Western Courier

Western looks at positives

Nicholas Ebelhack, editor-in-chief

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President Jack Thomas and his administrative staff fielded ideas from the university community Monday afternoon at a town hall meeting focusing on generating ideas to emphasize the positive aspects of Western Illinois University.

“This is a wonderful time for us to come together as faculty, staff, students and administrators to come together and talk about our university and what we can do to make things better,” Thomas said. “We do some great things at this university, but we feel we can also some better things at this institution.”

As enrollment and appropriated funding continues to decline at Western, Thomas acknowledged that times have been tough at Western but that the university is looking for new ways to push through adversity.

“For the past seven years, we have dealt with the state cash flow, and for the last two years the state budget impasse has severely affected the university,” Thomas said. “Unfortunately the hand that we have been dealt hasn’t been popular with our state colleges and universities.”

Director of University Relations Darcie Shinberger moderated the session, fielding potential ideas to be discussed with Thomas in addition to admissions staff and other departments.

“We can achieve even more when we all work together,” Thomas said. “The positive things that we have achieved in the last year outweigh the negatives, and you all know a lot about all those positive things in spite of the challenges.”

Ideas that were proposed included a focus on academic strengths, to which Centennial Honors College Director Rick Hardy responded with the Honors College’s contribution.

“We have an Athletics Hall of Fame; our greatest athletes are showcased there,” Hardy said. “But what do we do with our great students? We will have the Academic Hall of Fame. The Honors College is working on the Academic Hall of Fame right now, and we will have all of our best students listed on it digitally.”

Other ideas included ways to make potential students feel more included on campus. Women’s Center Director Stephanie Hovsepian mentioned that the entire university community plays a role in ensuring marginalized groups feel comfortable and attracted to Western.

“We are doing some amazing work along with our graduate students,” Hovsepian said. “The work that we do absolutely supports the work that you all are doing right now, and our efforts to connect with students of different races and ethnicities, but that isn’t just our job, this is everyone’s work to find ways to give those students who want that extra support.”

Shinberger also mentioned how little things can make students feel included, citing that some students find their way to Western when they see that there interests are represented in student organizations or other activities.

“I met with the outdoors club the other day, this sounds silly but there are a lot of high schools in the region that have an outdoors club or a bass fishing club,” Shinberger said. We have a big bass fishing club here and they are willing to invite those students here and meet with our club so that they know there is something that interest them here.”

Thomas ended the meeting with his closing remarks, encouraging people to continue to pitch ideas.

“We want to continue this dialogue and to promote the positive things happening at Western.”

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Western looks at positives