Vargas Highlights Goals, New Developments at Chamber First Friday Coffee

first-friday-coffeeSoutheast President Carlos Vargas outlined goals for the coming year while highlighting the University’s fall enrollment, importance of engagement with the business community, new facilities, support of athletics and the 2017 solar eclipse as the featured speaker at this morning’s Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce First Friday Coffee at Isle Capri.

Vargas gave an overview of the University’s fall 2016 enrollment, noting increases in beginning freshmen, beginning African American students and Hispanic students.

His focus, he said, is on making the University student centered in all its operations — course scheduling, student advising, teaching and financial aid.

“We are trying to become an institution that pays attention to students,” he said. “We believe students can help us make the University better. We value their input. We want to hear what they think of our business processes.”

Vargas said the University is striving to retain at least 80 percent of all first-time, full-time students to the second year and graduate at least 60 percent of this group in six years. If the University meets these goals, “this will mean there are many other things we are doing right,” he said.

first-friday-coffee2

President Carlos Vargas, left, chats with Arthur Meng, Cape Girardeau Baby Care Plant Manager with The P&G Paper Products Co., at the Chamber First Friday Coffee.

He said it is important for the University to interact with business and industry and to ask the business community what they would like to see in graduates. Students need to be aware of the realities of the business world, he said. He asked business leaders to help Southeast interns and graduates engage and grow as individuals so they learn to think critically in the workplace. This concept of a “shared vision” between the University and business community is vital, Vargas said.

He also highlighted Southeast’s development of a University Master Plan while giving a brief overview of several capital improvement projects. Those include the new Rust Center for Media at 325 Broadway which celebrates an open house this evening from 5-7 p.m.; the new Center for Speech and Hearing under construction along Pacific Street next to Grauel Building; new artificial turf being installed at Capaha Field in partnership with the City of Cape Girardeau; and the University’s plans to renovate Cheney Hall.

Vargas underscored the University’s commitment to its athletics programs, emphasizing all sports’ budgets are at or above the median in the Ohio Valley Conference. He also stressed the importance the University places on student athletes being students first and athletes second.

“Many of our teams are doing well on the field and in academics,” he said.

He concluded his presentation by outlining plans currently underway by a committee at Southeast to mark the total solar eclipse scheduled for Aug. 21, 2017. Cape Girardeau will be an excellent viewing area with one minute and 45 seconds of totality that day, Vargas said. He said the University is planning events to give students, the regional community and children the opportunity learn about astronomy.