Dr. Jeff Hale, president of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (NEO) delivered the annual NEO State of the College Address on Tuesday, August 15, 2017 in the Calcagno Family Ballroom. During the address, Dr. Hale discussed the tremendous accomplishments of NEO during the 2016-17 year and shared ongoing NEO initiatives that will enhance the NEO mission to promote excellence in learning, service, and leadership in a global society. He specifically highlighted three projects by inviting guest speakers to update the NEO faculty and guests. Amy Ishmael, vice president for student affairs, announced that the new student housing complex has been completed under budget and on schedule, and is currently at 100% occupancy. This building houses 86 students, increasing the on-campus student residency to nearly 900. The new housing, a project that was outlined as part of NEO’s 2015 strategic planning project, will fulfill continuing demand for affordable, modern housing. NEO broke ground on the project last spring and construction partners worked diligently with the NEO Physical Plant staff to have the rooms move-in ready by fall. Through the effort of the Student Recruitment Office, the building’s occupancy will not only cover the loan repayment, but also generate revenue, which NEO is able to allocate toward faculty, staff, and program payments.
Matt Westphal, NEO IT director, announced the $1.6 million fiber-optic network had been completed under budget and with little hindrance. Also a strategic goal outcome, the fiber-optic upgrade boosts NEOs internet speed from 1 gig to 10, and extends wi-fi service to Synar Farm and Red Robertson Stadium. The new system also ensures that the network switches are installed in each building, so internet service interruption in one part of campus won’t affect other areas. As students learn on more devices, the network upgrade will ensure faster browsing speeds and a more stable connection. Along with the network upgrade, NEO IT installed hundreds of new security cameras and facial recognition software to ensure that students, staff, and faculty, enjoy a safe and secure learning and working environment.
Andrew Olson, English instructor and NEO Honors Program Director, unveiled the NEO Honors Program. The new program is set to launch in Spring 2018 target high-performing students by enrolling them in honors-level courses and providing personal and educational development activities. As the program develops, NEO will form partnerships to allow NEO Honor students to transfer into area 4-year institution honor programs.
Dr. Hale also gave an update on the NEO budget following recent appropriations cuts. As an institution committed to the welfare of its employees, Dr. Hale noted that NEO has proposed a 4% pay increase provided enrollment remains flat or increases, NEO receives a positive report from the annual audit process, and the Oklahoma Legislature does not inflict any more appropriations cuts on higher education for the 2018 fiscal year. Dr. Hale shared that eighteen full-time positions were filled for the 2017-18 school year, noting that since his arrival in 2008, the college has reduced the number of full-time employees from 225 to 155. Dr. Hale also announced that NEO will resume paying for employee dental coverage, which was dropped following the 17% cut from 2016. Dr. Hale closed by reiterating that NEO staff, faculty, and students will not allow budgetary challenges to make them victims. The College will continue to innovate, develop grant initiatives, and create and learning environment that fosters excellence. For more information about the NEO State of the College address, contact Jordan Adams at Jordan.m.Adams@neo.edu or 918-540-6211.