President Welty delivers final speech at Fresno State

January 15, 2013 12:00:43 AM PST
As students gear up to head back to class this week, Fresno State President John Welty delivered his last speech to faculty and staff. Welty will retire this summer after serving more than 20 years as head of the university.

Unlike previous speeches where President Welty announced massive budget cuts, this time around he was much more optimistic about the start of the spring semester.

"I can say for the first time in several years, that I feel good about the semester ahead," Welty said at the annual Spring Assembly. "After years of budget cutbacks, the passage of Proposition 30 last November provides us some breathing room," he said.

Welty said the university will be able to reallocate $6 million in carry-forward dollars previously set aside for the potential trigger reductions if the measure failed. The money will go towards restoring units in each major campus division, deferred maintenance projects and high-priority initiatives in Fresno State's Strategic Plan for Excellence.

One of the initiatives includes establishing a Diversity Plan to hire faculty, staff and administrators of various ethnicities, cultures and backgrounds.

"The last few years have been difficult because we've gone through budget cuts, we have not been able to fill positions," he said. "We've lost some of our most outstanding faculty of color to other places that have recruited them away so that's why we want this plan. We need to do a better job than we're doing right now." Welty highlighted a few other "bright spots" as well, including the universities growing appeal with new students. Welty said a record number of first-time freshman applications were received for fall 2013. 17,294 students applied, a 10% increase over last year. 6,735 upper division transfer student applications also set a school record. That's a more than 25% increase from 2012.

"Students want a higher education and they want to come to Fresno State," he said.

Welty also said, this semester, two major building projects will be completed. The new 4,800 square foot Rue and Gwen Gibson Market will be open at the end of February and the Foster Farms Poultry Education and Research Facility will open later this spring. Welty said the eco-friendly facility will include a training center that replicates professional poultry production for students and faculty in the Jordan College.

Two other major building projects are moving forward. Construction is expected to begin in later summer or early fall on a faculty office/laboratory building near the Aquatics Center. It will house Physical Therapy and some Athletics coaching faculty.

Also, schematics were approved for the Jordan Research Center, which will provide research facilities for the colleges of Agriculture Sciences and Technology, Engineering, Science and Mathematics. Grading site work and utilities are under way at Campus Pointe for the retail portion of the project. This phase will include a theater and 170,000 square feet of retail and office space. Construction is expected to be complete by fall 2015.

"Well, I've got a list of things I'm trying to get crossed off," Welty said.

Welty also announced the names of a search committee assigned in finding his replacement as president. Director of Smittcamp Honors College, Honorah Chapman, is among the members. She said the next president will have big shoes to fill.

"the university needs someone that's as energetic as President Welty and also someone that's a visionary, who understands what a university is and what it can contribute to society as a whole."

The committee will spend the next several months reviewing applications and interviewing candidates. The CSU Board of Trustees is expected to make an announcement in May.