WIUM Tristates Public Radio

WIU's Interim President: We Have Turned the Corner

Jan 15, 2020

The interim president of Western Illinois University used the start of the new semester to deliver an upbeat speech to faculty, staff, students, and community members.  Dr. Martin Abraham told the audience in the University Union Grand Ballroom that he believes WIU's struggles are in the past.

“Western Illinois has turned the corner. We’re headed in the right – and I believe – a positive direction in setting a strong future for this outstanding university,” Abraham said during the 30 minute speech.

Topics Addressed During the Speech:

Spring Enrollment

“This year we’ve developed new programs that identify early on students who are struggling. And then we provided support to assist these students to help them succeed. That work has already paid off as our fall to spring new freshmen retention is currently around 85%, an increase of nearly 5% relative to where we were at this time last year.”

“Overall, it looks like our spring enrollment may not be down as much as one would have projected based on the number of students that we enrolled in the fall.”

Diversity

“We’ve been heavily engaged in Macomb, working with the mayor and community leaders, to ensure that our diverse populations are welcomed into our community. “

“I’ve also met with community leaders in the Quad Cities and have discussed with them their commitments to diversity and inclusion.”

“To date, here in Macomb we’ve had seven dialogues in the community and at the university to discuss the issues and concerns facing our minority populations and the environment in which they live, work, and learn. The past couple days, we had nearly 300 faculty, staff, and students between both our campuses participate in a half-a-day compassionate communication workshop. We are reconstituting our university diversity council and developing a community engagement council to ensure that our efforts both on-campus and in our communities continue. In addition, a student diversity coalition has been formed, comprised of students from our multi-cultural centers and other representatives, including volunteers who have lined up to be part of the action plan.”

The Budget

“We have the opportunity to end the (fiscal) year in the black for the first time since Fiscal Year 2017. Our ability to achieve this goal ultimately depends on our diligence to hold the line on spending for the remainder of this current fiscal year. We must continue to spend under our departmental budgets, both operating and personnel. This does not mean our work is done as our budgeted expense remains greater than the actual revenue we are bringing in.”

Strategic Plan

“What we really do need is a cohesive strategic plan to know into which programs we should be investing. And make no mistake, we will be investing in new programs. I have my own views on growth opportunities but these decisions should be debated by faculty, developed through analysis of data, and vetted with others in our community. We need to decide how large Western should become. We need to determine how our Quad Cities campus can provide unique value to our students while also supporting the needs of that population.”

His Future

“I’d like to assure everyone that I intend to be here and see this strategic plan developed and many of its programs implemented. I am committed to the success of this institution and hope to remain here for many years to come. The Board (of Trustees) and the search committee will do their work but we will continue to work together to shape the future of Western Illinois University.”