To the tune of David Bowie’s “Changes” and pulling insightful direction from such influencers as President Barack Obama and Heraclitus, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Chancellor Randy Pembrook centered his final University Address on changes.
Pembrook reflected on past accomplishments, celebrated current progress and envisioned the University’s bright future during the address, which was presented Tuesday, Oct. 5, to a live audience and via live stream.
“We have all dealt with many strange changes in the last year and half,” Pembrook shared. “Many times, we probably felt we very much wanted to change the circumstances, the times. But, we couldn’t. And yet, we went on. I thank you and commend all of you for your constant flexibility and willingness to persist in spite of the strange changes going on around us.”
Sharing his appreciation for and pride in the way the university has embraced change, Pembrook updated the campus community on multiple achievements and points of progress. Among the examples he shared were the pivots made to safely host commencement ceremonies amid the pandemic, the creation of new traditions such as the welcome parade, and the completion of facilities improvements including the opening of the SIU School of Dental Medicine’s Advanced Care Clinic.
Pembrook highlighted the university’s commitment to health and safety throughout the pandemic. “SIUE has remained one of the safest campuses in Illinois, with our surveillance testing data staying low with an overall average positivity rate of 1-2 percent throughout the past 18 months,” he noted. “That’s well below Madison County, the Metro East area and the St. Louis MSA.”
He underscored important advancements in the university’s equity, diversity and inclusion efforts, offering progress updates on the 78 recommendations of the Anti-Racism Task Force and sharing Vice Chancellor for EDI Dr. Jessica Harris’ vision for the recruitment and retention of diverse faculty, staff and students that will lead to a significant shift in narrowing equity gaps.
Additional reflective and visionary topics included:
– Enrollment: 13,010 enrolled for fall 2021, including 1,992 first-year students, historic graduate enrollment and soaring international enrollment
– Community Engagement: Growing success for the SIUE Successful Communities Collaborative and a vision for a SIU System Office of Community Engagement
– Facilities: Upcoming construction of the new $105M Health Sciences Building, the largest building on the Edwardsville campus Student Life: Successful resources that are removing barriers to student success, including Accessible Campus Community and Equitable Student Support (ACCESS), the Cougar Cupboard and the Cougar Career Closet Financial
– Foundations: A gift from an anonymous donor which allowed the creation of a STEM Lab at the East St. Louis Charter High School
“I hope these accolades gave you a sense of pride in the institution’s history, reminded you about recent accomplishments, and offered a sense of anticipation for what is to come,” Pembrook said.
Pembrook concluded by reflecting on his career and the mentors who supported and helped him along his journey. He quoted his mentor, LeRoy Pogemiller, from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, who served as interim dean of the Conservatory: “Thank you for giving me the chance to sit on top of the mountain and see all the amazing things that are going on in our environment.”
“That is why I dedicated this University Address to looking back and imagining what will be,” he concluded. “As LeRoy did, I say to you, thank you for this amazing experience. I will cherish it in the years to come. Thank you for all you do for SIUE, our students and our community. Best wishes for the 2021-22 academic year.”
View a recording of Pembrook’s 2021 University Address at siue.edu/about/chancellor/address-to-the-university.
Photos: SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook offers his final University Address.