Monday, June 17, 2024

‘It has been an honor and a privilege’: LSUS Chancellor says goodbye in final column

by BIZ Magazine

Because of my upcoming retirement on June 30, this is my last column. I thank David Specht Jr. for the opportunity to directly communicate with you.  

The recent Staff Senate luncheon featured a lip sync video. I was the final “singer”. My song was “The Time of My Life”. I particularly emphasized the following words: “Now I’ve had the time of my life… and I owe it all to you.” How true. It has been both an honor and privilege to serve as the LSU Shreveport Chancellor for the past nine years. We have had many successes, including the growth of our enrollment from 4,200 in 2014 to more than 8,700 today. These successes could not have happened without all of you, including the LSUS community, LSU, the LSUS Foundation, the Noel Foundation, many other LSUS partners, and the overall support from Northwest Louisiana. Thank you. 

We faced steep financial difficulties in 2014. However, Interim Chancellor Paul Sisson, with the strong support of a core group of faculty and staff, had just started LSUS down the path of online education. We doubled down on our commitment to online with the audacious goal of becoming a national leader in online education. We reimagined online learning. We focused on the student experience and collaborative learning, always of importance at LSUS. We also leveraged a new mandate by the LSU “system” that all schools adopt LSU’s Purple & Gold. 

At my first LSUS Faculty Senate meeting, the Senate voted to request the return of our traditional gold and blue colors. I told the Senate that their request was too late, that we had bought all the purple paint we could find to boldly display LSU purple and gold colors on campus. LSU’s brand, colors, and name recognition continue to greatly enhance our national marketing campaigns, still dominated by our graduate programs, still led by our excellent MBA program.  

LSUS is a known entity across the nation and the world, not because of LSU branding but because of the quality of education and the value our graduates provide every day. People marvel from how far away so many online graduates come to walk at commencement. However, a similar evolution is happening in our on-campus programs. While we are continuing to strive to rebuild and grow enrollment, of the nearly 2,000 students on-campus this past fall, we had students from 50 parishes, 34 states, and 47 countries. Overall, for the past three years, only LSU A&M and UL Lafayette have graduated more total students. And, no Louisiana university has graduated more African-American students at the graduate level. We are proud of these accomplishments. 

The sizable increase in total enrollment brought in much-needed money to our budget, which nearly tripled to $81 million this fiscal year compared to 2014. FY 2021-2022 operations supported an estimated economic output of $174 million, $52 million in earnings, and 1,317 jobs. We have used those extra revenues to invest in faculty (60 full-time hires just in the last five years) and in our on-campus experience. 

Our faculty and staff have been instrumental in bringing creative spaces like the Cyber Collaboratory, IdeaSpace, and the Human Performance Lab to campus. This summer, we’ll be opening the Strategic Operations Center on campus. Forthcoming new projects include a driving bridge from Pilots Pointe Apartments to the heart of campus, external renovations for two key academic buildings, a new Science Annex building, and a campus greenhouse. The structure is in place to support significant growth at the undergraduate level, which will strengthen our Northwest Louisiana community and broader region.

LSUS will always be very special to me. I first came to LSUS in 1981, when both the university and the community were thriving, including the new General Motors plant. In 1985, I became dean of the College of Business. This enabled me to become much more involved in the community, including being a member of the Shreveport Biracial Commission and chairing Mayor Beard’s Task Force on the Relocation of City Hall before I left in 1994. Most important, Georgia Clark became my best friend and wife. It was this campus and community that in 2014 drew me back to LSUS. And yes, I have had the time of my life. I will continue to be LSUS’s biggest cheerleader and an active member of this community.

Larry Clark is chancellor of LSU Shreveport

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