You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Sun, May 12, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Susan Martin's mission: Boost EMU enrollment, graduation rates and finances

By Kellie Woodhouse


EMU President Susan Martin at the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center during a basketball game against Western Michigan. file photo

While there have been some bumps along the road during Eastern Michigan University President Susan Martin's five-year tenure, regents credit her with creating a more stable college environment, and for that they've awarded her a two-year contract extension and a raise.

The eight-member Board of Regents also said it's solidly behind her and not looking back. "I am focusing on the future," said Regent Jim Stapleton Friday as the Board of Regents approved the contract extension.

The contract renewal, which includes a 2.7 percent raise and a year of sabbatical, comes a year after the regents' executive committee placed a letter in Martin's personnel file reprimanding her for arguing with an alumnus at a bar and "acting in a way that was inappropriate for your position."

That incident does not detract from what Martin has accomplished, regents said.

"If you look at where Eastern was when Dr. Martin and our old board took over, and you see where we are now, there's no logical person who wouldn't see that we're a better place," he said. "We have a lot of things we need to improve on, we have a lot of areas where we can grow but we're a better place today than we were five years ago."

Martin came to the university on the heels of two controversies: a student murder coverup and overspending on renovations to the president's house. Each controversy caused a president to resign. When she arrived on campus, enrollment was declining and buildings were falling apart. Simple things like Internet service in on-campus dorms, which sat largely unfilled, did not work.


Susan Martin

"When Dr. Martin came to the university, it really was at a time that I think required healing and development," said Board Chairwoman Francine Parker, who was one of the three regents on the executive committee to sign the May 2012 letter of reprimand:

"One of the things I credit her with is being a galvanizing force, bringing people together on issues, not skirting them, working to make the university about growth. looking at our academic programs, looking at our infrastructure."

EMU figures

  • 18,927 undergraduates enrolled in fall 2012
  • 4,620 graduates enrolled in fall 2012
  • 3,531 freshmen enrolled in fall 2012
  • Average undergraduate is about 24 years old
  • 88 percent of students are from Michigan
  • 3,761 students living on campus
  • Average faculty salary is $77,900
  • $290.6 million 2012 budget
  • $66.5 in 2012 state appropriations
  • $11.5 million raised in fiscal 2012, $2 million over goal
  • 37.2 percent six-year graduation rate
  • 12.9 percent four-year graduation rate
Since coming to campus, Martin has increased undergraduate enrollment by 9.5 percent, although graduate enrollment has declined, and this year she poured $400,000 into furniture for on-campus dorms in order to convert single rooms into doubles and house more students.

Regents say they want continued focus on increasing enrollment and renewed focus on growing EMU's limited financial reserves through spending cuts, innovative resourcing and fundraising. Graduation rates, which sit below 38 percent for six-year students, also need to improve.

"We're always worrying about gathering up funds and people making contributions, but also just continuing to just improve the academic performance and the opportunity for students to succeed," said regent Mike Morris, who also sits on the executive committee.

EMU is in the midst of overhauling its advising program as a way to help students coordinate their class schedules and take the necessary classes to complete their majors within a timely manner. Officials are hopeful improvement in advising will increase graduation rates. The school is also looking for ways to make it easier for students to transfer to EMU.


Eastern Michigan University's spring 2013 graduating class.

Daniel Brenner |

Martin said she's looking forward to new accomplishments, while she savors the past five years.

"It's just been a wonderful experience. A daunting, challenging, impossible, undoable job but great," Martin said of her tenure, during which state funding has declined by nearly $12 million.

"I am a more experienced president. I've got a more experienced team and I think we have some new board members that are bringing a tremendous amount of ability to the board," she continued. "We're in a really good place and we're going to get a lot done."

EMU has a $51 million endowment, and Martin said she will shift more of her time to fundraising over the next two years in order to grow the school's cash reserves. A lack of sizable reserves has been an impediment in budget and facility planning, Martin said.

"We really need to work to build up our endowment, our reserves and also be building a budget that has more room in it," she said.

Board relations

With regents reprimanding Martin for alcohol consumption in May 2012 and placing a mixed performance review in her personnel file in October 2012, Martin's contract renewal seemed somewhat uncertain throughout the past year.

In September 2012 board chair Roy Wilbanks, who has since retired from the board when his term ended in December, told the Detroit Free Press that he was unsure whether he would vote to renew Martin's contract.

Parker, the current board chair, said she considered the letter of reprimand and October performance review basic governance.

"For me, a board — any boss that you have — you discuss things when you have issues," she said. "It's actually refreshing that we ask the questions and raise concerns and want to talk about issues that are of relevance to the university. We're doing our job."

Regent Beth Fitzsimmons, who has served in her role for two years, said she had no issues with Martin's performance.

