ADA — East Central University has seen many changes over the last year. From new logos and a signature orange to the ever-expanding face of the campus, ECU President Richard Rafes has been committed to improving the overall environment of the university.

“We are committed to student success,” said Rafes. “Our top priority is the ensure our students have an excellent education experience and complete their degrees.”

Rafes began his presidency at East Central July 1 of last year. After one year, Rafes feels confident in his endeavors at the university.

“There are so many things going on at ECU,” he said.

Currently in the works, the University Center will be expanded to include conference/convention center facilities, training center, economic development component and enhanced wellness center. The expansion will also include a new dining and food court, bookstore and Continuing Education with Training Center.

The construction of the Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center, which will open Spring 2008, is one part of the progress Rafes sees is essential in the growth of the university’s population.

“We want to be the most student-centered regional university,” Rafes said. “Students are the center of our focus.”

To ensure a quality learning environment, East Central will implement its first living-learning community this fall with a focus on the Honors Program and first-year experience initiatives.

Students will be able to share a living environment composed of an identifiable group of students, faculty, staff and community citizens who are connected through a common academic interest. These communities will be housed in Pesagi, Briles and Pontotoc Residence Halls for freshmen. Knight Hall will be converted into the Honors Hall that will foster the development of community among students choosing to live there and also will create an enhanced learning environment for all Honors Program participants through lectures, study sessions, academic course offerings and social events.

“East Central University and the Department of Housing and Residence Life are committed to our students’ success both in and out of the classroom,” Rafes said.

Not only is Rafes concerned with East Central’s student environment, he is concerned with the environment ECU provides the community.

As part of opening ECU’s campus up to the community, the university submitted two economic development grants to the USDA for East Main Cultural Arts District development. One of the grants was recently awarded to East Central for the amount of $219,000 and the second is awaiting decision.

The East Main district is a major project for the community, and Rafes wants the community involved in every aspect of its development. He is sponsoring a Town Hall meeting that is open to the public 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Chamber of Commerce.

After his first full year at East Central, Rafes is very encouraged about the years to come. “It has been an interesting year,” he said.

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