Ransdell Implores Campus Community to Do Everything Possible to Retain Students

Aug 22, 2014

Dr. Bruce Kessler, head of WKU’s Department of Mathematics, received the 13th annual Spirit of WKU Award.
Credit Clinton Lewis/WKU

WKU President Gary Ransdell says it’s every employee’s job to help the school retain as many students as possible.

Addressing faculty and staff at Friday morning’s convocation at Van Meter Hall, Dr.Ransdell cited examples of academic progress, including an increase in the average ACT score of first-time baccalaureate students.

But he added that the school is still allowing too many students to leave campus without finishing their degrees.

“We are graduating just over 50 percent of our students in six years and we are still losing 25 percent of each freshman class within one year of their initial enrollment. So, for our students’ sake—if not for our own financial stability—please become part of the solution to keeping our students at WKU until they graduate.”

The WKU President said he was concerned about the value of the school’s remedial courses that many freshmen take. Ransdell added he’s worried the school is losing students who return home after their first semester with only three to six credit hours.

“If you are a first generation student, Mom and Dad are likely to tell you to stay home if that is all you get for a semester’s tuition.”

He suggested WKU look at offering its freshman “University Experience” classes to high school seniors for dual-credit, something he said would result in more students arriving on campus better prepared for college classes.

Ransdell also said the school must make sure it’s compliant with the expectations of the Federal Office of Civil Rights in regards to how WKU handles reports of sexual assault.

“If anyone becomes aware of any mental or physical misconduct, it must be reported, regardless of position or title. There are mandatory reporting guidelines now in effect. I cannot say in stronger terms that we must not let unfortunate things occur and fail to properly address them. If you know about something, you must report it regardless of relationships.”

“Failure to report is a serious matter that can put our federal funding in jeopardy.”

Ransdell said any employee who becomes aware of sexual assault must report the incident within 24 hours to the school’s Title IX coordinator, Huda Melky, or one of WKU’s deputy coordinators.

Dr. Ransdell also handed out the following awards at Friday’s convocation:

Spirit of WKU Award

Dr. Bruce Kessler, head of WKU’s Department of Mathematics, received the 13th Spirit of WKU Award, which recognizes an individual who represents enthusiasm for WKU, loyalty to the institution and principles of the WKU experience and its motto “The Spirit Makes the Master.”

President’s Award for Diversity

The award recognizes recipients who represent a clear demonstration of exemplary leadership and achievement in promoting diversity at WKU and the communities it serves.

Community: Jim Johnson, a former WKU Regent, displays his dedication and passion for the underprivileged population in the city of Bowling Green without expecting anything in return. Through his service on the Warren County Library Board, Johnson helped institute the relocation of the old Sugar Maple Square Library to Graham Avenue to serve the needs of neighborhood children and senior residents. He also has sponsored numerous events for the Housing Authority of Bowling Green, has contributed to the enhancement of the activities of the Housing Authority’s After-School program and was instrumental in bringing the Tuskegee Airmen Exhibit to Bowling Green.

Student: Andrew Salman, a devoted student activist and leader, is an asset to diversity efforts on campus and in the community. Through Student Identity Outreach, he created the Campus Pride Index Committee to petition for WKU’s participation in the Index and through his initiative, the WKU Student Government Association passed a resolution in support of the Campus Pride Index at WKU. He has collaborated with university groups to organize events on campus, and he created and spearheaded the “Fairness on Fountain Square” campaign.

Faculty/staff: Ometha Doss has distinguished herself, personally and professionally, for more than 20 years as a highly effective and respected advocate for diverse students by ensuring that all have knowledge and support about their financial needs and subsistence as they enter and matriculate through college. Through her position in the Office of Student Financial Assistance, she comes in contact with people from varying backgrounds and cultures and works diligently to ensure that they leave feeling respected and supported. She consistently illustrates commitment to helping create an inclusive, equitable and supportive campus.

President’s Award for Sustainability

The award honors individuals who exhibit excellence in supporting WKU’s commitment to sustainability by demonstrating exemplary practices and sharing solutions, incorporating sustainability into existing programs, and implementing innovative ideas.

Faculty/staff: More than eight years ago, WKU Engineering professor Kevin Schmaltz completed a feasibility study to determine whether the supply of waste vegetable oil from WKU Dining could be transformed into a fuel source that could power the big machines at the WKU Farm. After the study determined that the campus supply of vegetable oil could support the farm’s annual needs of about 3,000 gallons of fuel, Dr. Schmaltz began working with Dr. Jack Rudolph, head of WKU Agriculture, and engaged others by involving 15 students in four teams as their senior engineering project. The first WKU biodiesel was produced in Spring 2012 and since then, more than 2,500 gallons of biodiesel has been produced. The project provides a rich learning opportunity for WKU students, in both engineering and agriculture.

Student: Elizabeth McGrew is a graduate assistant committed to developing sustainable ways of living. She works tirelessly to promote campus community engagement initiatives, including the Community Garden. This project includes four outcomes: to demonstrate best practices in sustainable land use; to test the variables of affordability and accessibility as obstacles to fresh, healthy food; to ensure that the project is community-driven; and to create a viable collaborative effort that will encourage the continued success of the project. To provide a structure and ensure the long-term sustainability of the project, McGrew founded the student organization, Project Grow, under which student fellows would continue to be engaged in the management of the project.

Faculty award recipients

Provost Gordon Emslie and Dr. Ransdell formally recognized the following faculty award recipients, who were announced during May commencement ceremonies: Dr. Summer Bateiha, assistant professor, Department of Mathematics, University Award for Teaching; Dr. Rezaul Mahmood, professor, Department of Geography and Geology, University Award for Research/Creativity; Dr. Bryan Reaka, associate professor, Department of Architectural and Manufacturing Sciences, University Award for Public Service; and Dr. Grace Lartey, associate professor, Department of Public Health, University Award for Student Advising.

University Distinguished Professor

Dr. Emslie and Dr. Ransdell also recognized Dr. Beverly Siegrist as WKU’s newest University Distinguished Professor. Dr. Siegrist, who has been at WKU for more than 25 years, is the Graduate Program Coordinator in Nursing and is the first UDP from the College of Health and Human Services. Dr. Siegrist played a lead role in the development and implementation of WKU’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program.