If you haven’t visited SFA recently — either in person or online — you will notice some exciting changes the next time you arrive on campus or “click” on our website.

On Nov. 7, we held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Ed and Gwen Cole STEM Building, a $46 million investment in the education of SFA students majoring in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. Located on the south end of campus between Raguet Street and Clark Boulevard, the four-story, state-of-the-art facility will be a striking addition to the campus when it opens in 2018. There also are plans to enhance the south entrance to campus from Starr Avenue to accommodate an expected increase in visitor traffic to the new building.

Another highly visible upgrade at SFA is designed to enhance the experience of online visitors to campus, particularly prospective students. The first phase of our new-and-improved website launched Sept. 12, following many months of research, planning and testing by our marketing team with support and input from departments across campus. While other phases of the upgrade are still to come, prospective Lumberjacks are already benefiting from the changes, which include optimization for viewing on mobile devices and easier navigation allowing our target audience to find information much faster and easier.

A dynamic digital presence is more critical than ever as we make strides toward the foundational goal of our current strategic plan: meaningful and sustained enrollment growth. Recently, the university reported some very positive indicators regarding enrollment, including an increase of 136 students for the fall semester. The largest growth was among freshmen, whose numbers increased 3.5 percent from fall 2015. But even more importantly, SFA recorded the highest first-time undergraduate retention rate in the university’s history. Having our students successfully graduate is the best measure of our success because, after all, that is the main reason we are here. There is more work to do, but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that these positive metrics are the result of hard work, day in and day out, by our faculty and staff members who are staunchly committed to our students’ success and well-being.

Another successful fall semester is almost in the books, and the holidays are upon us, which can only mean one thing — a new SFA basketball season is underway. If you have been looking for a reason to visit your alma mater this winter, watching the Lumberjacks and Ladyjacks compete in Johnson Coliseum is a great opportunity to reconnect with fellow alumni and be part of this winning SFA tradition. New head men’s basketball coach Kyle Keller has brought a lot of excitement to the program, and I know he agrees wholeheartedly with me that our team’s success is dependent in no small part on the enthusiastic support of SFA students, faculty and staff members, and alumni.

I hope to see you at a game or other on-campus event soon. Until then, I wish you and all proud Lumberjacks many blessings this holiday season.

Axe ’em, Jacks!

Pattillo Signature

Baker Pattillo 1965 and 1966
President, Stephen F. Austin State University