Pathways through the halls of academia are expected to yield college degrees of considerable value and careers with great potential.
Often, the pathways at the University of Mississippi provide such rich experiences and opportunities that produce so much more – personal evolution, civic responsibility, leadership development, global awareness, social consciousness, cultural growth and lifelong relationships. In short, the journeys are so extraordinary that they bring alumni and friends back for lasting involvement in the life of the University of Mississippi.
Often, you – our devoted alumni and friends – look back on your pathways and decide to ensure a way is cleared for future generations to benefit from the Ole Miss experience. Your vision, service, commitment and investment strengthen the work of students, faculty, administration and staff. This year alone, gifts of $58.7 million came from loyal donors who understand how a strong endowment dramatically impacts the university’s margin of excellence and provides stability during a continuing period of declining state funding for higher education.
The university’s endowment now totals $415 million, with 41.3 percent designated for academic support, 39 percent for scholarships, 15.6 percent for faculty support, and 4.1 percent for the library. The endowment growth has allowed increased support of programs and initiatives during the past year.
We are profoundly grateful for this increased support, which is needed more than ever in light of a 19.9 percent increase in the size of the freshman class and an unprecedented 19,536 enrollment on our campuses.
In the past few years, with unprecedented private support from committed alumni and friends, the University of Mississippi has moved forward in so many ways. For its recent successes the university has garnered a great deal of national media attention. The web site State.University.com ranked Ole Miss the ninth safest college in America and first in the Southeastern Conference, and for the second consecutive year, the Chronicle of Higher Education recognized Ole Miss as one of the “Top 10 Great Colleges to Work For.”
Most notably, a recent commentary in the Chronicle of Higher Education selected Ole Miss first among schools “doing their job well.” The authors went on to describe Ole Miss as the “most appealing” of all the flagship universities they visited during their extensive research focusing on the value of higher education. Forbes also just named Ole Miss among the top 25 “America’s Best College Buys” in its 2010 rankings.
What will keep this university focused on pathways to excellence is a united Ole Miss community of students, faculty, alumni, friends, administration and staff that continue to address the university’s greatest needs.
To that end, we have launched the $100 million Barnard Initiative – named for one of UM’s most influential leaders, Frederick A.P. Barnard, a renowned scientist who served as chancellor from 1856 through 1861. Many gifted professors are part of our campuses in Oxford, Jackson, Tupelo, Southaven and Grenada because of their love and commitment to the University of Mississippi. However, with a growing gap in faculty compensation between UM and peer universities, recruitment and retention of the best faculty is an increasing challenge. Both for fairness and for strategic positioning, we must find pathways to better faculty compensation if our academic programs to strengthen and expand further. An investment in faculty is an investment in our students and our academic reputation.
Included in the Barnard Initiative are gifts specified for the creation of named chairs, professorships and lectureships as well as unrestricted gifts to the Barnard Endowment for Faculty Support. Gifts to the endowment will provide a permanent stream of salary and research support for faculty and thus a critical margin of excellence for current and future generations of Ole Miss students.
We also are sensitive during these challenging economic times about our responsibility to clear pathways that provide access and affordability of higher education. To assure there are no financial barriers for those who are accepted for enrollment at the University of Mississippi, a new needs-based scholarship program – Ole Miss Opportunity – was created this year. UM responded with this innovative program after the Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning increased tuition at all public universities to offset significant cuts in higher education funding due to declining state tax revenues.
Low-income Mississippi students who qualify for Ole Miss Opportunity – which is funded through a combination of gift aid (federal, state, institutional, and private scholarships and grants) – are guaranteed financial aid support for tuition, residence hall housing and meals, with additional opportunities to cover transportation and personal expenses.
Ole Miss Opportunity furthers the University of Mississippi’s commitment to ensure scholarships for every deserving student – a commitment made when the Ole Miss First scholarship program was created in (YEAR). That program is still allowing dozens of students each year to benefit not only from tuition assistance but also from one-on-one mentorship to ensure they become productive members of society after graduation.
Our hope, of course, is that all of our students will experience a pathway to excellence as they make important life decisions after encounters with dedicated faculty members. Somewhere young students in elementary schools experience “aha” moments – breakthroughs in reading or math, perhaps – after guidance by University of Mississippi-educated teachers. And lives are saved, literally, at the hands of University of Mississippi-trained health-care professionals. Somewhere in the halls of government, Ole Miss alumni are involved in policy decisions which make the world a better place. And somewhere in the world, children are not hungry because of the service of members of our university community.
Pathways to excellence – through vision, service, commitment and investment – are transforming lives and the world around us.