HOUGHTON - When laying out its strategic plan in 2006, Michigan Technological University had a choice to decide if it wanted to be considered a regional or a national university.
"Most people said, 'Well, if you go back to the 'Why?' question, you're going to have to be on this national list, and be a national, if not international draw, as a university in order for us to be successful," said President Glenn Mroz.
At a campus forum Tuesday, Mroz outlined the progress the university has made in reaching the goals outlined by the strategic plan.
One aspect was improving the number of graduate degrees.
Now 40 percent of engineering degrees are granted at the master's or Ph.D. level, Mroz said.
For universities in the state, revenues have had to come far more tuition and fees than from state appropriations; Tech has not had a majority of its money come from the state since 2003.
One step was recruiting top research-oriented faculty. Over the past seven years, Mroz said, the university has brought on 156 new faculty. The number of tenure-track faculty has risen from 300 to 354.
"We said, 'If we don't get the right people here, we're not going to be able to make any progress at all. If we don't have a distinctive education, we will not be able to answer the question of why somebody would come to Michigan Tech rather than any one of those universities in the Midwest," he said. "In order to make this whole thing work, and to build a brand, and build a reputation of the university, we had to have the people who were interested in the research, the scholarship, the creativity and the entrepreneurship that makes the whole thing work."
Through the Strategic Faculty Hiring Initiative, as of December, 18 faculty have submitted 229 grant proposals, resulting in $6.2 million of external research funding.
Chairs and professorships have grown 243 percent since 2006, while Ph.D. degrees have risen 54 percent.
Mroz also updated the campus on Tech's capital campaign. With an end date of June 30, the campaign is 94.5 percent to its goal of $200 million.
Last year's general fund balance went down from $16,079,338 on June 30, 2011, to $12,487,739, said David Reed, Tech vice president for research. The drop came partially from construction expenses on the Great Lakes Research Center. But state reimbursements are starting to come in: The average fund balance over the past 12 months was around $17.5 million.
"Years ago, (2002), we were running an average daily cash balance around $5 million," he said.
Next year's general fund spending is scheduled to go from $40,761,200 to $42,559,900.
So far, the university has received 3,972 applications this year, the second-highest at this point the university has had. The university also has the second-highest amount of accepted applications in its history.
The 374 accepted applications from domestic minorities are on pace to break the university's record of 482.
"Recruiters have really been doing a great job of helping Michigan Tech to look like America," Mroz said.
The university has also pursued women who are interested in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Assistant Vice President for Enrollment John Lehman described the university's recent efforts to reach its goal of 35 percent female enrollment by 2020, including pre-college programs, leadership institutes, phone calls and emails. A new supplemental campaign is being launched this week to 16,000 prospective students.
Lehman said the marketing campaign had been tailored to current female students' initial concerns about finding a social support network on campus.
To get the message out, Lehman said, they talked to female students about their experiences on campus. While some were reluctant to talk about themselves, he said, they brightened up when asked to talk about their best friends.
"We just got these wonderful stories," he said.