"I never thought it was a problem," she said.


Francine Parker

Melanie Maxwell I

For Martin's part, she said the board has been "supportive of the administration" at EMU over the past five years and said the board was moving into a new era. She noted that while board involvement is still high, she has been given more autonomy as she gains experience in her role.

Details of the new contract

The two-year extension raises her salary to $300,000, up from from $292,200.

Martin was hired in 2008 under a three-year contract, which was extended by two years in 2010. Parker said the board decided a two-year extension was appropriate.

"We just did two years. Five seems too long; one is never enough," she said. "This is a changing environment in terms of where we are as a university and things we want to do."

Martin's contract stipulates that she is required to live in the president's house on the Ypsilanti campus and that she receive use of a university car.

The contract also appoints Martin as a full professor with tenure —the highest faculty rank possible— of accounting in the business school. It grants her a 12-month sabbatical when she steps down as president, whether she retires or her contract is terminated by the board. If she returns to the university as a professor, for her first year, she will make 10 percent more than the highest salaried professor in her department.

Martin will not be entitled to the sabbatical or faculty position if she is fired for just cause. Among reasons Martin can be fired for just cause is any conduct constituting "moral turpitude" and that "would tend to bring public disrespect, contempt or ridicule upon the university," according o her contract.

Per her previous contract, Martin is eligible for a $10,000 performance bonus in July 2013, to be awarded at the discretion of the board.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Sun, May 12, 2013 : 8:27 p.m.

It does not appear you understand how graduation rates are calculated. If you have 5,000 new students on campus and 2,500 are first time in any college then the grad. is already at 50%. Transfers don't count in the 4 year graduation rate from either other four year institutions or community colleges.


Sun, May 12, 2013 : 6:50 p.m.

I think the board is at cross-purposes with what they have assigned Dr. Martin. IF you raise academic standards and/or go for a more tradition college student base (to get better graduation rates)- in both cases, enrollment should drop until the market adjusts to the new standards and those standards have time have results. Trying boost enrollment while boosting graduation rates limits the presidents flexibility to get to those higher standards - and I am one alumnus that thinks raising admission and retention standards is necessary to boost graduation rates. I think Dr. Martin has been stellar - I know other's don't agree with that assessment but given EMU's regents choices for leadership in the past, I would think they might recognize a golden goose while they have one. They have already mishandled one issue - and as a result have limited Dr. Martin's abilities to go elsewhere. I would they find a away to behave in best-in-class way in the futre...which doesn't seem to be the case here.


Sun, May 12, 2013 : 8:32 p.m.

At one time several years ago a new admissions director presented a plan to the Board of Regents to make it harder to get in to EMU, which has around a 60% acceptance rate. The Board rejected the plan citing the fact that Eastern has always been and will remain an institution of opportunity.

Angry Moderate

Sun, May 12, 2013 : 3:47 p.m.

What is the point of boosting enrollment when it's already at record highs, the vast majority of enrollees don't graduate, and those who do graduate aren't getting good jobs? Public universities shouldn't be ever-expanding empires for their administrators. EMU needs to raise its admissions standards and academic quality significantly.

Angry Moderate

Mon, May 13, 2013 : 2:48 a.m.

I suspect that transfers and non-traditional students are less likely to graduate than incoming freshmen, so not including them would actually help the graduation rate.

Angry Moderate

Mon, May 13, 2013 : 2:47 a.m.

What do I know? I went to school there...


Sun, May 12, 2013 : 8:38 p.m.

What do you actually know about the academic quality at Eastern? Same question on graduation rates since approximately 50% of Eastern's students are transfers and don't start as "first time in any college." Even if they graduate in another two years they don't count.


Sun, May 12, 2013 : 11:46 a.m.

Ah education. Work for 7 years and get a full year of paid vacation. The cost of education in the US keeps climbing.


Sun, May 12, 2013 : 11:27 a.m.'s intent to negatively portray any and all things related to the public sector has rarely been more clear. All signs point to Martin doing a good job and having stabilized a university that had many problems prior to her arrival, yet the articles published this morning on her extensive take a highly critical perspective. Graduation rates for EMU are standard for those of schools that are similar in terms of student abilities and socioeconomic backgrounds. Yet they're cited in the articles as if a sign of failure. The alum incident is dredged up not just once, but twice, and the articles neglect to mention that the person involved was defending a racist logo. And as usual, we're given a blow-by-blow account of the person's salary.

Kellie Woodhouse

Sun, May 12, 2013 : 12:27 p.m.

Northside, I'm sorry you feel that way. I've tried to be fair and highlight accomplishments as well as continued goals. When I spoke to regents, they all said the school had more ways to improve. When I spoke with Martin, she said she'd like to see graduation rates above 50 percent and thinks that, even with the school's student profile, they should be able to get there.