Approval of a new mission statement, a revised core curriculum and ratification of a series of proposals for program modifications highlighted the spring meeting of Oklahoma Baptist University’s board of trustees Friday afternoon.
In the regularly scheduled meeting in OBU’s Geiger Center, the board approved a new, targeted mission statement for the university, complementing a more lengthy purpose statement adopted by OBU in the 1980s. The new statement was initially drafted by the university’s faculty council, and was revised through a series of meetings with representatives from the faculty, administration and trustees. The approved wording states: “As a Christian liberal arts university, OBU transforms lives by equipping students to pursue academic excellence, integrate faith with all area of knowledge, engage a diverse world, [and] live worthy of the high calling of God in Christ.”
The board approved a revised core curriculum for the university, which enhances OBU’s acclaimed Western Civilization courses, and is designed to provide greater flexibility for students pursuing degrees which require unique specialized courses. The curriculum, titled “The Transformed Life,” also includes a “cornerstone” course crafted to help new students maximize their college experience.
The core program was assembled by the university’s “vision team,” a group of 15 faculty representing OBU’s five schools and colleges. The team worked throughout the month of January to review university programs and develop recommendations for improvements. Dr. Brister said the team “relied heavily” on data from a fall survey of current OBU students, as well as information from other student studies completed in recent years.
“The recent survey confirmed what previous studies had revealed: OBU students greatly value the Christian atmosphere of OBU, the relationships they have with their professors, and the liberal arts core curriculum we offer,” said Brister.
With the board’s ratification, OBU administrators and faculty will work to implement the curriculum through standard procedures, said the president.
Trustees also acted on 12 recommendations from Brister involving the status of some of OBU’s smaller academic programs. The president’s recommendations, drawn from a report by the university’s chief academic officer and the five academic deans, included discontinuation of four academic majors and the reduction of one faculty position. The academic majors which will be discontinued include French, German, athletic training, and museum studies. While the majors in French and German will be discontinued, trustees approved plans for OBU to continue offering courses in both of the languages.
Brister said the program changes will be implemented for the 2006-07 academic year, as part of the university’s plan to reduce expenses as it addressed a significant revenue shortfall in the fall of 2004. Randy Smith, OBU senior vice president for business affairs, told board members the university’s efforts to address an anticipated $2.4 million revenue shortfall has resulted in $1.4 million in reduced costs. University officials estimated that the 2004-05 fiscal year deficit will be less than $1 million. Smith said the shortfall will be absorbed and offset by OBU’s cash reserve fund balance, created by the university’s trustees several years ago.
In other business, the trustees reviewed updates on the university’s current operating budget, and approved a $30,368,240 balanced budget for the 2005-06 year. That budget includes a total 6.04 percent increase in tuition, fees, room and board, resulting in a total annual cost of $17,986 for the 2005-06 academic year. The tuition increase of $319 per semester keeps OBU as one of the most affordable private universities in the region.
In addition, trustees also approved a new policy statement on human sexuality for the university’s student handbook. Brister told board members the policy statement change was initiated by student leaders seeking to strengthen the university’s written guidelines on sexuality. The five-paragraph policy on human sexuality states that it is a “community expectation that OBU students, faculty, and staff will neither engage in nor promote understandings of sexuality that contradict biblical standards.”
Trustees approved faculty contracts for the 2005-06 academic year, granted senior faculty status for Dr. Bryan Kirby, and ratified promotions for nine faculty members. The university will offer contracts to a total of 97 tenure and non-tenure track faculty. Those promoted from the rank of associate professor include Dr. Bret Roark, professor of psychology; and Dr. Pam Robinson, professor of education. Faculty promoted from assistant professor include Dr. Jerry Faught, associate professor of religion; Dr. Genia James, associate professor of special education; Dr. Bryan Kirby, associate professor of German; Dr. Sherri Raney, associate professor of history and political science; Dr. Kristen Todd, associate professor of music; and Dr. Karen Youmans, associate professor of English. Gina Kraft was promoted from instructor to assistant professor of kinesiology and leisure studies.
OBU, founded in 1910, is owned by the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and governed by a board of trustees elected by the convention. Ken Fergeson, from Altus, who is immediate past chairman of the American Banking Association, currently serves as chairman of the board.
The university has a student enrollment of 1,674 for the current academic year, with more than 280 employees. U.S. News & World Report has ranked OBU as one of the top 10 comprehensive colleges in the western part of the nation for 13 consecutive years.