August 23, 2022

Fall construction, program expansions highlight FMU fall semester

Fall construction, program expansions highlight FMU fall semester

Francis Marion University’s newest academic year is expected to be one of growth and expansion, highlighted by major construction projects and new academic programs over the next three years.


President Dr. Fred Carter provided an update on the university’s upcoming projects during the annual welcome reception for faculty members held at the FMU Performing Arts Center on Monday night. Carter’s remarks highlighted major construction that will begin midway through the fall semester, including a new School of Business and School of Education building, renovations to the Smith University Center, a new engineering workshop, and $9 million in improvements to existing campus facilities.


Carter said the university will work to ensure that the progress comes with as little disruption to campus life as possible.


“Just be patient with us,” Carter said. “There’ll be $80-90 million in construction underway over the next 3-4 years.”


Other upcoming construction projects include the Dr. C Edward Floyd Medical Education Consortium Building, located at the former Circle Park building in downtown Florence. The new Forestry and Environmental Sciences Building on the main campus is also in the planning phases after being fully funded through state appropriations in the latest fiscal year.


Francis Marion’s physical growth compliments the university’s ever expanding academic offerings. The new semester includes new programs in environmental studies and environmental policy. In the years ahead, Carter said FMU will likely propose additional areas of study, including a new Montessori program, a collateral in autism studies, a Psychology Doctoral degree, and a graduate program in professional and creative writing. FMU has already approved Forestry programs with a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy to begin within the next two years. 


“These are timely programs, and they are all essential for addressing compelling needs within this state,” Carter said. “They also send a clear message to the state’s leadership that our curriculum remains relevant and vibrant.”


The president also announced Monday a 5.5% pay increase to all permanent custodial and grounds employees, as well as administrative assistants. These raises are in addition to the 3% across the board cost-of-living increase for all employees included in the latest state budget appropriations. Operating budgets across schools and departments will also see increases.


The only areas of uncertainty covered in Carter’s remarks pertained to federal guidelines and regulations. The president noted that issues pertaining to Title IX, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and student financial aid and loan forgiveness have yet to be definitively addressed by federal officials.


Affirmative Action policies also remain a question mark, as the US Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments on the subject in October. A decision from that case could impact how universities around the country handle future admissions practices and financial aid. 


“My concern is the adverse effect that it may have on access and equity programs in South Carolina, most especially needs-based scholarships,” Carter said.


In other business, several members of the FMU faculty were recognized for exemplary service, including immediate past faculty chair Glen Gourley. Gourley, who served for the last five years, was presented with an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree.


Biology professor Dr. Travis Knowles was also honored Monday, as Carter announced him as the newest FMU Board of Trustee Research Scholar.


Carter also announced the formation of a provost search committee to replace current provost, Dr. Peter King, who is retiring at the end of the academic year. King has held the position for the past six years.