State of the College 2013
President Sharon Latchaw Hirsh, Ph.D. '70
This State of the College is articulated, unusually, at the end of our 2012-2013 Academic Year, because the entire College community used that year to determine the state of the College over the next five years. In June, 2013, the Rosemont College Board of Trustees approved a new Strategic Plan that will carry the College through a series of strengthening actions, with a strong mission focus and academics being the heart of the plan and enrollment being the driver of the plan, to take the College from good to great.
In order to craft the plan, many people were involved with the necessary research, analysis, discussion and decision –making, beginning with the September 7, 2012 Kickoff, attended by almost 300 engaged individuals, and ending with the Open Campus meeting on May 6th, 2013, at which the final plan was discussed prior to presentation to the Board of Trustees in early June. During this time, very clear, open discussions occurred that focused on the College’s strengths as well as challenges, with deliberations on ways to best correct the challenges while developing and capitalizing on our strengths.
The major challenge we identified was enrollment, especially with new students recruited to the Undergraduate College. We did recognize that this challenge resulted in part because of our decision, after becoming coeducational, to immediately raise our academic criteria for admission. As predicted, that change as well as several other retention-building programs, resulted in much greater retention rates across all classes, so that our student body in the Undergraduate College has grown overall, both in numbers and in level of engagement. Our most recent (2012-13) NSSE (National Survey of Student Engagement) provided confirmation of this: in those areas that the survey considers the clearest evidence of complete engagement of deep student learning, Rosemont results were at the national average or considerably above it; in no area did Rosemont students report less engagement than average engagement. Nevertheless, we recognize that, despite 2012-13 being a year of enrollment growth overall for the Undergraduate College, we need to re-double our efforts in recruitment. We have put into place several new approaches to our recruitment plan, which should yield results for fall 2014 and ultimately see its full results in Fall 2015 (when the entering class will have been initially contacted by the College and worked with Rosemont counselors since their sophomore year, among other initiatives).
I am pleased to report that our enrollment goals in the Schools of Graduate and Professional Studies have been met and exceeded, throughout the past year and continuing into our summer sessions. The fall 2012 total student enrollment was 490, compared to the prior fall enrollment of 459, an increase of 41 students or 7.4%. Spring 2013 total enrollment was 517 students, compared to the prior spring enrollment of 438, an increase of 79 students or 15.3 % over spring 2012. Similar increases occurred with credit hours. The summer session just ended also recorded significant gains in enrollment, with 389 students compared to 347 last summer, an enrollment increase of 42 students or 10.8%. Credit hours for summer 2013 increased from 1701 for summer 2012 to 2064 year over year representing an increase of 358 credit hours or 17.6%.
We also identified numerous major strengths, beginning with our ability to accomplish strong strategic planning; our process over the past year relied for the most part on the process we followed in 2007-08, but this past year’s was conducted entirely in-house, with a few Rosemont-particular details added, and with excellent results. We as a community should be very proud of the fact that we have become an institution that can come together, face challenges, make decisions and then carry them out. An extra thanks goes out to those individuals who served on the Operational Planning Committee, for their work over six weeks to produce a detailed, organized set of strategies, tasks and sub-tasks that, under the guidance of our Director of Strategic Planning and Assessment, will be carried out well and with confidence.
Another strength for Rosemont is academics: we have maintained the highest standards in our classes, with excellent, extraordinarily dedicated professors who work individually with each student to assure deep, constant learning. Through our collaboration with colleagues at other SEPCHE institutions, and with support from the Teagle Foundation, the number of Rosemont professors involved in the “Building faculty Capacity for 21st century Teaching Project” (developing metacognitive pedagogies that stress constant intentional feedback on learning) has grown again in 2012-13, as has the potential of this project to significantly advance our already-stellar reputation for teaching and learning in the future. We have also collaborated with our SEPCHE partners to enhance undergraduate research programs in STEM fields with the support of CIC/FIHE (Council of Independent Colleges/Foundation for Independent Higher Education).
Our Honors Program, reestablished several years ago and growing with each incoming Undergraduate class, benefited from the establishment of Gracemere Honors House in January 2013. Thanks to the generosity of the Connelly Foundation and many alumni donations, the College was able to purchase Gracemere (located next door to the College on Wendover Road) from the Society of the Holy Child Jesus and renovate it for use as a living-learning community for Rosemont’s Honors Students.
