(FOR PAPER ONLY) Simmons boasts Lamar successes as new year begins

Marilyn Tennissen Aug. 21, 2008, 6:17am

Lamar University President James Simmons addresses faculty, students at annual convocation

In his almost 10 years as university president, Jimmy Simmons has seen a lot of successes at Lamar University.

"Together, we have accomplished great things," Simmons told faculty and staff gathered Wednesday, Aug. 20, for Lamar's annual convocation to mark the start of the 2008-2009 academic year.

"We began this journey with a real sense of community. That was the theme of my presidency when I began," he said. "That community has really helped us move forward to meet great challenges and I think we have delivered on those promises. We still have great challenges. We have great opportunities ahead of us. But, together, we will continue on the path to a stronger, more vibrant and more vital university. And our students will be the beneficiaries."

The convocation attracted more than 500 faculty and staff to the University Theatre for Simmons' annual "state-of-the-university" address and the introduction of new faculty and staff.

According to a press release from the university, in the last 10 years enrollment has increased from 8,100 students to almost 14,000 students.

"This fall will mark the largest enrollment in our history by several thousand students," Simmons said.

The number of students taking full-time course loads has increased to 70 percent, from 63 percent 10 years ago. The number of freshmen entering college for the first time has increased from 1,000 to more than 1,400. Ten years ago, graduate students numbered 760. Today, the College of Graduate Studies enrolls 4,700 students.

Lamar's campus has become one of the most diverse in the state, Simmons said, with 30 percent of students from under-represented ethnic groups. Last year, he said, The Wall Street Journal ranked Lamar as one of the 100 most diverse campuses in the United States.

Meanwhile, LU has seen a 20 percent increase in students with SAT scores above 1,200.

The university has added many programs, including five new bachelor's-degree programs, three new master's programs and three new doctoral degrees, including the first Ph.D. Lamar has created three new academic chairs, while two academic departments have been named for donors. Named scholarships have increased from 230 in 1998 to 420 today, a 78 percent increase.

Combined endowments in the university and the Lamar University Foundation have almost tripled, from $22 million to more than $65 million today. Externally funded research has increased from less than $4 million to $8 million.

"In the past decade, we've done much to improve our campus, from grounds to facilities, both for quality of life and our ability to deliver quality instruction," Simmons said.

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