Executive Summary

Changing lives, building a student-centric culture, and advancing all facets of the University while communicating the value of McNeese to Southwest Louisiana were the priorities of Dr. Daryl Burckel’s presidency.

Before applying for the presidency, Dr. Burckel consulted colleagues and community members asking them, “What is McNeese now and what could it be?”

As President, Dr. Burckel believed it was paramount for the executive leadership team to draft new vision and mission statements. The vision became First Choice! The mission statement built upon the University’s long-standing motto, defining the collective “why,” by stating We change lives through excellence with a personal touch! 

With a new focus on becoming the first choice for students seeking a university degree, for employers seeking university graduates, for donors wanting to support the community, for organizations seeking professional advice, and for faculty and staff seeking a collegial and productive work environment, Dr. Burckel worked with internal and external resources to rebrand McNeese and to cultivate stronger community partnerships to support these initiatives.

The three-year First Choice Campaign raised more than $2.6 million to hire faculty, upgrade aging classrooms and labs, and address facility and infrastructure needs throughout the campus.

Restructuring the athletics department and reinstating the McNeese Athletic Foundation have paid tremendous benefits by increasing fundraising, sponsorships, and community engagement.

Streamlining the enrollment process, creating seamless pathways for transfer students, reinstating the Division of Student Affairs, reducing students’ textbook costs, establishing a doctoral program in the College of Nursing and Health Professions, creating the Student Success Center, and forming the first science, engineering, and mathematics college in the state reinforced the University’s commitment to academic excellence and student success.

He steered the University through the trials of the COVID-19 pandemic and a succession of natural disasters in 2020 and 2021, which encompassed two hurricanes, a severe winter storm, and a thousand-year flood all resulting in extensive devastation and over $230 million in damages, losses and remediation work to the McNeese campus.

He crafted a unique plan, requiring close collaboration across state and federal offices and multiple architects, contractors, and engineers to quickly remediate and repair damage from Hurricanes Laura and Delta and reopen the campus for the spring 2021 semester.

Over the past seven years, capital improvement projects totaling more than $87 million were completed under Dr. Burckel’s administration with funding from the state, private sources, and University capital funds. Currently, $145 million in capital improvement projects are in various stages of planning, design, or construction that will transform the campus for the foreseeable future.

New facilities underway include a student union, bookstore and fan zone, press box and suites at Cowboy Stadium, the McNeese LNG Center of Excellence, farm buildings and labs, and a baseball field house. These, and other significant infrastructure improvements, will transform the campus within the next 18-24 months.

He leaves McNeese on solid fiscal footing. The devastating 2020 hurricanes not only damaged campus facilities, but also caused the decline in enrollment which was substantial resulting in a loss of revenue that had a profound impact on the operating budget. Using a combination of revenue generation and reductions in expenses, Dr. Burckel and his team erased a deficiency in the operating fund and balanced the budget, leaving the remainder of a one-time state appropriation available as needed.

In September 2022, Dr. Burckel invited external stakeholders including elected officials, representatives from public and private K-12 education, business, healthcare and industry, and community members to join faculty, staff, and students at the Focus on the Future Conference. The Guiding Vision for the Future developed from the conference is a blueprint with purpose and intent that includes Six Vision Themes and is designed to guide decision-making and planning for the next five years.

Just as significant as efforts to make McNeese First Choice, the University’s impact on the Southwest Louisiana economy grew significantly during Dr. Burckel’s tenure as president. According to a 2014 economic impact study, the annual impact of McNeese on the economy of Southwest Louisiana was $371.6 million. This included spending and taxes paid by students, employees, visitors and alumni, construction projects, and business development. By 2022, the annual economic impact of the University was $614 million, an increase of more than 65%.

Most importantly, during Dr. Burckel’s seven years as president, more than 9,000 students graduated from McNeese with exemplary academic and professional skills and who are prepared to make a life, make a living, and make a difference in their communities.