STATE OF THE COLLEGE JANUARY 2014
With this January State of the College address, we are returning to our traditional review of the calendar year, even as we are halfway through our academic year. If you recall, because of our strategic planning in 2012-2013, I did not offer a state of the college until our new Strategic Plan was approved by the Board of Trustees, in June 2013. This State of the College will therefore focus on the past nine months, this past summer and fall, and I can report that those nine months have been very good.
Let us begin by reminding ourselves of our dedication this year to the issue of immigration reform, one of the greatest moral dilemmas of our time in this country. We have had programs sponsored by both Campus Ministry and the Institute for Ethical Leadership and Social Responsibility in the fall; we have added issues of immigration to our mass intentions, and we have plans to do more to grow awareness this semester. I would like to call on both students and faculty to address the issue of immigration reform in their classes this semester. With our mission theme this year: “Rosemont College seeks to develop open critical minds and the ability to make reasoned moral decisions,” we have the perfect opportunity to make this issue the subject of thoughtful, creative, and ethical debate.
As we well know, this past summer was a time of great activity and excitement, as we witnessed the transformation of Cardinal Dining Hall into the Raven’s Nest café and Eatery in which we are now gathered, as well as the building of an all new, beautiful, Ravens Athletic Complex. And of course we are meeting in the Dining Hall today because we are in the midst of completing an over one million dollar renovation to McShain Auditorium . We will be dedicating and blessing that new space, which promises to be stunning, in March. All of these physical renovations were intentionally planned as a visible message of our renewal.
At Rosemont College, however, we are seeing more than just physical results of our agreed-upon transformational change that began with the historic Strategic Plan of 2008. We now have a very active Institute for Ethical Leadership and Social Responsibility, and greatly enhanced Library Services, with increased databases and technologies in the new Information Commons, and extended hours. We have introduced new or greatly enhanced programs in our Schools of Graduate and Professional Studies.
One of the best aspects about all of these positive results of our collective efforts is that this “state of the college” is our regular state of the college: we are collectively engaging in constant assessment and decision-making, at every level of the institution, and we are assured that we all can work towards continual improvement.
With that in mind, I remind all of us of our approved goals for our new strategic plan of 2013: we agreed that over the next five years, we will:
- Intensify our solid base for Mission by more deeply integrating the annual mission theme into academics, student life, athletics, and in every aspect of our college community.
- Enhance teaching and learning within classrooms and on-line. Expand the curriculum across all schools by means of a thorough review of current programs and strategic analysis of our market needs.
- Become a model institution for “Students First” to include centralized, highly effective Career Services and Pre-Professional Programs for our graduates in all three schools.
- Elevate the College to a highly-desirable environment for faculty and staff as well as a continuing source of enrichment and pride for them and alumni.
- Expand enrollment and continuously improve retention to enhance student experience, build our financial position and fund innovative programs.
- Create a comprehensive campus plan to invest in and improve our physical and operational infrastructure.
As is our usual process, we took these goals and applied them to the strategies and tasks that we need to accomplish in order to make each goal achieved by 2018. This Operational Plan is now underway, and I know that many of you listening to, or reading this are helping out by carrying out one or more of those tasks. All together, if we can achieve all six goals, we will indeed have propelled Rosemont College from good to great. As a start on this, three task forces were appointed this year to begin the processes needed to accomplish some of the more complicated achievements in the plan. There are now a Task Force on Compensation, a Task Force on a Comprehensive Master Plan, and a Task Force on Program Review, and I am grateful for all those who are serving and doing the work to get us there.
As is explained in the narrative Strategic Plan, the heart of our efforts over the next five years will be academics: we want to do anything we can to make our academic programs the best and most appropriate educational offerings for Rosemont as a Liberal Arts institution, for our students as they prepare for life and work, and for the technological and media environment of the twenty-first century. The Center for Education Statistics has recently counted more than ninety different academic majors in arts and sciences alone, and we cannot (and should not) be offering all of them. So which programs we offer will be an important, ongoing decision for us to make. How those programs are interrelated will also have to be considered. In a just-released book entitled Remaking College: Innovation and the Liberal Arts, David Oxtoby, President of Pomona College, writes of the obligation of Liberal Arts colleges to address interdisciplinary study, even while acknowledging the obstacles that exist (such as the small number of faculty in any one discipline) especially at small colleges. Already a liberal arts education is – and rightly so – a far more broad education than a pre-professional education intended to prepare someone for a single career. We have long recognized that this broader education emphasizing critical thinking and problem solving is much better for students who will face numerous careers across a lifetime.
Adding in an additional emphasis on interdisciplinary study, research, and problem solving will surely present challenges, but that is yet another thing we must do to prepare our students to keep up with the information revolution. Finally, the teaching of those programs must be continually improved. Such improvement should be in the area of pedagogy – such as our current faculty commitment to develop best practices for metacognitive learning, a project we are pursuing with our SEPCHE colleagues thanks to a grant from the Teagle Foundation. But improvement should also occur in the area of media and technology informing all teaching: we cannot afford to ignore the blistering speed with which technology is changing our world, the way people acquire knowledge and learn, as we are preparing students for the future, not the past.
Finally, in the last (June) State of the College, when addressing the college’s financial position, it was predicted that our audit for 2012-13, due in October 2013, would be strong. I am pleased to report that this was true. Our net assets have grown from just over 31 million in 2009, our first co-ed year, to nearly forty and a half million in the year we completed last June. This growth represents the investments made by our donors and alumni in endowments, it represents the value of these wonderful campus improvements of which I spoke earlier, but it also represents our continued commitment to sound management of the resources entrusted to us by our students, upon whom we primarily depend for the bulk of our annual operational funding.
It is that last point that reminds us that, while enjoying our continued financial stability, we must always keep enrollment and admissions in our sights and at the top of our priorities. This is of utmost importance and I will repeat and end with this: we all need to work tirelessly on enrollment. With a shrinking demographic of traditional college-age students, we have to do everything possible to increase our yield with good students who want to become and remain great Rosemont students.
Let’s all promise here and now to work together for the next calendar year to work on the Operational Plan, do everything we can to boost enrollment, and look forward to another great year for Rosemont College.