Cameron University has released “Plan 2013 Status Report,” an accountability document that evaluates the university’s progress in meeting the goals set forth in its second long-term strategic plan. “Plan 2013: Choices for the Second Century” outlined a comprehensive set of ambitious goals and objectives which reflects Cameron’s commitment to positively impact the community, region and state by providing a top quality, affordable education to students. The “Plan 2013 Status Report” is a summary of the progress made four years into the five-year plan.
“This report is an important step to evaluate the university’s current progress and address significant challenges,” says Cameron President Cindy Ross. “It continues the process of strategic planning to build on the university’s considerable accomplishments and to focus our energies on exceeding the promises articulated in the university’s mission.”
“Plan 2013” was developed following a collaborative process that involved students, faculty, staff and external stakeholders. The strategic plan set forth four goals:
- Become the “University of Choice” by providing students a top-quality education
- Offer the “College Experience of Choice” by fostering a traditional collegiate atmosphere
- Be the “Location of Choice” for community and regional events
- Be the “Partner of Choice” by expanding existing and developing new community and area partnerships that will contribute to the growth and prosperity of Southwest Oklahoma.
“Any university can plan; any university can set goals and objectives,” says Ross. “What sets Cameron University apart is our singular focus to achieve the goals we have set and to ask our stakeholders and constituents to hold us accountable for the results.”
The Plan 2013 status report details accomplishments and initiatives to attain each goal.
“Each of the goals and the majority of the objectives have been accomplished,” says Ross. “The results are impressive. The progress of Cameron University has accelerated over the past four years. This success is due to the commitment and the hard work of Cameron’s talented faculty and staff and the unwavering support of the community.”
Cameron’s status as “University of Choice” is demonstrated by the historic enrollment growth experienced over the past four years. From Fall 2008 to Fall 2011, total fall headcount enrollment has increased by 19 percent, graduate enrollment has grown by 37 percent, and concurrently enrolled high school student enrollment has increased by 40 percent.
Student learning is the core of Cameron’s mission, a fact that did was touted by the evaluation team from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the regional accrediting agency, during its 2011 site visit.
“Cameron’s faculty, students, staff and external constituents spent two years preparing for the HLC accreditation visit,” says Ross. “A thorough self-study document detailed Cameron’s progress since its 2000 accreditation review and outlined the university’s ambitious agenda. Following a four-day site visit, the HLC evaluation team issued the most positive report in the school’s history, granting a 10-year unconditional accreditation.”
In addition to noting that “student learning is at the center of what it [Cameron] does” and citing the university’s ability to “redesign itself to meet changing student needs,” the HLC report recognizes numerous university strengths, including citations that Cameron is future-oriented and learning-focused and that strategic planning has moved from a weakness 10 years ago to a strength today. The HLC review team called Cameron University a “role model institution.”
Cameron is proud of its graduates and confident in their skills and competence. In 2011-12, “The Cameron University Guarantee” was implemented, providing a money-back guarantee on the quality of graduates. Any Cameron baccalaureate graduate found to have deficiencies in core employment areas in his or her field of study will be able to receive additional education from Cameron at no expense to the graduate or the employer. This is the first program of its kind in Oklahoma and one of the few in the nation.
The university’s commitment to providing a top quality education at an affordable cost has also played a critical role in becoming the “University of Choice.” Cameron continues to invest in its students by increasing resident tuition waivers and Educational and General (E&G) scholarships. In Fall 2013, resident tuition waivers and E&G scholarship funding will exceed $2 million for the first time, an increase of 25 percent over the amount allocated in 2008-09. Generous individuals, businesses, organizations and foundations have made a Cameron education more affordable, with more than $1.5 million being contributed for student scholarships over the past four years.
While those accomplishments are impressive, Cameron has fallen short in freshman-to-sophomore retention rates and six-year graduate rates for first-time, full-time baccalaureate degree-seeking students.
“While there are many explanations for the sub-par performance on these accountability measures, we are falling short of expectations and we must improve,” says Ross. “We will continue to put increasing student retention and graduation rates front and center.”
Campus improvements, resulting in an enhanced sense of community on campus, are at the heart of Cameron’s ability to provide the “College Experience of Choice.” Among the improvements is an extensive renovation program for on-campus housing, resulting in a 15 percent increase in the number of students residing on campus. Additionally, the average rate for room and board for the 2011-12 academic year at Cameron was the second-lowest in the nation and almost 60 percent less than the national average of $9,047.
