New A&M-Commerce President Jones Outlines Initiatives

COMMERCE, Texas – Dr. Dan Jones, new president of Texas A&M University-Commerce who arrived on campus about a month ago, delivered his first address to faculty and staff members on Aug. 21 and outlined several new initiatives.

At this meeting kicking off the fall semester, Jones began his speech by paying tribute to Dr. Keith McFarland, 10th president of A&M-Commerce, who retired on July 31.

Among McFarland’s accomplishments were placing the university on sound financial footing, overseeing the development of new academic programs, and securing the funds to transform the campus into a “place of physical, cultural, and intellectual beauty,” said Jones, formerly provost, vice president for academic affairs, and professor of English at Texas A&M International University in Laredo.

In an update on construction projects, Jones said the new Sam Rayburn Student Center will be completed ahead of schedule and under budget. Departments will begin moving into the facility, located across from the new Science Building, this fall with a ribbon cutting scheduled for early 2009.

The Alumni Center is nearing completion and will be open before Homecoming on Saturday, Nov. 1.

Groundbreaking for the new Music Building will be in December with completion expected in June 2010.

Since his first visit to campus in March 2008 as a candidate for the university president, Jones said he has been asked numerous times these questions: “Who are we? What are our strengths and weaknesses? What direction should we be heading in, and most important, how should we get there?”

To reach answers, he said, “We have to talk first to those whom we serve, and have served, during our 119-year history: our students, current and prospective, as well as our alumni.”

Also, he said, stakeholders’ views must be considered — the citizens and taxpayers of the State of Texas. Since the state’s resources are limited, he said, higher education must use the funding it receives wisely.

Jones said that if he were to ask its 9,000 current students and its 60,000 living alumni what the institution is all about, he may well get 69,000 different answers. “I assure you that there will be a common thread running through them all: this is the institution that transformed my life. It is the university that gave me the knowledge I needed to change the course of history for myself, my family, my world.”

To be good stewards of the resources that A&M-Commerce receives and to demonstrate that “we bring real value to the people of the State of Texas, it is essential that we cultivate a culture of assessment, accountability, and effectiveness in all that we do and say as educators,” Jones said.

“The public, through its elected officials, is not interested in a scholarly debate over these issues. They want to see results, and they fully intend to hold purse strings tight until they see results.”

“How do we show them results?”

To show results, Jones proposes three strategies be implemented.

The first strategy is to strengthen the link between strategic planning and the budget. Jones plans to establish a Budget Review and Development Committee that will be responsible for ensuring that strategic goals are translated into budget priorities.

This committee will be responsible for recommending an annual budget to Jones. Vice President for Business and Administration Bob Brown is working with his staff on a draft proposal to implement this process.

The second strategy is to implement a strategic enrollment management team. The demographics of the A&M-Commerce service region are changing and now include an increased number of students from Rockwall, Collin, Kaufman, Dallas, Tarrant, Ellis, and Navarro counties.

Jones is in the process of assembling the membership and charge for a Strategic Enrollment Management Team, which will gather data, set goals, and determine performance indicators for all of the university’s efforts related to outreach, recruitment, retention, and graduation.

The third strategy is focus on service – to students and to one another. “When students don’t get the help they need, all too often they simply go away and don’t come back.” Jones said he is working with the vice presidents, deans, and directors to establish a Service Excellence Task Force to identify areas to improve service delivery throughout the university.

The president said he wants faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community leaders’ ideas and will distribute a stakeholders’ survey asking for their views on “what we do well, what we need to improve, where our best opportunities lie, and where we should be headed.” Later this semester, Jones said he will report on the results of the survey to the university community as well as strategies to move the university forward.

“Texas A&M University-Commerce is at a wonderful moment in its history,” he said. “Like every institution, we face formidable challenges. Yet never in our 119 years of service to the region and the world have we had a greater opportunity to deliver upon our promise of transforming lives through education.

“The future is truly bright with possibility, and I look forward to working with everyone to make our university the best that it can be,” Jones said.

A&M-C PRESIDENTAL ADDRESS – Dr. Dan Jones, new president of Texas A&M University-Commerce who arrived on campus about a month ago, makes his first major speech to faculty and staff members on Aug. 21. Jones outlined new initiatives focusing on strategic planning and budgeting, enrollment, and customer service. The first day of fall semester classes is Monday, Aug. 25.

(A&M-Commerce photo/Shelly Cervantes)