The holidays are upon us, and I am sure many of you will join me in wishing 2020 a hearty and fond farewell — what a year it has been! As we prepare for the start of a new year at SFA, we will once again be offering a variety of learning opportunities and options that allow Lumberjacks to be physically distant and fight the spread of COVID-19. No matter which environment is chosen — on campus or away — it is now easier than ever to be a Lumberjack. Lumberjacks learn anywhere!
I am proud to report that our students, faculty and staff have been diligent about following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines during the fall, which helped keep our campus open. These guidelines will remain in effect this spring, and with ongoing persistence, our campus will remain open and continue serving students.
Although there was nationwide concern regarding potential decreases in higher education enrollment for fall 2020, I commend our faculty and staff for working intensely during the summer to plan and pull together opportunities for flexible learning. While our enrollment numbers were basically flat, our retention rates were the highest in university history. Our faculty members are truly making a difference in the lives of SFA students and for the university as a whole.
Looking ahead, we have much to celebrate, including two new academic programs at SFA and a partnership with the Texas A&M University System.
SFA's James I. Perkins College of Education is involved in two of these endeavors. First is the aviation sciences program, which will be offered in the School of Human Sciences. The classes will prepare students to take the Federal Aviation Administration's private pilot airplane single engine land practical exam. It is on track for a soft launch in fall 2021 with eight courses being offered.
Second, a new partnership with the Texas A&M University System is on the horizon at A&M's RELLIS Campus. SFA will offer the completer courses for its Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies with an EC-6 concentration beginning in fall 2021 on the campus, which provides a collaborative environment for multidisciplinary, multi-institutional teaching, research and workplace development.
This partnership is a good fit for SFA because it enables us to attract community college students and others from the Bryan-College Station area to SFA's renowned teaching program. The state needs teachers in several areas, so partnering with the Texas A&M University System's RELLIS Academic Alliance will allow us to help public schools across the state fulfill the needs of their students.
The Department of Biology also is expanding its programs to include a forensics track, and courses in the program are now being offered. Working toward our goal of becoming the model of the new American university — one that is nimble, entrepreneurial, student-focused, regional and comprehensive — we must continue to be innovative in both course delivery and program options.
With Jan. 1, 2021, fast approaching, I want to take this opportunity to wish you and your family a prosperous, happy and most of all healthy new year.
Axe 'em, Jacks!
Dr. Scott Gordon
Stephen F. Austin State University