New era at McNeese as Rousse takes the reins as president

Published 3:47 pm Monday, July 1, 2024

Monday marked the start of a bright, blue, brand-new day at McNeese State University.

Eighth McNeese President Wade Rousse and his executive leadership team hosted a news conference on Monday to celebrate the occasion, discussing structural changes to the executive staff and laying out plans and methods for future development.

Rousse is succeeding Daryl Burckel, who served as president starting in 2017. John Noble, at-large member of University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors, said Burkel’s retirement comes after “seven years of incredibly tough circumstances.”

Email newsletter signup

During his time as president, the university faced a pandemic and four major weather events that caused extensive infrastructure damage. These events led to a drop in population, and ultimately a drop in enrollment.

With the help of Rousse, Burckel stabilized the university’s budget, making it the most “fiscally sound in the state,” Noble said.

“His resilience in the face of such challenges is truly inspiring, and we’re all deeply appreciative of his efforts and contributions to our university.”

Noble said Burkel will be returning to the classroom.

Rousse said he is grateful for the “smooth and successful transition” that Burkel and his leadership facilitated over the past six weeks.

“Make no mistake about it, because of the foundation that Dr. Burkel has laid, we are positioned to stop the enrollment decline and to eventually begin to grow our beloved university.”

Rousse’s main priority is to stabilize student enrollment. The reduction of the student body forced downsizing for McNeese to be financially sustainable. It also led to a need for proactive structural changes.

During the transition period, the team collected information and made decisions that “more effectively and efficiently” structured the university’s chain of command to “support a smaller student population.”

“We believe these changes are allowing us to hit the ground running.”

The positions of executive vice president and vice president of university advancement were eliminated.

“Mission-critical tasks” were reassigned — and nine others were removed – to the executive director of the foundation role to create a more “streamlined and cost-efficient” unit.

The senior vice president of student affairs will also be responsible for some of the tasks and reporting lines of the former executive vice president role. Career and professional development services and international student services (formerly international programs) change hands from enrollment management to the senior vice president.

The remaining units of enrollment management will report directly to the president. New enrollment resources were instituted by creating an executive director of advising role.

McNeese Athletic Foundation employees will report to the athletics director.

“Organizations are continuously changing, and we will strive for continuous improvement and structuring our institution,” Rousse said.

Every department and division will follow “measurable objectives.” These metrics will help the university keep an eagle’s eye on the health of student enrollment.

In addition to changes close to home, Rousse said he will advocate the importance of collegiate education at the state level, calling the “perception that higher education is no longer worth the investment is a fallacy.”

“When we produce graduates that have the skills to be gainfully employed upon graduation, and the sense of curiosity to continuously learn and have the desire to be pioneers in their chosen fields, we win,” he said. “We win, our city wins, our region wins, the entire state of Louisiana wins.”

McNeese’s executive team includes Senior Vice President of Student Affairs Kedrick Nicholas, Interim Vice President of Business Affairs April Broussard, Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs Michael Buckles and Athletic Director Heath Schroyer.

Rousse said they are working to change Schroyer’s title to vice president of athletics and external affairs.

Moving In

Monday also marked Rousse, his wife, Angela, and their dog’s first day in their new home: Burton Hall.

Following the news conference, the couple moved into a first-floor dorm suite with four rooms — a bedroom, two guest rooms for the nephews and a room for the coffee pot — and two bathrooms. Aside from a new bed, two chairs and TV, the suite is decorated with dorm furniture.

Rousse said the idea started as a joke; however, the pair is dedicated to having a personal presence on campus, a mission that is “dramatically” and “unbelievably” important for McNeese’s students.

“When students feel they have a challenge in their life, and they have nowhere else to go, and they just need a little urge to keep them moving, that they are confident and comfortable,” he explained. “That they can come to me or the first lady and talk about those problems that they may be sharing or experiencing.

“Until they fix the damn president’s house, we’re going to live in the dorm.”

The couple plan to stay in the dorm four to five nights a week. They said they are excited to host pizza parties, play chess with students and put on their blue jeans to help students move into their dorms on the first day of school.