Board of Trustees talk about the Baker University endowment

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Board of Trustees talk about the Baker University endowment

Story by Kyle Davis

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The Baker University Board of Trustees gathered on the Baldwin City campus Feb. 12 with the focus being on faculty research presentations, the endowment and promotions.

Chuck Heath, chair of the finance committee, gave a presentation to those in attendance regarding the university’s endowment.

“It’s just been a bad investment environment, we all know it. We haven’t been immune to it,” Heath said during the presentation.

Baker has reduced the amount of money in the endowment being spent this year.

This year only 1.67 percent, or $500,000, is being spent from the endowment, which is a significant drop from the 6.4 percent that was spent in 2005.

“I’m not satisfied with our scorecard we’re showing you (Feb. 12),” Heath said. “We had a nice performance relative to what the market had to give us, but that’s not what we’re here to do. What we’re here to do is find enough money to support the school.”

Heath said in 2009, $1.7 million was spent out of the endowment, when the endowment produces about $900,000 a year in income.

“We’re going to redo the way we think of spending policy going ahead,” Heath said. “We’ve been spending too much.”

Chief Operating Officer Susan Lindahl said taking only 1.67 percent out of the endowment is correcting what was taken out back in 2005.

“It’s a very significant start because it allows the corpus, or the body of the endowment, to remain intact and to grow,” Lindahl said. “It is a start. It won’t correct everything, but it’s a start in the correction of the course.”

Baker also has made cuts from its budget, starting with the operational budget, then focusing on staff and administration, eliminating 33 positions, and finally the reduction and reallocation process and the cutting of majors.

“One of the things that we have certainly been trying to do is to see wherever we could reduce. It’s tough because it’s people’s lives and you hate to do that,” Lindahl said. “Each decision was weighed very carefully before we made it.”

Although the endowment was a main topic, a large portion of the morning was spent with the trustees listening to faculty presentations regarding their research.

One group that spoke was made up of Bill Neuenswander, professor of education, Merrie Skaggs, associate professor of education, and Jean Johnson, professor of mathematics, who discussed the results of a three-year math and science grant from 2004-2006 used to help teach middle school students and faculty and improve math and science scores in five area districts.

These districts were below the state mean in math and science scores before the study, but now every school but one is still above the state mean.

Neuenswander said he thinks it is critical for the board to be aware of what the faculty is working on and researching.

“Our university is about learning (and) teaching and faculty should be engaged in that, both internally with the university and externally,” he said.

Neuenswander also said that while there are important management issues that should be considered at the university right now, education should be at the heart of it all.

“It’s too often that you get just focused on management issues. What about our facilities, are we making our budget? Important issues, but what are we really about? We’re about education, we’re about learning,” Neuenswander said.

The day ended with a reception in the Holt-Russell Gallery to announce the promotions of Erin Joyce, associate professor of French, to professor and Wendi Born, assistant professor of psychology, to associate professor and received tenure.

“I told the Board today that I was with some colleagues not too long ago from two other private schools and they were saying that tenure and promotion is really a joke on their campus,” University President Pat Long said.

She also said how proud she was of the faculty and staff at Baker University.

“That if somebody had been there for so many years, that it was going to happen. And I said how proud I am at Baker that that’s not the case.”

Along with Joyce and Born, two faculty members from the Baker University School of Nursing were promoted.

“One of the things that I can say about all four of the candidates was that when we talked to them, their enthusiasm came through, their love for Baker, their love for teaching,” Provost Randy Pembrook said.

"It was interesting how the special things that they are doing, whether it has to do with liberal studies or clinical work, when they talked about it … we could just sense the enthusiasm they had for that and how that fueled their love for what they do."<br/>