Chancellor: SIUE faces challenges and opportunities in years to come

News-DemocratApril 19, 2013 

— With trumpet fanfares and banners from the eight schools, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville officially installed new Chancellor Julie Furst-Bowe as the eighth leader of the university.

Furst-Bowe, 49, was named chancellor last year and succeeded retiring chancellor Vaughn Vandegrift in July 2012. She previously served as provost and vice chancellor for academic and student affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, having been a faculty or administration member there since 1990.

Furst-Bowe's installation comes about nine months after her arrival on campus, but school officials said the time lag is normal. She was welcomed in a series of speeches from university leaders, including the faculty and staff senates, student government, alumni and the SIUE Foundation.

Edwardsville Mayor Gary Niebur welcomed Furst-Bowe, the fifth chancellor to lead Edwardsville's largest employer in his 20-year tenure as mayor.

"As a lifelong resident, I have witnessed firsthand and marveled at the advancement of this university," Niebur said. "It is more than a beautiful campus, wonderful structures and an economic engine that drives this community and this entire region. It's about growing and prospering. It's personal. It's about students receiving a quality education; it's about their future."

Niebur said he also is an SIUE parent: his three daughters attended SIUE, one of which went on to the Carbondale law school, and his son will attend the Carbondale campus in the fall.

"Rest assured even though you did not offer a multi-student family discount, you have my full support and I will always offer my full support to this university system," Niebur said.

Furst-Bowe's speech tracked the events and improvements of the last year, including work on student retention, a campus diversity plan, developing "green" sustainable buildings and the trip to Cuba, which solidified the university's collaborative agreement with the University of Havana. She recalled attending her first St. Louis Cardinals game and throwing out the first pitch, shortly before welcoming a record-high class of 2,075 freshmen.

But Furst-Bowe also highlighted the challenges, including the state budget issues that have slashed SIUE's funding year after year. Over the last several years, she said, the state's funding has dropped from 46 percent of SIUE's budget to 22 percent. "Facing these challenges will require students, faculty and staff to work together with high levels of communication, trust and teamwork," she said.

SIUE's economic impact on the region, as measured in 2010, was approximately $471 million a year, Furst-Bowe said. They are proud of that statistic, she said, but equally proud of the students' accomplishments.

"Yes, we do have challenges, and it is true that the resources that we have been allocated in the past are declining," Furst-Bowe said. "But there are opportunities out there, and if we seize them and work together, we will continue to be that great educational and economic engine for southwestern Illinois. ... Let's celebrate what we've accomplished, and look forward to what we can do in the future."

Other speakers referred to Furst-Bowe as a "tireless advocate" for students and the university, and faculty senate chairman Rhonda Comrie promised that the faculty would support her.

"We will bring our passion for educating and for sharing what happens at SIUE, a place where diverse students come together and new ideas emerge," she said. "Big problems need good solutions, and we want to teach without worry toward our future ... We are hopeful that in dialogue, all our ideas and perspectives are considered."

The installation included a procession of more than 100 faculty department chairmen, deans and other leaders in full academic regalia, as well as banners from the schools of pharmacy, nursing, engineering, education, dental medicine, business, arts and sciences and the graduate school.

Other attendees included political representatives, community leaders and Furst-Bowe's husband, mother and sister. Academic delegates included Sharon Hahs, president of Northeastern Illinois University and a former SIUE administrator; Victoria Dowling, senior vice president at McKendree University; Elizabeth Stroble, president of Webster University; Thomas George, chancellor of University of Missouri-St. Louis; Rita Cheng, chancellor of SIU Carbondale; and representatives from many other universities, including Furst-Bowe's former appointment, the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at edonald@bnd.com or 239-2507.

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