At last week’s LSU Board of Supervisors meeting held in Shreveport, most of the Northwest Louisiana legislative delegation came to address LSU leadership. They spoke on the need for greater attention and resources for LSU-S and our medical school, the LSU Health Shreveport (LSUHS).
Representative Cedric Glover spoke about the importance of investment in the success at LSU-S in “shifting the trajectory of our region”. Representative Sam Jenkins spoke about missed opportunity with the hope that we “work together and break as partners”. Senator Barrow Peacock talked about the benefits of giving our great leadership under Dr. Larry Clark “the ability to flourish” and build on the faculty’s excellence.
None of these conversations about resources for LSU-S are new to our community, being repeated for decades in various economic development reports. Representative Thomas Pressly summarized with the need for us to “prioritize…build on success and focus on strengths” in growing LSU-S.
Twelve years ago, a group of business, higher education and government leaders formed the Shreveport Bossier Imperative. A task force was put together to advocate for the higher education priorities of Northwest Louisiana. At that time, we were one of only a handful of mid-size metro areas that did not have a comprehensive public four-year university with a large on campus undergraduate enrollment.
We commissioned Eva Klein & Associates (EKA) to evaluate the best strategies to reach the goal of growing higher education offerings in the Shreveport-Bossier metro area. EKA’s report was supported by the Board of Regents and paid for by the community. EKA’s lead recommendation was consolidation of LA Tech and LSU Shreveport with the target to double academic programs and on campus enrollment offered at the metro university.
The SBI exchanged their LSU, LSU-S, and LA Tech jerseys for their Northwest Louisiana jersey. A bill was introduced and passed out of the House Education Committee. On the floor of the House, it fell short by a handful of votes to get the two-third votes needed. What turned the tide at that point was the LSU system’s development of the LSU-S Commitment Plan as an investment and promise in the future of LSU-S.
The LSU-S Commitment Plan explored how LSU-S might create greater R&D and post-secondary education for the city. The plan laid out a significant investment in LSU-S and promised great collaboration within the LSU system. In the cover letter of the report, Dr. Lombardi wrote “the key elements in this plan’s success is the recommendation that all LSU institutions have a commitment to the success of LSU-S”.
By 2018, it became obvious that most of the plan was not going to be realized. For our legislative delegation and community leaders, this was a reminder that vision has to be accompanied by resources to be successful.
Due to the great leadership at LSU-S, the graduate online program at LSU-S has boomed since 2012. However, the same has not occurred in undergraduate on campus enrollment. There is still work that needs to be done and change that needs to happen. Our legislative delegation communicated this can only happen with great support from the LSU system.
The Board of Regents recently commissioned the EAB Global Report to assess the issues brought out in the EKA and LSU-S Commitment Plan. This report is a comprehensive document that looks at a future path for LSU-S built on student and market demand. The report outlines the importance for LSU-S to develop strengths in business management; computer science; and health care. There is guidance in the report if our state is serious about building a greater higher ed enterprise at LSU-S.
As noted by Representative Thomas Pressly, there is a way that the LSU Flagship can not only execute on its strategic plan, but do so in a way that benefits both Northwest Louisiana and the Flagship.
The most recent LSU strategic plan highlights five areas of focus for the LSU system. Two of these areas, Biotechnology and Cyber and Military Science are areas where LSU-S, LSUHS and Northwest Louisiana already have expertise, relationships, and capacity. In Biotechnology, Northwest Louisiana has LSU Health Sciences Center, Biomedical Research Foundation, LA Tech, and Willis-Knighton/Ochsner Health Systems. In Cyber and Military Science, we have Barksdale Air Force Base, Global Strike Command led by a four-star general, the Cyber Innovation Center, and the technology rich I-20 Corridor.
The success of LSU is important to everyone in our state. Increased investment in LSU in Shreveport will help the Flagship avoid duplication and demonstrate LSU’s willingness to invest in excellence beyond the Baton Rouge campus.
The goal of our community leaders is the same as a dozen years ago — to build a more robust, more comprehensive four-year research university in the Shreveport Bossier Metro area. It is a common goal of the Shreveport Bossier Imperative, Chambers of Commerce, Committee of 100, local business and government leaders, and our legislative delegation. It has been reinforced in the EKA report, LSU-S Commitment Plan, and economic plans over the last 50 years.
At a minimum, we should build on what we’ve learned in these studies. But LSU can do more than the minimum. By basing the Biotechnology and Cyber and Military Science components of its strategic plan in Northwest Louisiana and dedicating the resources necessary to make them successful, LSU can not only achieve its goals, it can fulfill the commitment noted in the cover letter of the first LSU Commitment Plan — that all LSU institutions have a commitment to the success of LSU-S. If supported, as our legislative delegation requested at the LSU Board of Supervisors meeting, Dr. Clark and the faculty at LSU-S, and Dr. Lewis and the Health Sciences Center will be able to move the LSU campuses in Northwest Louisiana from good to great.
Dr. Phillip Rozeman is past board chair of the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce, LSU-S Foundation, and the Shreveport Bossier Imperative.