Friday, May 17, 2024

LSUS chancellor focuses on revitalizing undergraduate population in annual Kemp Forum address

by BIZ Magazine

LSU Shreveport continues to be a national leader in online graduate education, and the University is using that revenue source to revitalize its face-to-face, undergraduate experience.

That’s the message that Chancellor Larry Clark delivered Thursday morning to local and statewide dignitaries, community partners and key LSUS figures gathered for the Kemp Forum, which serves as the annual “State of the University” address.

Total Fall 2022 enrollment of 8,721 students dropped by nearly two percent as colleges from across the country have experienced enrollment dips since the COVID-19 pandemic, but that figure is still above LSUS’ 2019 enrollment of 8,579.

“When we were looking at a 2014 enrollment of about 4,000 students, it’s a real achievement to have a fourth straight year of an enrollment above 8,500,” Clark said. “We know the undergraduate enrollment isn’t where we want it to be, but we are steadily increasing our program offerings and improving our campus facilities with the aim of attracting more face-to-face students.

“It’s a real team effort, and I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do and the path we’re on.”

The rapid growth of LSUS’s graduate programs, particularly the online Master of Business Administration, ballooned the school’s enrollment to nearly 10,000 just before the pandemic hit in March 2020. Graduate students made up 75 percent of the student body.

But the University has found solid footing post-pandemic as its 2022 enrollment is more than double its 2014 mark of approximately 4,000 students.

Because of the growth of LSUS online graduate programs, LSUS has been able to nearly triple its overall budget to $81 million, which leads to more resources to improve other areas.

Clark stressed LSUS’ continuing mission of creating an inviting on-campus environment for face-to-face undergraduates, which make up roughly 25 percent of the total student population.

“That face-to-face population remains diverse with students represented from 50 parishes, 34 states and 47 countries,” Clark said. “That’s something you’d expect from our online graduate population that spans all over the globe, but this shows that we’re attracting a diverse student population to our Shreveport campus as well.

“We’re attempting to grow that pipeline locally with facilities like our Cyber Collaboratory, our Human Performance Lab, the upcoming Security Operations Center later this year and the continuing progress toward a student recreation and fitness center.”

LSUS’ graduate student population is also diverse as the University has graduated more African-American graduate students than any other Louisiana school.

The creation of the Security Operations Center, which will become operational later this year, boosts the University’s footprint in Cyber Security, one of the fastest growing employment areas.

“We can work together to grow our own cyber expertise,” said Vice Chancellor Dr. Julie Lessiter in a March 8 LSU A&M news release. “The SOC will enable us to solve multiple problems, but the most important aspect is connecting our students with industry to tackle real-world challenges in real time where our students gain hands-on experience from working with each other, with our faculty and with state and federal agencies.”

Expanded program offerings is designed to boost enrollment, and LSUS has added bachelor degrees in Mass Communications, Occupational Physiology and Nonprofit Administration since 2020 with an additional 11 programs being proposed.

“This kind of growth wasn’t possible without resources, and we’ve increased our resources and revenue,” said Provost Dr. Helen Taylor. “Identifying and implementing new programs requires extensive research on how these programs meet regional workforce needs and fill skills gaps.

“We’re only asking for programs that are supporting the region in terms of preparing students to earn a living and pay taxes.”

Clark led a subset of local and state officials on a tour of the Human Performance Lab, where research is conducted such as studying heat stress on firefighters by using the only environmental chamber for human data collection in Louisiana.

The tour also included the in-progress removal of the swimming pool, which will be the future home of a student recreation center.

Officials attending the Kemp Forum included new Shreveport mayor Tom Arceneaux, U.S. senator John Kennedy, Louisiana senators Barry Milligan and Barrow Peacock, Louisiana house members Alan Seabaugh and Thomas Pressly and Louisiana Board of Regents members Judy Williams Brown and Wilbert Pryor.

Clark honors five distinguished community partners

The Kemp Forum kicked off by awarding five community members with the Chancellor’s Distinguished Community Partner Awards.

Patrick Harwell is a hot air balloon enthusiast who was key in creating the Red River Balloon Rally, which was hosted at LSUS for a number of years. Harwell, who helped create the LSUS hot air balloon, established the Bill Harwell Memorial Scholarship in honor of his brother.

Bobbie Hicks was honored posthumously as a long-time LSUS supporter and creator of the “Authors in April,” which attracts top authors to campus.

Michael McCarthy is a huge supporter of LSUS Athletics, serving as a sounding board for coaches and staff on top of supporting other entities like the Independence Bowl.

Charles Thompson created and coaches the LSUS Bass Fishing Team and has built a successful program that has attracted a lot of first-generation college students.

Clark praised the work of the Noel Memorial Foundation and the LSUS Foundation, honoring Noel board president Merritt B. Chastain. The Noel Memorial Foundation has provided nearly $5 million in various funding since 2014, which includes supporting 50 annual scholarships totaling $4,000 each.

Clark also offered special recognition to Dr. George A. Kemp, who along with wife Rita established an endowment of the public forum that finances the Kemp Forum and makes it possible to offer the annual public update.

Thursday was the first Forum without Dr. Kemp, who died in May of 2022.

Daughter Kelly Kemp-Graves represented the family.

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