2020 vision: SIU looks ahead to next decade

By Jacob Lorenz, Staff Reporter

It’s a new decade for the 150-year-old university and SIU’s administration is optimistic about the 20s and hopes that new renovations to buildings, a focus on student academics and a revitalized athletics program will improve enrollment.  

 Meera Komarraju, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said the number one priority for SIU in the 20’s is enrollment, which includes recruitment and retention.

Komarraju said fall enrollment was around 11,900 but the goal is 15,000 in a couple of years.

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Komarraju said they want to build on initiatives they’ve done but do them excellently, like focusing on student success. 

“When they come here they have a good, solid academic experience so they actually feel like they’re learning something and they’re growing in some way,” Komarraju said. “And then to work with them so they plan for the future.” 

Komarraju said she wants to help students in the future, whether it’s going into the workforce or furthering their education. 

There are pockets across campus that help students launch into graduate school really well, Komarraju said, and they want to learn from them and apply that all of campus. 

“If a student is figuring out how to get an internship, make that a part of the program, so that every student who finishes from SIU has an internship experience,” Komarraju said. 

Komarraju said, SIU is hiring 35 new faculty for fall 2020 and brought 22 new faculty for fall 2019. 

“We are also excited about our doctorate programs in physical therapy and occupational therapy which are very high demand areas,” Komarraju said, “and our nursing program that is going to start this fall.” 

There is a shortage of teachers, nurses and pilots in this country and now SIU has programs in all three of those fields, Kommaraju said. 

Another way SIU is looking to boost its enrollment is through sports. 

SIU has 17 sports since it added women’s soccer and Tom Weber, associate AD for communications, said that’s a good number for a mid-major school. 

Weber said he is optimistic about this decade for sports. When Jerry Kill was athletics director, he hired 7 new coaches in a year and Weber said he is confident in them. 

Weber said he’s been at SIU for 18 years and this is the strongest group of coaches he’s seen, and he’s seen good coaches like Bruce Weber and Jerry Kill. 

“I think that 20 years from now you’ll be seeing ‘Wow, guys like Bryan Mullins and Nick Hill coached here,’” Weber said. 

Liz Jarnigan, SIU’s athletics director, got a group of senior leadership together to work on goal for the athletic department. They came up with a pyramid called Saluki Standards, Weber said. 

Broadly speaking, Weber said, the goal is to graduate student athletes and prepare them for life. 

“It’s not just about winning championships, obviously that is an important part, but we’re also focused on the GPA,” Weber said. 

Weber said he hopes that, by the end of this decade, SIU will be able to look back at the number of conference championships SIU will have won and the number of NCAA tournament appearances we made, and he believes this will help boost enrollment. 

“No one wants to wait 10 more years before we go back to the big dance,” Weber said. “The opportunity to be on the national stage, that showcase of March Madness, we need to get back there.” 

Weber said it is imperative that SIU athletics is a success in this decade since it can really help with enrollment. 

Brad Dillard, director of the physical plant, said SIU can still expect changes to the buildings on campus from the capital bill this decade.

(See more. New capital bill to provide upgrades to SIU). 

“We expect to get permission from the Governor’s office and the state to start up our engineering and planning work,” Dillard said. 

Dillard said, the changes are still the same in the capital bill from the spring, but priorities may change within that bil So expect building renovations to the Communications, Neckers, Agriculture Sciences and Life Sciences II this decade.

Staff reporter Jacob Lorenz can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @jtlorenz6.

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