Burnett optimistic in Annual State of the College address

Yearly Speech (Matt Garvey/Lariat Staff)

Matt Garvey

Saddleback College President Tod A. Burnett delivered his annual State of the College speech at a breakfast Thursday morning. The speech was titled “Achieving Greatness.”

Burnett laid out his top ten projects for 2010-2011, and acknowledged the achievements of Saddleback College, and addressed areas for future improvement. The top project for Burnett is accreditation.

Accreditation is similar to a review in which all aspects of the college are reviewed to make sure certain standards are being met. An independent team will be visiting the college Oct. 18 to Oct. 21.

“Our college will be ready for this visit,” said Burnett, “I am confident that our college’s accreditation will be reaffirmed with flying colors.”

An important issue included in the top ten projects was economic workforce development. High unemployment rates and a struggling economy mean there is an increased need for Career and Technical Education.

Citing the recent Community College Summit held by the White House, Burnett said that leaders are beginning realize that a community college education is an excellent option.

“Community college is where it’s at,” Burnett said, “We will expand and strengthen our partnerships with the community and find new ways to provide job and career opportunities for our students.”

Alumni outreach was also mentioned as a top priority for Burnett. He recognized that in the past the school has only reached out to a small group of alumni. He admitted that this needs to change. In the last week the President’s staff compiled a 540,000-name list of alumni which Burnett hopes will be a jumping off point for future alumni involvement. Burnett and the Saddleback College Foundation are also actively raising money for the Osher Scholarship Fund. This matching scholarship fund could result in a $1.3 million endowment to help pay for the costs of a higher education.

Beyond the top ten project list, the State of College breakfast allowed Burnett to recognize the achievements of students and staff at Saddleback College over the last year. Burnett recognized the achievements of the nursing program.

For the second year in a row, the nursing program was number one in the nation in passing the nursing licensing exam with a 100 percent pass rate.

“Burnett has been a very strong supporter of the nursing department,” said Donna Rane-Szostak, dean of Health Sciences and Human Services. “We know he is behind us.”

Members and representatives of the South Orange County Community College District were in attendance. President Burnett applauded their fiscal management of the district.

“We are, if the not the best, one of the best fiscally run districts in the state,” Burnett said. “It’s the result of the wonderful work done by our district board.”

Another achievement for the college has been the hiring of new faculty members.

“Most colleges haven’t been hiring faculty. Since they are not hiring we’ve seen one of the best pools of talent to hire from in a long time,” Burnett said. “I was very thrilled we hired 16 wonderful new faculty.”

In the coming years there are still challenges to be addressed. Most immediate is the growing demand of students to take community college courses while classes are already impacted. Burnett believes that Saddleback College will be able to meet this challenge citing the fiscal health of the district.

More long-term challenges lie in the maintenance of buildings and facilities. “Saddleback College is a 42-year-old campus,” Burnett said. “Most of our buildings have not been maintained or renovated to keep up with the times.”

Burnett said Saddleback’s priority should be the Math, Science and Engineering Building.

“A new science building is long overdue and we will work with the district to ensure initiation of the design phase,” Burnett said. “It’s the domino that will get renovations moving.”

Burnett concluded, “I am very optimistic about the college’s future and I know that together we can achieve greatness.”

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