August 24, 2018 10:03:48 AM
Slim Smith - [email protected]
Thursday marked the first day of classes at Mississippi University for Women, and for the two featured speakers at The W's Town & Tower Luncheon, the start of the fall semester holds even more significance.
Acting President Nora Miller and Athletics Director Jason Trufant spoke before a luncheon audience of 40 Thursday at Fant Library. By the time the next of the four Town & Tower events is held in December, both will have passed a significant milestone.
By then, Miller, who was installed as acting president in July following the retirement of President Jim Borsig, hopes to have her title shortened.
"The search for next president has been expedited and we'll begin to have listening sessions later in the semester," Miller said. "Hopefully, I'll have the 'acting' part of my title removed, but whoever the president is, the university is going to continue with the progress we have seen."
Trufant, meanwhile, is looking forward to a visit from NCAA officials, a two-day series of meetings on campus that is the next phase of the university's efforts to gain NCAA status in sports.
"On Oct. 2, I'm going to be pretty nervous," said Trufant, who became the university's athletics director in 2016. "I'm confident about where we are in the process, but it's going to be pretty intense. These are important meetings. If we get their approval, we'll be just three years out from NCAA status."
Miller said the challenges she faces as acting president are the same that her predecessor and university presidents throughout the country are facing, most notably in the area of finances.
"This year, the state will provide 41 percent of our budget, so it's important that we continue to foster a sense of responsibility for our financial stability," she said. "That will be a goal in this transition period and, really, going forward into the future. We cannot rely on state funding alone. We have to take responsibility for much of it."
Trufant, meanwhile, welcomes the arrival of seven new sports this year -- men's and women's basketball, men's and women's tennis, women's soccer, men's golf and cross-country. With those added, the W will compete in 12 sports.
"We are going from 110 student athletes last year to 186 -- no, make it 187. We just added another men's basketball player today," he said.
Miller pointed out that the addition of sports will add an additional $400,000 in costs for the university.
"But those students bring in another $600,000 in tuition," she noted.
The university will also continue with major projects, including the completion of the Turner Building (formerly the Demonstration School) which is due to open in the spring of 2019 and will house the university's speech pathology department, and demolition and prep work for the university's new culinary arts facilities.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]