Fort Hays State's Martin: 'In the face of challenges, we will not just survive, but thrive.'

President Martin- State of the University Address

By Diane Gasper-O'Brien
University Relations and Marketing
HAYS, Kan. -- It was plain to see that Dr. Mirta M. Martin embodied a personal touch from the first time she set foot on campus.

Martin, who bypasses many a handshake for a hug instead, has not wavered from the philosophy that human relationships matter -- a lot.

Now beginning her third year as president of Fort Hays State University, Martin informed faculty and staff at Wednesday's 2016 State of the University Address that the school's proven track record of success is here to stay.

"Your dedication, talents, passion and love for this place we call 'home' are making Fort Hays State University the destination of choice," she said in her speech during the annual convocation as she welcomed staff and faculty back to campus for the 2016-17 school year.

While there are challenges, she pointed out, including state budget cuts, low agriculture prices and a depressed market for oil and gas, "there is so much good, so much energy, so much going on in this, our university, that I have no doubt we will rise above these challenges and embrace them as opportunities to showcase our distinctiveness, our strengths and our unity."

But, Martin said, "challenging times always present us with critical choices and opportunities to change our future, to chart our own path.

"And so, we will choose to do just that. We will choose to fulfill our promise as a forward-thinking university. We choose not to retrench, but to invest in growth. In the face of challenges, we will not just survive, but thrive."

Martin said that it's the people "and the commitment of our Fort Hays State family that set us apart.

"It's what makes us distinctive. It's our calling card, our ace in the hole," she said. "It makes people want to learn here and work here. It enables us to achieve even higher levels of excellence and exalts our reputation."

FHSU's reputation the past 15-plus years has been unequalled. Enrollment has increased every year since 2000.

But that record streak appeared in jeopardy this fall.

About a month ago, Martin said, Dennis King -- assistant vice president for student affairs -- detailed enrollment numbers for the fall, which came in at about 600 fewer students from last year at this time.

"I was deeply concerned," Martin said. "Without the enrollment and with the pending cuts from the state, how could I protect my Fort Hays State University family?

"And so," she continued, "we called a cabinet meeting, and we created a calling campaign."

Deans, department chairs and faculty started calling students who had been accepted to FHSU but had not yet not enrolled. Martin said the personal phone calls touched numerous students.

"A month ago, we were about 600 students down," she said. "As of yesterday, we are 440 students up over last year. That's a shift of over 1,000 students. That's 1,000 students whose lives we have the privilege to impact. Just by letting them know we cared, by letting them know they mattered, we made the difference.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Martin said, "that's the power of relationships!"

Martin pointed out that during tough economic times "you can either retreat, or you can grab market share and grow," she said. "We have chosen to grow. Together, we are charting a bold course, a course that will propel us to sustainable new levels of excellence. We have the tremendous opportunity to touch a heart, to open a mind, to shape a life.

"Onward and upward," Martin concluded. "Because of you, the best is yet to be. Thank you for what you do. Welcome back home!"

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