By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum outlined a number of goals associated with a five-year plan to handle continued growth and success during a general faculty meeting Tuesday.
A formal presentation of goals will be delivered later in the semester.
The university has experienced a number of changes and challenges over the last few years, but overall, Keenum said the university was in good shape.
“We want our university to be ranked among the top 50 public universities in the country. That is the over-arching goal for us as an institution,” he said.
To reach that goal, the university has come up with a five-year plan with the aim of raising its overall ranking. Keenum said he would like to see the graduation rate around 65 percent in the next few years — up from the current rate of 60 percent. Despite the large increase in student enrollment, there are plans to lower the student to faculty ratio to 18-to-1. Keenum also said he hopes to raise average faculty salaries up to the average of other Southeastern institutions.
Research will also play a vital role in the five-year plan. Mississippi State will aim to become the first university in the state to be part of the prestigious Association of Research Libraries. Keenum said the university will work on increasing the annual research fund from $200 million a year to $250 million a year.
“These are goals that we will have to work toward (together) in each college and department on this campus,” he said.
The university will also physically expand as enrollment continues to grow. MSU enrollment has increased approximately 25 percent over the last five years up to over 20,400 students, Keenum said, and the university has had to make adjustments to accommodate the rapid growth. The university already opened one new residence hall this year and two more are under construction to open next fall. Keenum said there are plans for yet another residence hall to be added shortly after.
“We will also be adding a state of the art classroom facility as we are reaching our limit as far as available classroom space,” he said.
The new facilities will also have two levels of parking, which Keenum said would help offset some of the building’s cost.
With new housing and classrooms, new students will need some space in Davis Wade Stadium to cheer on the Bulldogs.
“We are developing plans to expand Davis Wade Stadium. We have plans to close in the north end of the stadium, which would be a net increase of 6,000-8,000 seats,” Keenum said. “We are also planning renovations to the west side of the stadium, some updates.”
If all goes well, he said, the stadium renovations and expansion will be ready in time for the 2014 football season.
Fans won’t be the only ones getting a little more space. A brand new football facility will begin construction soon. The building will hold all the football staff offices, locker rooms for the athletes and a weight facility. The team’s practice fields will be getting updated, as well.
The biggest goal for MSU is to maintain a high level of quality education, despite any challenges it might face, Keenum said. State funding has decreased steadily over the last decade, but Keenum said he was determined to continue to deliver the best education possible.
“I sincerely believe that students don’t come here for a cheap education,” he said. “Parents and students expect quality, and we are going to do all that we can to maintain that level of quality.”