Baldwin City A few days after announcing her planned retirement, Baker University President Pat Long outlined for students, faculty and staff Tuesday what's in store for her remaining 16 months on the job: an expansion of a new leadership program and a new student union that, attendees learned, will bear her name.
Working to increase enrollment and raise funds will also be on her to-do list, Long said in a “State of the University” speech Tuesday in Baker’s Rice Auditorium. Her address was part of the university’s Founders Day activities, marking the 155th birthday of the state’s oldest four-year college.
About 200 people came to watch, which Long said was the biggest crowd she’d seen at the annual event.
“All I have to do is announce I’m retiring and it draws them in,” said Long, who made her announcement Friday. But she was joking, she said: She knew many students had come to hear rumored details about a remodeled and expanded student union.
And Long obliged, showing a video announcing plans to overhaul the Harter Union on campus. The clip said the project would begin with renovations to the cafeteria inside, with two additions to follow later on: a new entryway including a coffee bar and café, meeting spaces, billiard tables and computers; and then a new multipurpose event center with capacity for 400 people.
Long said after her talk that the project was expected to cost about $2 million altogether, of which about half has been raised. The new cafeteria is set to be finished by the time students return in fall 2013, and she said she hoped the rest would be done by the time she retires in June 2014.
Baker trustee Susanne Teel, who donated to the fundraising effort, was given the rights to name the new building, and she announced following Long’s address that it would honor the university’s departing leader: the Pat McCaslin Long Student Center.
“Her commitment to the students is unparalleled,” Teel said.
Also before she leaves, Long said, she hopes to expand the university’s new Institute for Leadership and Positive Change — a program for all Baker students that will train them to be business leaders with a sense of social responsibility, with the help of outside experts.
It’s the only program of its kind Baker leaders have found, she said, and it launched in January.
“I think this can be such a distinguishing idea for our campus,” Long said.
She also said she wanted to hand the university over to her successor in good financial shape, so she’ll be working to increase enrollment and traveling the country to raise funds. The university aims to increase its total enrollment to 4,000 students, from about 3,500, by the year 2020.
“We cannot afford another year of down enrollments,” Long said. “You all know that.”
And she’ll also be interacting with students, she said, attending as many performances and athletic events as she can.
“The greatest joy that I have in this job is being with our students,” Long said. “It’s seeing you as you perform. It’s seeing you as you make your presentations, seeing you in your sporting competitions.”