Last year’s activities also included the numerous programs sponsored by the Institute for Ethical Leadership and Social Responsibility. In only its second year, the Institute held its first meeting of a new External Advisory Board, and the Institute itself grew an amazing presence on the Rosemont campus and beyond. The Institute continued the film discussion series, bringing in noted speakers (from Kate O’Neill, our Woodrow Wilson Scholar in residence, to Sister Helen Prejean who spoke vividly and passionately about her experiences as the nun who worked with death-row inmates, as in her book Dead Man Walking), and hosted panel discussions on various aspects of ethics. These Institute events were coordinated to work with the new Leader Lecture Series and the Women’s Leadership Forum launched by the master's in Leadership and the MBA programs in our Schools of Graduate and Professional Studies. Our MFA in Creative writing and the MA in Publishing programs continued their partnering this past year with a very successful series of events, culminating in a Writers Retreat, housed in the newly-remodeled Gracemere, that welcomed 50 participants to Rosemont to reflect upon, develop, and hone their writing strategies. These many events were, of course, only a few of hundreds of events and programs that occurred in 2012-13, keeping our students very busy, and our greater community very engaged.
This past year, Rosemont College has continued on its path of continuous financial improvement, strengthening its internal control environment and closely monitoring all aspects of its financial management system to assure efficient and effective financial management. These improvements are evidenced by the results of the institution’s June 30, 2012 audit report, which reflected a net asset increase from operations in excess of $5.5 million. While $5 million of this resulted from a large unrestricted gift, the non-gift portion still represented more than a million dollar swing in operating results from the previous year. This outcome was impacted both by a modest improvement in net tuition and fees (mostly from retention in the UC and in increased enrollment in SGPS, as noted), but most significantly by careful expense control resulting in an actual decrease in operating expenses of over $600,000 from the previous year.
We will not know the results of this year’s June 30, 2013 audit until the fall, but we are confident, based again upon strong spending discipline, very strong retention efforts, a better than expected residential population, and the advantageous refinancing of all of the College’s outstanding debt, that it will reflect another year of improvement overall in the building of net assets as well as another balanced cash budget.
The College is also doing well with Reflect, Renew, Rejoice: The Campaign for Rosemont College: to date we have raised almost 24 million dollars and, with the halfway goal behind us, we are even more energized by the Campaign’s promise. We are already reaping the benefits of early gifts to the Campaign, including endowed scholarships and graduate assistantships as well as the purchase and renovation of Gracemere Honors House. In addition, the College completed its year by breaking ground on two major construction projects. One is the conversion of our fields behind Kaul Hall to an athletics complex that will feature a lower natural grass softball field and an upper multi-purpose field with artificial turf; each field will have its own netting and lights, allowing us to use both fields at the same time. That the artificial turf will be in Rosemont’s own maroon and gray colors will only add to our student-athlete’s enjoyment of their sport and their pride in their College. And they deserve this: 2012-13 was a winning season for most of our sports, with three Rosemont teams going to the CSAC (Colonial States Athletic Conference) playoffs. Men’s soccer went to the playoffs for the second year in a row, this year to the conference finals; women’s basketball went to the playoffs for the first time in eight years; and women’s soccer remarkably earned a spot in the playoffs in only their second year as a program. We should be especially proud of our student athletes, but not just for playing well and winning: they also shone in sportsmanship and academics. The Women’s Cross Country team became Rosemont’s first team to earn the coveted CSAC 3D Sportsmanship award (an award voted on by their peers on other conference teams). And an amazing 67 Rosemont student-athletes were named to the CSAC All-Academic Team, 50 of whom earned the even more prestigious title of Rosemont Scholar.
The second project is the $3 million renovation of the Cardinal Hall to transform its cafeteria, built in 1956, into a state-of-the-art dining hall, complete with food stations, flexible seating, and a cafe. This project is also expected to be completed in mid-August.
It is important to note that both projects are fully funded, in great part by an extremely generous gift of five million dollars from an anonymous alumna who recognizes the importance of exceptional student facilities; we are confident that these projects will serve not only to enrich the experience of our current students but also as retention and recruitment tools for students of the future. It will be terrific to welcome all students back in the fall to these fantastic new facilities. In the meantime, plans are underway to renovate McShain Performing Arts Center in January 2014 with new lighting and sound systems as well as aesthetic upgrades for the new Rotwitt Theater, thanks to the generosity of alumna Dianne Rotwitt and her husband, Jeffrey, as well as the Anna Maria Moggio Foundation.
For the year 2012-13, the state of the College was good. With the new Strategic Plan in place and approved, and the Operational Plan poised to begin in July, we can together look forward to the 2013-14 year as “step one” as we work together to fulfill the mission and take Rosemont College from good to great.