FLORENCE – Despite the recent economic downturn, Francis Marion University continues to grow at a steady pace without the need for any drastic changes
“As for the future of Francis Marion, there will be more of the same – exceptionally strong academic programs combined with aggressive community outreach initiatives, all aimed at improving education at the state and regional level.”
With those words, and a host of examples, FMU President Fred Carter outlined the university's role in the local economy at the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce’s Spring Outlook Luncheon today.
Carter said, “It is a privilege to be with you today to discuss the impact that Francis Marion University has had on the Pee Dee region, past, present and future.”
He spoke on the past and exhibited a lot of optimism toward the future, both on campus and among the larger FMU family of alumni, parents, community and friends.
FMU’s efforts to continue providing educational value were among the topics discussed by Carter during the program, which took place in the Florence Civic Center.
Carter reviewed some of the university’s extraordinary accomplishments in the past decade and looked ahead to the challenges and opportunities in the coming years.
Established in 1970, Carter said Gov. Robert E. McNair often made the comment that FMU was the only university that had developed into what he had envisioned – one in which people in the Lowcountry, Piedmont, the eight counties represented in the Pee Dee region and throughout the state would have an opportunity to receive a quality education.
With 54 percent of its 4,109 students coming from the Pee Dee region and 95 percent from South Carolina, Carter said FMU has proven to be an institution that lives up to its original mission. But students don’t just attend FMU and leave, he said. Fifty-three percent of the 16,760 alumni remain in the Pee Dee and 81 percent in South Carolina.
An expansion of university offerings in liberal arts disciplines, business, education, and the health sciences was also highlighted by Carter. In addition, he cited the following FMU community outreach initiatives: Center for Entrepreneurship; Kelley Small Business Institute, Richardson Center for the Child, Center of Excellence to Prepare Teachers of Children of Poverty, Pee Dee Health Education Consortium, FMU Center for the Performing Arts (2010), Non-Profit Leadership Institute, Rural Area Leadership Institute, Advancing Rural Community Health, the Robert E. McNair Center for Government and History, and the Robert E. McNair Scholars.
The FMU Education Foundation and Non-Profit Consortium were also mentioned in Carter’s presentation. Housed in this facility are the North Eastern Strategic Alliance, FMU Trail Commission and Pee Dee Land Trust.
As his speech drew to a close, Carter announced that FMU’s Campaign for Excellence of seven and a half years had ended with a record-setting $50 million, eclipsing its original goal. The campaign was started in 2001 to support university programs, faculty development, facilities, scholarships and endowment and athletics. The first ever fund-raising effort in the university’s history far surpassed the original target.
The culmination of his speech was to report the findings of the Economic Impact Study recently released by three university economists. The results of the study reveal that FMU’s regional economic impact totals more than $78 million and nearly 1,000 jobs annually, Carter said.
“These are wonderful data produced by my colleagues in business and they show the broad impact this institution has on the economy of the Pee Dee,” said FMU President Fred Carter. “Nearly 40 years of partnerships throughout the region have resulted in an improved quality of life for its citizenry, many aspects of which simply cannot be measured.”
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FMU OUTREACH INITIATIVES
Center for Entrepreneurship
The Center, which officially opened in January, was established to foster and promote new business opportunities, and advance teaching, study and practice of entrepreneurship and new venture creation. Its three-fold mission is outreach, applied research and promotion of entrepreneurial ventures by FMU students and community members through integration of entrepreneurship education. The establishment of the CFE aims to strengthen FMU’s academic business program and fortify relationships among community members and FMU alumni with FMU faculty and students.
Kelley Small Business Institute
Part of FMU’s School of Business since 1972, the charge of the Donald E. Kelley Small Business Institute is to teach and support entrepreneurship and innovation in the academic, business and nonprofit communities, at no cost.
The institute creates comprehensive business plans for its clients, who can then approach various financial sources with the information required for procuring funding. The business plans are developed by student work teams.
The institute also provides interns to local businesses to help with various management functions for five hours per week over the course of a semester through its internship program.
In addition, SBI serves as a clearing house for clients who need specific research, marketing, technology, or accounting help, by directing them to other FMU professors who may have class projects to address those specific needs. The institute brings together the teaching and research activities of faculty across several disciplines into a more effective, concentrated initiative with strong ties to the business community.
Gail and Terry Richardson Center for the Child
The Richardson Center for the Child is a child development and evaluation clinic to train students, giving them firsthand experience in dealing with the nearly 100 small children it serves. The facility opened in 2008 and serves as a state model for the dissemination of best practices in early childhood education.
FMU’s School of Education and the Department of Psychology work jointly to improve the physical, academic, social, emotional and economic well-being of children and their families through the center. Students from the School of Education receive training through observational labs at the center.