“Cameron’s on-campus housing facilities have been filled to capacity for the past several years, and the demand is growing,” Ross says. “The variety of on-campus living options and the convenient access to university resources, programs and initiatives make this an increasingly popular choice for Cameron students.”
As enrollment continues to grow, Cameron is committed to the health of its students and employees. In Fall 2010, the university opened the Student Wellness Center, which provides counseling and acute medical care to students and hosts a variety of activities aimed at providing health and wellness education and programs to the Cameron community. Through these and other initiatives, Cameron earned recognition as a Certified Healthy Business in 2010 and ranked in the Excellence category as a campus by the State Department of Health in 2011.
During the last four years, athletic events have continued to play an important role in providing the “College Experience of Choice.” In Spring 2012, Cameron received a $1 million gift from the McMahon Foundation which will be used for the construction of a new softball complex, McMahon Field and Athletics Center. The complex will contain batting cages for both softball and baseball and a weight room for all Cameron athletes.
With over $60 million in capital improvements completed or in progress on campus, Cameron has solidified its position as the “Location of Choice” for Southwest Oklahoma. The McMahon Centennial Complex (MCC), a multi-purpose facility located at the heart of the Cameron campus, has become a popular venue for conferences and community events including high school proms, community balls, weddings, banquets and academic conferences. In addition to a 4,770-square-foot divisible ballroom, the MCC contains breakout rooms suitable for workshops and conferences. The MCC has also become the hub of student life on campus, with a food court, dining area, recreation area, bookstore and ample student activity and meeting space.
“The MCC has fulfilled its promise as a sought-after venue,” says Ross. “The variety of events that takes place there brings visitors from around the world to the Cameron campus. It was our distinct honor to serve as the host location for Fort Sill’s internationally known FIRES Conference for the past two years.”
Community and cultural events such as the Centennial Celebration and the triennial Academic Festival, both of which bring nationally and internationally known speakers to campus, attract visitors from across Oklahoma and neighboring states. In 2011-12, “Afghanistan: Its Complexities and Relevance” featured five world-renowned guest speakers: Dr. Khaled Hosseini, best-selling and prize-winning author of “The Kite Runner;” two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author and journalist Steve Coll; former U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel; journalist, foreign policy analyst and author Robin Wright; and General (Ret.) Stanley A. McChrystal. These keynote events, supplemented by campus-wide activities, seminars, special events and cross-curricular emphasis in the classroom, presented numerous opportunities for the Cameron community as well as the public to gain an understanding of Afghan culture, history and politics.
With the addition of the Bentley Gardens in Spring 2010, Cameron offered yet another location for campus and community events. The lush 2.6 acre facility, with a gazebo and pond, has become a popular photographic venue for community members who wish to capture special moments including engagement, bridal and graduation portraits. Bentley Gardens is also a popular destination for students, who can be found studying and enjoying social activities in the gazebo and along the winding paths.
The status report also cited Cameron’s commitment to being the “Partner of Choice” for the surrounding community, noting that university employees and students interact with external communities in a variety of ways. Cameron’s dedication to serving the military community as an educational and civic partner is evidenced through numerous programs and initiatives, including participation in the Department of Veterans Affairs Yellow Ribbon Program, and Cameron’s award-winning Army ROTC program. Cameron’s George D. Keathley Department of Military Science is home to the Comanche Battalion, one of the top Army ROTC programs in the nation. In 2009, the Comanche Battalion was recognized with the MacArthur Award, signifying Best in Brigade. In 2010, the Comanche Battalion was named as one of the top Army ROTC squads in the nation. Since Fall 2008, 104 second lieutenants have been commissioned through the George D. Keathley Department of Military Science.
Additional elements that enhance Cameron’s status as a community partner are the CETES Conference Center, which accommodates workshops, meetings and conferences; a variety of summer camps available for youth ages 6-18; and the numerous opportunities for alumni participation provided by the Cameron University Alumni Association.
Cameron counts as its partners the many donors whose generous funding allows Cameron to offer increased financial assistance to students and who have provided 73 endowed faculty positions - more than any other regional university in Oklahoma.
“By evaluating the status of ‘Plan 2013’ before drafting our next strategic plan, we can establish appropriate and realistic goals and objectives for ‘Plan 2018’,” says Ross. “The accomplishments noted in the status report have set the pace for Cameron University’s continued growth and expansion.”
PDF versions of “Plan 2013: Choices for the Second Century” and the newly published status report can be viewed at www.cameron.edu/plan2013.
June 15, 2012