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Columbus State University

May 21, 2020 - Message from President Markwood

Good afternoon,

An inspiring story was brought to my attention this week regarding two members of our extended Cougar family, one that helped to provide positive perspective on the trying times through which we’ve all been living this year. It is the story of two former Cougar cheerleaders, a life-threatening medical disorder, and how the bond of friendship has the power to transform personal sacrifice into a universal manifestation of hope.

In 2012, Chelsie Horton and Katie Birkhead became close friends while competing together on the CSU cheerleading team. Now, eight years later, Katie is giving Chelsie the ultimate gift: she is donating her kidney to help Chelsie battle familial juvenile nephronophthisis, a genetic kidney disorder she has lived with her whole life.

What makes this story so inspiring, though, is that Katie was not a match to donate directly to Chelsie; but rather than give up and walk away, the two women signed up for the Paired Exchange Program, joining an eight-person donation chain with four donors and four recipients across the country. Because of their friendship, not only will Chelsie and three other people receive a kidney, four more spots will open for others to become beneficiaries of their benevolence. (You can read more on their story here.)

I thought of Katie and Chelsie as I prepared for today’s meeting with the Board of Trustees. As we look ahead to the uncertainty and hard decisions just over the horizon, we must remain positive. We must be prepared to make sacrifices for the greater good. We must remember that we are family - in good times and bad - and that together, we’ll see the other side of this rough stretch of road and be the better for it.

Second, summer enrollment numbers are coming in and look to be trending upward. Total headcount is up, as is total credit hour production. Yes, our graduate numbers are a bit down, but the undergraduate numbers are certainly something we can build on moving into the fall. As for the fall itself, that picture is still being sketched. Undergraduate applications are down slightly, but admits are trending up, and both graduate applications and admits are on the rise. There is a lot of work to do to get these numbers where we’d like them to be, and thankfully there is still time to achieve our objectives.

For now, let’s focus on the positives: our application numbers. We’re top-of-mind. We’re on their list. The students are looking through the shop window, we just need to get them through the door, so to speak. The impact from a single student is $5,730. Imagine if every staff and faculty member on campus recruited and/or retained one student. Imagine the impact you could have on this institution’s financial future and our ability to shape the minds of tomorrow. Everyone put on your recruiter and retention specialist hats and let’s come up with creative ways to seal the deal and get these young minds enrolled and keep them at CSU!

Lastly, I would like to again thank all of the faculty and staff who served on the nine workgroups of the Return to Campus Task Force. In an incredible display of cross-campus collaboration, the task force produced a 200+ page document which will be submitted to USG next week. We look forward to sharing this document with you all once it has been approved and implementing its policies so we can begin the process of returning to campus safely, smartly, and as soon as possible.

Please keep Chelsie Horton and Katie Birkhead in your thoughts, as they are scheduled for their surgeries at Piedmont Hospital next Friday and, unfortunately, due to COVID-19, they will have to be alone during recovery and will not be able to have any visitors.

Have a great day and thank you for all you do for our students, our community, and for each other.

Dr. Markwood's Signature

President Chris Markwood