President's Message to Campus - August 30, 2019

Founders’ Day

Thank you to everyone who attended our Founders’ Day activities yesterday. It was wonderful to see many of our faculty, staff, emeriti, their families, students and members of the Big Rapids community on campus. In creating Founders’ Day it was my hope this would be an event that celebrates and builds community both within and beyond our campus. This year’s event was a great way to begin the 135th anniversary of our University.

Dining Services prepared a delicious picnic on the Quad, and later that afternoon, campus and community members volunteered their time at the annual ice cream social, sponsored by Governmental Relations and General Counsel. Jones’ homemade ice cream is always a hit and the social attracts young and old alike. With thundershowers in the forecast, the student extravaganza and Ice Cream Social were moved to the University Center. With a large crowd in attendance, it was great to see our students visiting with campus and non-profit organizations, finding ways to get engaged. I want to thank the many people who planned the Founders’ Day activities, worked very hard to make this a success or who donated their time to make this an enjoyable event for all. 

Many of you attended my annual presentation on the University’s past, present and future. If you were unable to attend, you can view the PowerPoint presentation online. The slides are annotated with comments and observations using the Adobe “Sticky Notes” feature. To view, download the presentation and open with an Adobe product. Please share with me any thoughts, comments and observations you may have on these ideas at [email protected].

Ferris State University is a special place with a strong heritage, a unique, vital and vibrant mission, and a steadfast commitment to students. Over the last 135 years, we have accomplished much and changed the course of many lives. All of us can be very proud knowing our good work is furthering the vision and providing the opportunity Mr. and Mrs. Ferris began in 1884.


Yesterday in my Founders’ Day presentation I shared the enrollment trends we have experienced over the last several years. Since the fall of 2016, we have experienced enrollment declines, and with yesterday’s 4th day tabulation, enrollment is down again this fall. Here is an overall look at the numbers:

  • University-wide fall headcount is 12,472, a decrease of 778 students (-5.9%) and 7,213 student credit hours (-4.8%).
  • In Big Rapids the decrease is smaller, 378 students (-4%) and 4,011 SCH (-3.6%). 
    • The number of FTIACs is again up, 44 students, or 2.5%.  This is excellent news in a very competitive environment. 
    • The number of new transfer students continues to decline, this year by 55 students.
  • At Kendall the decrease is much sharper, 136 students (-13.5%) and 1,485 SCH 
  • Regional campus enrollment is also down significantly, 181 students (-10.4%) and 1,506 SCH (-13.8%).
  • The number of international students this fall is 188, down 50 students (-21%).
  • First- to second-year retention remains unchanged at both the associate (69%) and bachelor levels (76%).

The enrollment decline in Big Rapids is within the budgeted amount, a 4% decrease.  However the declines at Kendall and at regional campuses will require additional budget reductions. You can view the enrollment numbers in more detail online. 

Much hard work and dedicated effort have been invested in recruiting and retaining students at Ferris State University. Clearly we are succeeding in attracting new freshmen to Ferris. In the weeks ahead, I look forward to engaging you in discussions about how to positively change our enrollment patterns and to do so with an urgency that will produce positive results by next fall.

Strategic Plan Update/Forums

This past spring concluded the final year of the 2014-2019 strategic plan, “Living Our Values.” The final report on this plan highlights significant accomplishments made throughout the course of the last five years. This plan created a solid foundation for the University’s 2019-2024 strategic plan, “Ferris Forward.” Over the past year and a half, much work has been dedicated to formulating this new plan. I encourage you to join with me in thanking the members of the Steering Committee and their co-chairs David Pilgrim and Spence Tower, who have worked diligently to develop this next strategic plan.

The plan includes a new vision statement for the University, which I believe is both succinct and powerful –

"Building on the vision of our founders, Ferris State University will be an agile and transformational university. By integrating theory and practice, we will foster opportunity, discovery, and professional preparation for a dynamic global society."

The new strategic plan focuses on five themes – Academic Programs and Offerings, Student Success, Institutional Effectiveness, Pride and Community, and Enhancing Resources. It incorporates key strategic targets to measure our success moving forward.

Two public forums are scheduled to share information and solicit feedback from the University community about this new strategic plan: Thursday, Sept. 5, at 11 a.m. and Tuesday, Sept. 10, at 3 p.m. The latter forum will be held during the Strategic Planning and Resource Council (SPARC) meeting, to which all are invited to attend. Both forums will be held in the University Center, Room 202A. I encourage you to attend.

Much information about this new strategic plan is accessible online. Please take a few moments to review the current drafts of the strategic plan, the implementation plan and the key strategic targets. Working together we can make a great University even greater. In doing so we continue the vision of our Founders, fostering an education that is “for all of the people, all of the time.”

Special Recognition

This week we received some exciting news – Ferris State University was ranked #124 out of 395 national universities by the 2019 Washington Monthly College Guide.This ranking looks especially at our contribution to the public good in three broad categories: social mobility, research and promoting public service. From the 15 public universities in our state, only Michigan, Michigan State and Michigan Tech were ranked higher than Ferris. In this guide we are ranked especially high in Graduate Performance (#56), Earnings Performance (#85) and Net Price (#70). These results are accessible online. Washington Monthly also honors institutions that do the most to encourage students to vote, recognition we received for the second year in a row. It is wonderful to see Ferris State University receive this national attention for the excellence of our education, commitment to remain affordable for students and the success of our graduates.

Over the past week, Ryan Meppelink, a senior in Heavy Equipment Technology, has been competing at the WorldSkills Competition in Kazan, Russia. To reach this most elite of competitions, Ryan first needed to earn the gold medal as the top person at the SkillsUSA Michigan and at the national SkillsUSA competitions. At WorldSkills, Ryan earned the bronze medal in Heavy Vehicle Technology and the Best of Nation for the highest score of any of the 20 students who represented the United States in various categories. Congratulations to Ryan, to the faculty who have contributed to his education, and to everyone who has helped and supported him in this competitive journey.    


The fall sports season is now underway. Our student-athletes and coaches had tremendous seasons last year, with our football team achieving an undefeated regular season, finishing 15-1 and competing in the NCAA national championship finals. Volleyball won their 5th straight GLIAC regular season and postseason championships with an undefeated conference record, and advanced to the NCAA Midwest regional semifinals. Soccer recorded their best season in history and progressed to the Midwest regional finals. 

This week our volleyball team, ranked 12th in the nation, opens its season against Ohio Dominican at home on Thursday at 5 p.m. Our football team begins the year ranked either first or second in the national polls. Their first home game isThursday against Findlay with kick-off set for 7:30 p.m.

We wish all our athletic teams the best of success this year.

Thank You

I would like to share a special thank you to all of our faculty and staff for your efforts in creating such a smooth transition to the beginning of the school year. Your combined efforts provide a solid foundation for our students as they return to campus or adjust to their new home.  I very much appreciate everything you do to help our students have a successful start to the semester.

David L. Eisler, president