President's Message to Campus - March 18, 2019

Executive Budget Proposal

On March 5 Gov. Gretchen Whitmer presented her Executive Budget Proposal for FY2019-2020. In this, she focused on her top three campaign priorities, roads, clean drinking water and education. From her legislative service as a senator, I remember Gov. Whitmer’s support for higher education as a member of the Senate Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee. I commend the Governor for pledging strong support for higher education and making this a priority for the citizens of Michigan and our state.

Gov. Whitmer proposed a 3 percent funding increase for public universities, which would be the largest year-over-year increase since FY2015. For Ferris State University this would be an increase of $1,648,500, contingent on not increasing tuition more than 3.2 percent. I am appreciative of this proposed increase in funding. However, this across-the-board increase eliminates using the State’s performance funding metrics, under which we have fared better than most state universities. In conversations with the Governor’s policy advisors they intend to create new performance metrics, but have not had time to do so. This could be problematic in the review of this budget in the House and Senate.

It is worth remembering that without exception final approved budget amounts are lower than those proposed by the Governor. If state support is distributed across the board, it seems reasoned that the recommendation could be reduced to 2.5 percent. If the 3.2 percent tuition cap remains, this would be less new money for the University than last year when we received a 2.5 percent increase and increased tuition by 3.8 percent.

Our main concern with the Governor’s budget proposal is her request to limit the funding students can receive through the Tuition Incentive Program (TIP). This proposes a tuition cap of three times the in-district per-credit community college tuition rate for students eligible for TIP. This will equate to much less than the full tuition support first- and second-year TIP students currently receive at Ferris. We believe this will cost Phase I TIP students as much as $3,200 per year and if implemented would cost Ferris TIP students over $4 million next year.

At Ferris we serve more TIP students than any other university in Michigan. These students come to Ferris because of our record of success in helping them graduate. Over 1,720 TIP students have earned degrees at Ferris. We know we can help TIP students break the cycle of poverty, and earn a degree that prepares them for success in a career and in life. We have defeated this proposal before and will fight for our TIP students and the proposed funding reduction for them. In my legislative testimony and visits on March 7 I emphasized the devastating impact this would have on our students. Should you wish to watch my testimony before the House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, it begins around 29:50 and the TIP testimony begins at 43:30. There is support to reject this budget recommendation in the legislature, but much work remains in the weeks ahead.

The Governor’s support for higher education depends on approval in the legislature of an increase in the gas tax. This allows the money earmarked in the general fund for road funding to be used for the $500 million in higher education funding she seeks to move from the school aid fund. Additionally there is a 1.75 percent increase to the business tax for Scorporations, limited liability corporations and partnerships. This is intended to cover the hole left by the proposed repealing of the retirement tax approved during the Snyder administration. Eliminating this tax without replacing the revenue would create another shortfall in the budget.

I am pleased by Gov. Whitmer’s statements that emphasize the importance of higher education for Michigan and its future. It is good to hear recommendations for funding higher education, but it will be better to see those statements accompanied by increased support. There are many moving pieces and issues to be resolved in this budget. We will work for increased support for higher education in the legislature, as we look to increase the number of residents with postsecondary education in the state of Michigan. It is good policy and sound economics for our citizens, our workforce and the state’s economic prosperity.

Good News

This month’s Good News items highlight the achievements of our faculty, staff and students. Below is just a small sampling of the complete Good News list. Please take time to read about the many successes of your colleagues.

