Sep 152011
 
Authors: Jason Pohl

Amid drizzly conditions Thursday, hundreds of students and community members gathered at the Oval to hear CSU President Tony Frank’s Fall Address. In his speech, he discussed setbacks of the past and a hopeful future of higher graduation rates.

Now in its 14th year, the event is an opportunity for decision-makers and leaders of the university and Fort Collins to interact with the public in an open forum that includes speeches and, more recently, an all-university picnic.

Citing numerous setbacks, Frank made the case that CSU continues to progress in several fields, ranging from agricultural research to community involvement.

“Despite the challenging times … we can tell you CSU is, in fact, alive and well,” he said during his speech.

Frank said the university’s image continues to improve, as shown in recent polls, which declare a top school for veterans and a top research institution. He went on to say the funding from private donations, including alumni, continues to stream in at a near-record pace.

Last year, private donors and alumni contributed more than $85 million to the university –– the second most in university history, according to Frank. At the same time, the Campaign for Colorado State University saw a 47 percent increase in donations, which accounts for 418 new scholarships and 14 new faculty positions.

“We always seem to be losing resources, but we are doing better and better,” said Associated Students of CSU President Eric Berlinberg after the speech.

Another key part of Frank’s address came on the topic of graduation rates. He explained that the current 4-year campus average for graduation rates hovers around 40 percent. The 6-year rate is only about 70 percent. He stressed the importance of raising these numbers over the next five years to 60 and 80 percent, respectively.

“We exist to educate and graduate our students,” Frank said.

He went on to explain the rigor of classes should not be changed to attain this goal. Rather, resources need to be readily available for those who need assistance in class or adjusting to change.

Berlinberg agreed this is a critical responsibility of ASCSU –– something they look forward to “Our job as a student government is not just to be a place to come to when you need help,” Berlinberg said. “We need to reach out.”

The annual event began in wake of the 1997 Spring Creek flood in an effort to bring the Fort Collins community together. It has continued since, and acts as an opportunity for leaders in the community to gather, discuss the future and celebrate the past accomplishments.

“It’s a chance to give the state of the university,” Frank said after the speech. “It’s a chance to lay down the goals and set the standards of our university for the upcoming year.”

Fort Collins Mayor Karen Weitkunat opened the ceremony with a proclamation declaring the upcoming month until Oct. 15 National Hispanic Heritage Month –– an annual dedication at the ceremony.

Some students came for the free food, but others came to hear the president’s take on what is happening in a financially difficult environment where the university and higher education tiptoes toward privatization.

“It gets everyone on the same level,” said Cory Giltner, a senior business administration major. “The school, city and state should drive towards a common goal together.”

Frank has remained optimistic since taking office in 2009, and said that the community and university’s partnership has made the difficult times more manageable.

“This university dared to dream,” Frank said. “When we face challenges together, we can meet them.”

Senior Reporter Jason Pohl can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Frank’s key points

  • Increase graduation rates across the board
  • Maintain high-quality of education and high rankings
  • Step further above peer institutions
  • Continue high number of donations, despite slumping economy
  • Determine what the university should look like for its 150-year birthday in nine years
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