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Busy day kicks off academic year

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Another academic year is underway, and it began with the annual opening day breakfast, where President Frederick W. Clark Jr. welcomed faculty, staff, alumni and donors who packed the East Campus Commons. He extended his thanks for their work and support in, “helping our students get the most out of their education and experiences here at BSU, helping them reach their highest potential.”

The long weekend leading up to opening day was a busy one for the staff of Residence Life and Housing and others. Moving-in weekend was held Sunday and Monday. Nine hundred students were already ensconced in their residence halls, but Sunday 950 first-year and transfer students joined them, with the balance of 1,450 arriving Monday.

“A little rain didn’t dampen our spirits,” said Beth Moriarty, director of Residence Life and Housing, referring to the inclement weather of Sunday.

Opening day for students and the rest of the BSU extended community included convocation and an afternoon barbecue.

During the opening day breakfast, President Clark looked back over the accomplishments of the past two years, and highlighted the events that kept the campus busy throughout the summer. These included the six-week stay of young African leaders involved in the Mandela Washington Fellowship; a professional development institute for educators who teach advanced placement courses; The Bridge program, which in its sixth year brought to campus for two weeks 160 underserved middle school students from New Bedford, Brockton and the Red Cloud Indian School in South Dakota; as well as the completion of various capital improvements and upgrades. Chief among the projects was the renovation of Bethany House, now home to University Advancement.

This summer, the university also concluded a rigorous five-year review by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, and took significant steps toward completing a master plan. The president also noted that the number of full-time faculty currently stands at 358, a record for the institution.

President Clark’s remarks earned a hearty ovation when he talked about BSU students and their commitment to social justice. “Hate will never find a place at Bridgewater State University,” he said.

Also offering his gratitude to the breakfast attendees was Eugene J. Durgin Jr., chairman of the Trustees. He recalled how he’s often asked about what benefit he gets from serving as a volunteer trustee at BSU.

“I tell them I get to hang out with very dedicated, committed and talented people who bring that to campus every day,” Mr. Durgin said.

While hope springs eternal each opening day, there are challenges ahead. President Clark mentioned some of those currently facing all higher education institutions, saying BSU was not immune. These challenges include a dip in the number of students graduating high school, state funding, enrollment and retention issues, and a drop in the value of higher education in the eyes of some. He then set the theme for the new academic year – innovation. The areas of focus will include retention of students, programming and enrollment measures to attract more students, advocacy for increased state funding, and “promoting the development and wellness of our most important resource – you.”

The president again thanked those in attendance, and recommitted BSU to its principle mission.

“Our commitment to student success has never been stronger,” he said. “And we are doubling down on our efforts and investing in and expanding high-impact practices, such as undergraduate research, paid internships and study abroad, among others.” (Story by John Winters, University News & Media) 

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