SBU may soon work with Russian university
BOLIVAR – Southwest Baptist University (SBU) took a step toward entering into a three-year partnership agreement with Tomsk State University in Russia Feb. 6 when trustees agreed to let SBU President C. Pat Taylor sign an initial agreement that will allow further discussion.
Tomsk is a Siberian city of about 500,000 people in a region that is dominated by the Eastern Orthodox Church. The university has about 25,000 students. Previous teams from SBU have made inroads in terms of laying the groundwork to teach English as a Second Language (ESL).
“It (the partnership) could take a number of different directions,” Taylor said. “I do know from experience that the world wants to learn how to speak English.”
Officials from Tomsk State University have already extended a general agreement of educational and scientific cooperation to SBU, so the unanimous vote by SBU trustees concerning the initiation of the agreement was simply a response in kind.
SBU took a financial hit in January when an ice storm caused classes to be canceled for the first time on the Bolivar campus since 1979. Total damage on campus amounted to $70,000. Softening that blow was the news that a total of $100,000 that had been anticipated for electricity costs and $183,000 for propane costs in the 2006-2007 budget year will be saved.
“The big chunk of that savings is because the prices haven’t increased as much as we have projected,” Taylor said.
A 26 percent increase in the $1.2 million payroll for student workers due to a mandated increase in the minimum wage is a threat to push the university’s $35.4 million budget into the red, but trustees heard a report that even with this danger a positive margin of $83,000-$85,000 is anticipated.
Spring semester enrollment has grown to 1,391, which is an increase of 61 students from last year. Goals for fall enrollment are reported to be on track. University officials remain pleased with the work of Noel-Levitz, the Des Moines, Iowa, consulting firm hired in 2005 to improve SBU’s enrollment performance.
Trustees were given a tour of the Jim Mellers Center, which is undergoing a renovation. The price tag for the work has gone up from $1.2 million to $1.45 million, Taylor said, but fundraising is proceeding well with only $93,361 left to procure. The goal is to open the building for the fall semester.
Trustees also attended a dedication ceremony at historic Memorial Hall, a women’s dormitory built in 1948, in honor of the late Hazel Marie “Frenchy” Newland, a longtime Bolivar resident and 1936 graduate of Southwest Baptist College. Renovations were made to the hall, including the installation of air conditioning, from a portion of the Newland estate, and Taylor proclaimed that the lobby of Memorial Hall will now bear her name.
Honorary doctorates were approved for Norma Bishop, a 1936 graduate of Southwest Baptist College who served many years as a teacher in Missouri public schools, and Charles Graham, a former SBU student and a traveling music evangelist who currently ministers overseas.