  • Matthew Nikkari participated in the "England through Literature, Music, Art, and Popular Culture," an overseas study program sponsored by Wayne State University.
  • Garrett Stack was a finalist in the 7th Annual Write Michigan Short Story Contest and his piece, "The Widowmaker," will be published in the 2019 anthology.
  • Deirdre Fagan had five poems recently published and was a guest speaker at the Friends of the Library annual meeting at the Big Rapids Public Library.
  • Ferris’ Alpha Nu Rho chapter of the Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society, advised by Tracy Busch and Gary Huey, received the 2018 National Best Chapter Award.
  • Nearly 40 Sports Communication students raised $1,100 for Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital’s Cardio Rehab Unit.
  • Scott Cohen and Mary Beth Zimmer co-presented “The Chair’s Role: Faculty, Mentor, Colleague, Supervisor?” at the Academic Chairpersons Conference in Texas.
  • Christian Peterson published a book chapter, “The Reagan Administration and the Transformation of the Soviet Union,” in The Reagan Administration, the Cold War and the Transition to Democracy Promotion. Sandy Alspach and students Conner Pyrc and Brendan Sanders, along with Paul Zube and students Jared Ozella and Savanna Stout, will present their work at the 2019 Summit of the International Association for Communication and Sport in Idaho.
  • Scott Cohen gave the keynote presentation “La Integració Internacional del Món Bandístic Valencià (The Internationalization of the Valencia Band World)” at the “Música a la Llum” conference in Spain.
  • Information Security and Intelligence students are earning Amazon Web Services Cloud Computing Certification.
  • Students organized a Criminal Justice job fair in February with over 35 agencies and departments represented.
  • Law Enforcement Academy students raised $3,600 for the Michigan Special Olympics through a local Polar Plunge event.
  • Anuli Njoku attended the 2019 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation New Connections Capstone Symposium in Louisiana.
  • The following received an award at the Michigan Optometric Association Winter Seminar: Optometrist of the Year, Lillian Kalaczinski; Young Optometrist of the Year, Paula McDowell; Educator of the Year, Emily Aslakson; and Student of the Year, Luke Lirones.
  • Brooke Moore and three students – Alondra Brandon, Elizabeth Lalone and Ruth Sifuentes, presented “Go Big or Go Home: Developing Habits to Be a Successful Student” for the Academic Literacies Center’s Speaker Series.
  • Peter Bradley served as an external reviewer for Ithaca College’s Honors Program.
  • Information Technology is implementing a new Mobile Device Management tool that will locate lost mobile devices and ensure HIPAA, FERPA, and PCI compliance.
  • Football senior Devon Johnson was invited to the 2019 NFL Combine, the second player in school history and the first in 28 years to receive an official invitation.
  • Seventy-three student-athletes achieved GLIAC All-Academic & All-Academic Excellence Team honors for the 2018 season.
  • Public Safety held their Food for Fines drive, collecting nearly 500 pounds of food for the Wesley House student food pantry.
  • Governmental Relations and General Counsel hosted 90 students and parents from the Grand Rapids Griffin Youth Foundation in February.
  • Kylie Piette and Kaitlin Zies co-presented the “Responsible Employee Informational Session” through the Staff Center for Training and Development.
  • The Master of Architecture program is now accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board.
  • Jay Constantine held a solo exhibition, “Anti-Icons,” at the Mott Community College Fine Arts Gallery in Flint.
  • Stefanie Snider was appointed to the College Art Association Committee on Diversity Practices and recently presented new research on Finnish artist liu Susiraja at the Universities Art Association Conference in Canada.
  • Margaret Vega opened a solo exhibition, Landscape as Muse, at Dacia Gallery in New York City and had her monotype “Head of a Boy” recently acquired by the Grand Rapids Art Museum for inclusion in A Decade at the Center: Recent Gifts and Acquisitions.
  • Art Education student Lynn Loubert was elected to the Board of Directors for the National Art Education Association.
  • Interior Design student Sarah Petoskey won the International Interior Design Association Michigan chapter's 2019 Student Video Competition.
  • UICA was awarded $10,000 from Herman Miller Cares in support of the 2019 ArtWorks program. Students will work with an artist/mentor to complete two projects – a mural in the City of Grand Rapids Gallery parking ramp and the design and sculptural elements for a City of Grand Rapids parklet.
  • Omar Gonzalez was nominated in the Young Hispanic Professional of the Year Category for the Hispanic Chamber's 2019 Annual Awards Gala.
  • Nick Campau and Kristen Salomonson presented “Establishing a Comprehensive Program of Student Affairs Assessment” at Lake Michigan College.
  • Nick Campau and Kaitlin Zies presented a half-day preconference session on Stalking on Campus at the annual Association of Student Conduct Administrators conference in Florida.
  • Ashley Schulte facilitated a one-day, three-part leadership workshop for the National Leadership Conference for Phi Sigma Sigma in Washington, D.C.
  • Since July 1, 2016, the Ferris Futures Scholarship Challenge has received gifts toward 262 new or existing endowments, with more than $6.63 million of new gift commitments from benefactors. With the match, this creates more than $13.26 million of endowed funds for the support of Ferris students.
  • Ted Halm collaborated with the Colleges of Arts and Sciences and Engineering Technology to develop the new Project S3OAR website that features the $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

Open Forum on Campus Housing

The University has recently contracted with a national housing advisor to assess our current living facilities on the Big Rapids campus. With nearly two-thirds of our student housing built in the 1950s and 1960s, the University has included housing as a priority in the 2015 Master Plan. In this, we seek to better meet the needs of current students and attract future students, while taking into consideration future projected enrollment trends.

Some students and employees have provided input to the advisors, and they also welcome input from others interested in this topic. Please come and share your thoughts at the open forum scheduled on Wednesday, March 20, from 4-5 p.m. in the University Center, Room 211.


The Strategic Planning and Resource Council will meet on Tuesday, March 19, from 3 to 5 p.m. inside the University Center, Room 202A. Shelly Pearcy will provide information on the University’s new branding concept and strategy, there will be an update on the development of the new strategic plan, and I will share a legislative update. All are welcome and encouraged to attend.


The men's basketball team finished their season with a 20-12 overall record while achieving a fifth-straight 20-win campaign. The men placed second in the GLIAC North Division standings and reached the GLIAC Tournament for the fifth consecutive year, earning the right to host a quarterfinal-round contest. Overall, FSU went 12-3 at home this season inside Jim Wink Arena.

In women’s basketball, the team advanced to the GLIAC Tournament Quarterfinals. With an overall record of 14-13, this is their first winning season since 2011-12. Congratulations to head coaches Kendra Faustin and Andy Bronkema, their staff and student-athletes on these successful seasons.

Last week Cody Stillwell, senior thrower on the men’s indoor track and field squad, earned All-America honors for the second time at the 2019 NCAA Division II National Indoor Championships in Pittsburg, Kan. He was one of 18 throwers in the men's weight throw, placing eighth overall in the event with a season-best throw of 20.25 meters. He is the first-ever Ferris athlete to earn All-America honors in the men's weight throw. Congratulations on this remarkable achievement.

David L. Eisler, president