NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — The president of Illinois State University shares new information and developments each fall in the ISU State of the University Address. This year, Interim President Dr. Aondover Tarhule spoke on new developments that Redbirds should be excited about on Thursday afternoon.

The University recently announced that it welcomed its largest freshman class in the last 36 years.

“One of our most high-profile accomplishments is our continued strong enrollment,” Tarhule said. “This fall, we welcomed 4,147 freshmen, a 4% increase in new freshmen over last year. It is the largest incoming class in 36 years. Our total enrollment stands at 20,989, a 1.5% increase over the last year.”

Tarhule mentioned that the retention rate is 81.3%, which is an increase from last year’s 80.2%.

He expanded on the University’s enrollment by saying the freshman class is more diverse than the general Illinois population.

“I’m also happy to report that approximately 41% of this year’s freshman class comes from traditionally underrepresented groups, making this cohort of students more diverse than the general Illinois population. And 32% of our total student population comes from traditionally underrepresented groups.”

Tarhule talked about the new programs coming to Illinois State. He said the University began discussing the idea of a program in engineering in 2016.

It is becoming a reality after a large group of students and faculty have come together to make the concept a reality.

“Because of their hard work, great progress has been made in the College of Engineering,” Tarhule said.

He said there have been three curriculum proposals submitted to the Illinois Board of Higher Education on Aug. 31.

“We look forward to receiving approval from the IBHE, so that we may begin advertising and marketing our engineering programs,” said Tarhule. “Additionally, architectural and engineering designs are on the way to transform the John W. Green building into a state-of-the-art facility to house the college and associated departments.”

The College of Engineering expects to begin classes in fall 2025.

Tarhule then explained that ISU is continuing to develop competitive academic programs “that meet student and employer demands and boost enrollment.”

He said there were three new master’s programs approved by the Illinois Board of Higher Education in the last year: Master of Public Health, Master of Science in Marketing Analytics, and STEM Master of Business Administration.

Tarhule spoke about the Mennonite College of Nursing and its newest developments.

“In June, ISU’s Mennonite College of Nursing broke ground for the new Nursing Simulation Center, which is scheduled to open in fall 2024 and will improve space for interdisciplinary collaboration, student support, and increased research capabilities,” he said.

The Center is expected to increase enrollment by 400 students.

Tarhule talked about some housekeeping items as well as some new updates across the university:

“With the support of our Board of Trustees, we are investing in several campus revitalization projects,” he said.

  • Center for the Visual Arts rotunda classroom has been renovated to be more modern and will be more accessible.
  • Several classrooms across campus were renovated over the summer
  • The Indoor Practice Facility for athletes was upgraded and will be dedicated on Sept. 30.
  • The Watterson Dining Commons opened after being renovated during the summer with a more comfortable place for students to eat and study.
  • Self-service entry kiosks were put into both dining centers to allow easier entrance for students
  • Introduced Dismount Zones were created to encourage students to walk bikes/wheels in certain areas of campus for safety
  • The campus successfully updated all students to the Canvas Student dashboard.
  • Redbird Well is a new website created to help students find mental health resources

The entire State of the University Address may be found here.