President Tom Stritikus
I am so excited to join you as a Skyhawk!
Today, I can’t help but think of my own personal journey and the role that access and completion of a higher education degree played in my path, from growing up in a working-class immigrant home to serving as the president of an institution with an important history and amazing potential. I come to you with a tremendous sense of urgency and passion about what we can achieve. This work is very personal for me.
We have a hugely important job. The young people who come to Fort Lewis have put their futures in our hands. Despite our potential, it is important to take an honest look at our performance when it comes to student success. We need to ensure that we provide a positive experience from recruitment and enrollment through degree completion and career placement. Our future as an institution depends on the success of our students.
A look at our retention and graduation data shows room for improvement. Our freshmen to sophomore continuation rate over the past 10 years has hovered around 63%. Our four-year graduation rate is 28% while our six-year graduation rate is 40%. These are not acceptable outcomes, and we must do better.
We, including myself, are all accountable for student success and play a vital role in helping students achieve their goals. Our intent is not to point fingers or find external forces to blame, but for each of us to contribute to the success of our students. As you know well, every interaction that we have with students, every teaching moment, every touchpoint, is an opportunity to improve upon our work. We won’t get to where we need to be overnight, but we will all focus on this issue and hold each other accountable. In our drive to excellence, this is the first hurdle that we need to clear. There are others to be sure.
I come to FLC with ideas about how to move us forward. I see tremendous potential for Fort Lewis to be a leader across a variety of areas, including applied research and service learning, as we address issues central to the Four Corners, create innovative programs which honor our history of engaging with and preparing students, and position FLC as an economic, service, and cultural center for our region. We have a unique set of resources to make progress towards our goals—an outstanding faculty, a group of friends and community members vested in our success, a committed and capable staff, a talented and diverse student body, and alumni who are invested in, and passionate about, their alma mater.
My ideas need to be sharpened and shaped by your hopes for the institution. To that end, you will be hearing more about an upcoming structured listening tour with faculty, staff, community members, and students prior to the Board of Trustees retreat in mid-September. Your input will guide the conversation we have at the Board Retreat to establish strategic priorities for Fort Lewis.
In the coming days, I’ll be working closely with faculty and staff representatives to set up opportunities for deeper discussion regarding the themes emerging from my listening tour.
I’ve spent a considerable amount of time this summer learning more about FLC. I am inspired and know our best days are in front of us. Thank you in advance for all that you will do to help us realize our potential.
President Tom Stritikus