Hope for SIU’s future: Chancellor Lane looks beyond COVID-19

By Keaton Yates, Staff Reporter

Over the past eight months, Chancellor Austin Lane has conducted a listening and learning tour, which was where Lane met with the SIU community to learn more about what SIU was excelling at and what could be improved. 

“As you can imagine, I got the good, the bad and the ugly,” Lane said. “I ended up meeting with about 105 groups […] The idea was to create a shared vision.”

Lane discovered the areas SIU was more passionate about were student engagement, research innovation, sustainability and partnerships.


“It came out loud and clear among the groups I talked to about how important it is for us to have an environment that is filled with diversity and equity and inclusion so all can thrive,” Lane said.

Along with SIU system President Dan Mahony, Lane has hosted “Conversations of Understanding,” diversity initiatives encouraging the SIU community to come together to discuss systemic racism, issues facing the LGBTQ community and to discuss solutions.

SIU has been struggling with an enrollment decline for a few years now, but its future became even more uncertain in 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic emerged.

See more: SIU enrollment numbers show slight decrease in enrollment, increase in retention

See more: SIU releases spring 2021 enrollment numbers, sees 3.7% decrease in attendance

Back in the fall due to COVID-19, Lane said the school was worried about going completely online because of the chances of students pausing their studies or not wanting to take certain classes because of remote learning.

Lane said he expected enrollment to decline around ten percent, but it turned out only to decrease by two percent. Since last spring, SIU has maintained 90 percent retention.


Amanda Sutton, interim director of undergraduate admissions, said despite the challenges with COVID-19, the admissions team and all of faculty and staff across campus have been innovative and creative when it comes to interacting with students. 

There are currently discussions about what the university may look like post-COVID-19 have been happening, but admissions haven’t completely decided what the plan is. 

Recruiters have been attending virtual college fairs and have been meeting with new students individually, but they have started to prepare for in person visits. SIU has also been boosting social media to show new students what the school has to offer.

“There is value in some of the virtual opportunities we offer in a post-COVID world,” Sutton said. “I think the more we can be adaptable and creative in how we present content and answer student questions, I think that’ll only add to successes.”

This article is part of a larger series examining SIU’s past, present and future. To read more content from the series, visit the “Special Projects” tab on the homepage or click here.

Staff reporter Keaton Yates can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @keatsians.

To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.