Trustees Upbeat Despite Economic Woes

The economic malaise infecting the country was felt at the quarterly meeting of the EMU board of trustees, but that reality didn’t prevent the group from experiencing some optimistic moments.

The governing body, meeting Nov. 21-22 on campus, approved a final operating budget of $27.4 million for the 2008-09 fiscal year. The amount marks a slight increase over last year’s operating budget and will enable EMU to continue to uniquely prepare culturally-sensitive students to serve and lead in a complex, inter-connected world.

EMU trustee Richard Thomas
EMU trustee Richard Thomas highlights the work of the academics committee in a report to the full board.

The board approved raising the project budget for the new residence hall that will replace the razed 41-year-old Oakwood facility from $6 million to $6.5 million to reflect higher construction costs and up-front costs related to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification fees.

EMU intends to seek silver level LEED certification; this U.S. Green Building Council system sets standards for green building. By investing up front in green building, EMU will see significant savings in energy and water use over the long-term.

EMU anticipates the new 120-bed, three-story residence hall will be ready for occupancy the fall of 2009. A web cam has been set up for persons to watch construction progress at

Kirk L. Shisler, vice president for advancement, told the board that “the downturn in the economy and drop in financial markets has affected some donors’ ability to make capital gifts during the quiet phase of EMU’s campaign,” Shisler said. “Alumni and friends are still very supportive of EMU and affirm the campaign priorities, and most intend to come through with their all-important gifts to the University Annual Fund,” he added.

EMU trustees
(L. to r.): EMU trustees Steve Brenneman, Wilma Bailey, Andy Dula and Diane Zimmerman discuss a finance issue during a small group session. Photos by Jim Bishop

“They (donors) are with us for the long haul,” Shisler said. “We will continue to share the campaign plan and priorities with as many prospective donors as possible so that as the economy improves, EMU will be well-positioned to secure the needed leadership commitments for the campaign – specifically for upgrades and a major addition to the Suter Science Center and Phase II of the University Commons for theater and other programs.”

Phil N. Helmuth, executive director for development, reported that giving to the University Fund is “nearly on track.” While gift amounts have been smaller, the number of alumni donors is “up markedly – to 634 gifts compared to 211 this time last year.”

EMU trustees
Susan Godshall, board chair, Andy Dula, chair of the finance and audit committee, and (left) Ron Piper, vice president for finance at EMU, confer during a break in the trustee meeting.

The board also heard that student applications are up 30 over the same time last fall, including a significant increase in applications to the highly-selective honors program. In addition, the number of admitted students compared to this time last year is up.

On Friday, three board committees met in a joint session to discuss the challenges of recruiting traditional undergraduate students. “We aren’t looking for huge numbers here,” noted President Loren Swartzendruber.

Overall, EMU’s full-time equivalent this fall was slightly up, with significant increases in the Adult Degree Competition Program. But, resident undergrad students were down about 15, a trend seen across the country. “An increase of just 20 to 30 students would really ease budget challenges and round out campus nicely,” said Dr. Swartzendruber.