As we stand on the threshold of taking bold steps to advance college completion opportunities in our region, I ask each of you to consider what a college degree means to those who have earned one. Now, think about the positive power of the celebration of completion that we call commencement. Multiple generations of family members dress up in their best clothes, arrive early, and sit through the entire program in anticipation of hearing two words: the first and last name of their loved one. They may have only a vague understanding of the effort it took to earn the degree, but they are bursting with pride nonetheless. As a first generation graduate of a public regional university education, I can tell you that it is sometimes hard for me to grasp the incredible difference higher education has made. It has absolutely changed the course of my life and the lives of my wife and children.
Opportunity knocks. NSU Destination 2023 (D23) can significantly impact our region of the state by enhancing opportunities for all persons, regardless of their social status, to access upward mobility and increase their lifetime earnings. Your commitment and what you do matters; every interaction with a student is a vital part of their collective college experience. The next decade is a critical time for us as we work together to change the course of the lives of our students, thus leading to a more prosperous economy. And we will do that one student, one degree at a time.
NSU Destination 2023 serves as a singular document that will guide our growth. It does not replace other strategic planning documents or similar academic plans. D23 complements these efforts by providing us with reasonable and practical goals to increase the number of students who earn degrees from NSU. D23 is our institutional response to Governor Mary Fallin’s Complete College America challenge and also addresses the growing demands in the state of Oklahoma for an educated citizenry. More specifically, our state and our communities need more persons with college degrees to fill the void in the professional workforce left by retiring baby boomers. We need to ensure that the arts and cultural opportunities thrive, and we must maintain the bridge out of poverty that only higher education provides. A degree from NSU provides the linkage between personal aspirations and accomplishment.
Over the next 10 years we will grow, and our growth will be purposeful. Through enhanced recruitment and retention efforts and a renewed focus on quality, we will meet the challenge of having at least 660 additional persons earning a degree by May 2024. This means that we need a minimum of 11,000 full-time students enrolled by the fall 2023. This goal is quite achievable: the environmental scan portion of our new Master Plan tells us that there is projected growth in the population of college-bound students in northeast Oklahoma for NSU to meet, and perhaps exceed, our minimum goal of 11,000 full-time students.
D23 is a tool and guide for us to use. It can never replace your passion, intelligence and personal dedication to the success of our students. As we begin this new journey, let us all commit to becoming the “I Care” institution of choice in Oklahoma. I am looking forward to working with you on the road that lies ahead.
Dr. Steve Turner