $1 million gift from a local private foundation, he said.
The University will launch a new bachelor of science in urban construction management this fall. That program, which was recently approved by the Board of Regents, received overwhelming support from the local construction industry, Nicklow said.
All of the University’s programs in the College of Engineering—undergraduate, graduate and online—have been ranked in the top 200 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report in 2020, he said.
Nicklow also discussed several academic programming initiatives involving external partners:
• UNO’s School of Education is participating with other school partners in an initiative with the Orleans Parish School Board called Teach New Orleans. The goal is get more UNO graduates into classrooms in Orleans Parish.
• UNO’s School of the Arts just signed an articulation agreement with NOCCA, the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. NOCCA students will be able to earn up to 30 credit hours toward their UNO degree. This agreement is being used as a template for several other renowned arts schools around the country, including at least one prominent school in Southern California.
• The University is also working on a certificate program with the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office and the Orleans Sheriff’s Office that would provide formerly incarcerated individuals a pathway to a certificate and a job.
“Clearly, we are innovating and being creative in our programming to attract new students,” Nicklow said.
A few key numbers show the University’s progress on the research front, Nicklow said. Research award amounts increased 28% in fiscal year 2020, going from $5.8 million in fiscal year 2019 to $7.4 million this year, Nicklow said.
One of the best ways to support new faculty researchers is through start-up funding, he said. Two years ago, the Office of Research provided $800,000 in new faculty start-up funds. That rose to $1 million in 2019 and remained stable at $1 million this fiscal year, Nicklow said.
The Office of Research also plays a key role in student recruitment and retention through the Tolmas Scholars program, which provides funds for undergraduate student research support. Funded by the Tolmas Foundation and sponsored by the Office of Research and College of Sciences, this program has more than doubled in size in just a few years, Nicklow said.
Prior to the involvement of the Tolmas Foundation, there were 45 awards. In 2019, there were 75 awards and this year, that number is up to 92.
“That’s 92 paid undergraduate student internships, thanks to private donor support,” Nicklow said.
The University reached a major fundraising milestone last year when it exceeded its $7 million fundraising goal, Nicklow said.
“For context, keep in mind that four years ago, we were not even raising $1 million per year,” he said.
In closing his address, Nicklow urged faculty and staff to look at the University’s new strategic plan, Impact UNO, that was released earlier this year.
Student ambassadors handed out pamphlets containing a synopsis of the plan. It also is available online.
The plan includes three main goals: Ensure academic excellence and student accessibility and success; positively impact New Orleans and our world through research, scholarly, and creative endeavors; and maximize engagement through strategic partnerships.
“I appreciate all of the work of our faculty, staff, and students who contributed their time and expertise in crafting this plan,” Nicklow said.