Center of Excellence to Prepare Teachers of Children of Poverty
Established in 2004, the purpose of the Center of Excellence to Prepare Teachers of Children of Poverty is to increase the achievement of children of poverty by improving the quality of undergraduate teacher preparation, graduate teacher preparation, and the professional development of in-service teachers.
The primary activities to be completed during the life of the Center include: (1) revising the undergraduate teacher education program, based on best practice research and practitioner insights, (2) training teachers in the conduct and use of research to increase their ability to make data-based decisions, (3) linking research directly with professional development, (4) helping teachers understand parents who live in poverty and the community resources that are available to them, and (5) seeking state certification for graduates of a to-be-developed master’s degree program in an effort to elevate the status of teachers of children of poverty.
Pee Dee Health Education Consortium
FMU, Carolinas Hospital System, McLeod Health and the University of South Carolina formed a partnership to offer new courses and degrees in several new health education-related fields.
Established in the fall of 2008, the Pee Dee Health Education Consortium’s purpose is to provide a structure for the principals or founding members to collectively identify, enhance and develop graduate and undergraduate health care education opportunities in the Pee Dee in response to the region’s health care needs.
Francis Marion University is the host institution and the main financial and academic agent of the consortium.
Performing Arts Center
The Performing Arts Center encompasses a 900-seat multipurpose hall featuring adjustable acoustics and staging options to accommodate a broad scope of music programs from solo performances to 80-person orchestra ensembles. The incorporation of a fly tower and orchestra pit also allows for a full range of music, dance and drama productions.
Fronted by a two-story, 9,000-sq. ft. lobby, the center will contain a 100-seat black box theater, and an academic wing comprised of offices, classrooms and support spaces. The theater will serve as a flexible teaching space, a music rehearsal room, and as an experimental performance space. While featuring technical galleries and catwalks, the theater’s enlarged control room can also be used for instruction.
The academic teaching wing encompasses a large-scale rehearsal room and a computer lab, as well as medium- and small-sized practice rooms. The multi-level lobby is scaled to accommodate all types of community events, banquets and exhibitions, while the front lawn can be used for a variety of art exhibitions and festivals. Additional design amenities located on the 4.57-acre site and separately funded by the local community include an amphitheater, a sculpture court and a fountain. The 300-seat recessed amphitheater can be used for casual outdoor concerts, plays, and a host of community-wide events.
The center will support the new bachelor’s degree in music industry. Currently being developed within this major are career paths in music publishing, marketing and management, product manufacturing and sales, recording, production, broadcast and music performance, composition and education.
Non-Profit Leadership Institute
The Non-Profit Leadership Institute was established to provide leadership training to strengthen non-profit organizations across the state.
Committed to making long-term differences in the lives of the people they serve, non-profit organizations assist with various needs, but do not have access to the resources they require to make their job easier. The goal of this program is to provide a higher level of professional skills for the non-profit sector and a greater coordination of efforts to serve the people of the state.
Experts from the public, private, and non-profit sectors across the country address the institute on various topics to provide the latest thinking in the non-profit sector.
Rural Assistance Initiative
The Rural Assistance Initiative is a two-fold program aimed at enhancing economic vitality in rural South Carolina.
The RAIs – Advancing Rural Community Health Project and Rural Leadership Capacity Building Project –have enabled FMU to move forward with plans to go into rural communities to provide health awareness services and extensive leadership training for non-profit and civic organizations throughout the state. In addition, this initiative has created opportunities for FMU students to engage in service-learning opportunities in these communities.
Rural Area Leadership Institute
The Rural Area Leadership Institute is a component of FMU’s Rural Assistance Initiative formed from the recognition that some economically disadvantaged counties in South Carolina might also be challenged civically. Through RALI, groups build coalitions for problem solving by learning how to identify problems and taking informed ownership of solutions.
Advancing Rural Community Health
The ARCH Program was established in 2007 by FMU to provide students with service learning opportunities in community health fields. The screening team is composed of six students enrolled in majors leading to careers in the health professions such as medicine, nursing, pharmacy, mental health and social work. The team travels weekly with the medical director of ARCH to sites in Dillon, Marion, Marlboro and Williamsburg counties as an outreach to some of the Pee Dee’s most underserved rural communities.
Robert E. McNair Center for Government and History and McNair Scholars
The Robert E. McNair Center for Government and History was created in 2008 to provide a setting where diverse energies of academic, research and outreach initiatives come together for purposeful collaborations.
The initiative consists of a McNair Scholars Program and a campus-based research and service institute that will host the McNair Scholars and other related programs offered by the university.
The McNair Scholars Program is designed to bring motivated, young scholars committed to public service and community leadership to the campus. It is open to South Carolina residents with solid academic backgrounds and demonstrated leadership capabilities.