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State of the College 2020

 Presented by Sharon L Hirsch, Ph.D., President of Roseont College

January 22nd, 2020

With this State of the College address, we continue our tradition of reviewing the last calendar year with a mid—academic year report.

We have had a lot to celebrate over the past year, including having finally opened the new Community Center, with all of the sense of newness and progress that that brings.

Associate Degrees

I am pleased to report that we received earlier in this month an approval from Middle States to begin offering Associate Degrees. Our first will be an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice (in Professional Studies).  Our hope is that the Associate Degree will be appealing and seem more “doable” for an adult wanting to complete college work. Once we offer the Associate Degree in Criminal Justice, we can offer the A.D. in any other program.

Commission on the Legacy of Slavery

We are grateful for the members of the Commission on the Legacy of Slavery at Rosemont College who reported on their work over the prior year this past November. I am happy to report here that following that Open Campus meeting, the members of the Commission met one more time to go over some suggested edits and further feedback. This meeting resulted in a final report entitled “Rosemont College: An Account of Connections with Enslaved People” that is now being prepared to send to the College Archives.  I should note that we will treat the report in the archives as a “living document,” open to further information, documentation, or editing as time goes on. The original document will be signed by all the members of the Commission and will have its proper place in the Archives as the original report. But we will maintain a second copy that will be the living document that will continue to change, and I hope grow.

The Commission focused on four areas of research and the report included acknowledgment and recommendations in these four areas:

  • The Catholic Church
  • Cornelia Connelly
  • The Society of the Holy Child Jesus
  • The Archdiocese of Philadelphia

The Recommendations from report are:

  1. Integrate Rosemont’s connection with enslaved peoples and institutional racism into the official history of the College presented to administrators, faculty and staff, students, alumni, and trustees.
  2. Review and further develop a curriculum that reflects current developments in studies in racism and social justice.
  3. Create spaces for members of our community to share how we are impacted by the lasting connections of enslaved peoples in order to learn from our different stories, perspectives and experiences and to build an inclusive campus culture.
  4. That Rosemont College plan a Service of Reconciliation that incorporates rituals from our Catholic tradition, as well as those of other faith traditions, and that includes descendants of Phoebe Grayson and Sally Goff, as well as early Black members of our alumni, faculty, and staff.
  5. That a permanent marker of this history be constructed on campus in consultation with the Mission and Ministry Action Committee as well as with descendants of Phoebe Grayson and Sally Goff and early Black members of our alumni, faculty, and staff.
  6. That the Institute for Ethical Leadership and Social Responsibility focus its annual Symposium on the Effects of Racism and integrate this topic into a four-year cycle, beginning in 2021.
  7. That Rosemont dedicate resources to capture oral histories to offer a more complete history of Black members of the College community.
  8. That Rosemont College join with others in Catholic Higher Education addressing structural and institutional racism in both the Church and society.
  9. That this report and supporting documents regarding Rosemont’s connection to enslaved peoples be placed in the College Archives a part of its institutional memory.

These recommendations will be turned over to the Mission and Ministry Action Committee (MMAC). The members of that standing committee have already met and accepted the transfer of all recommendations to their agenda. Thank you to all the members of the MMAC for accepting this challenge, which I hope will be deeply rewarding.

Lastly, I am happy to report that Ms. Erin Brown, the great great-great-great granddaughter of  Phoebe Grayson and the great-great-great granddaughter of Sally Gough (they are the first two enslaved people gifted to Pierce and Cornelia Connelly), has expressed her desire to visit campus and to personally thank the members of the Commission for their work. She will be coming to campus on January 29th and will have the opportunity to meet with the members of the Commission. We will be joined by Sister Carroll Juliano, Leader of the SHCJ American Province. We cannot wait to welcome Ms. Brown to campus.

I’ve tried to follow all of the many, many colleges and universities that are going through this process.  To my knowledge, Rosemont is the smallest institution to undertake this process to date. I think we should be very proud of this work and this experience.

Middle States Self Study

We continue to do our ongoing work for our Middle States Self Study process for re-accreditation. The work groups have to date handed in a very preliminary first draft of their reports; much review and editing is now underway and first complete drafts are due in May. I report this with great gratitude for all those on the work groups and the steering committee.

Increasing Academic Criteria for Acceptance

As I have addressed in the last two years’ State of the College, we have continued our efforts to increase academic criteria for acceptance to the Undergraduate College. We realized at the time of the decision to start this that we would run the risk of smaller incoming classes, as we would be denying acceptance to students who we would have accepted just one year earlier. And this has continued to happen for the last two years and for now this past fall’s entering class.

Our risk assessment, however, told us that as we increased academic criteria, each subsequent class would be significantly stronger. The plan was that increased retention overall would be able to stabilize the overall student enrollment in the Undergraduate College. And this has also happened, and our retention numbers continue to go up:

2nd semester return (Fall to Spring)

Fall 2017 to Spring 2018 – 88.6% returned

Fall 2018 to Spring 2019 – 89.1% returned

Fall 2019 to Spring 2020 – 91.6% returned

Return as sophomores (Fall to Fall)

Fall 2016 to Fall 2017 – 63% returned

Fall 2017 to Fall 2018 – 72% returned

Fall 2018 to Fall 2019 – 81.5% returned

I see this as the desired outcome of our decision to raise our academic criteria for admissions. The correlated outcomes have been a smaller Bridge to Success cohort (it was usually about 20-22 students; this year the Bridge program had only 13 students).

I want to thank the members of both retention committees – yes, we have two retention committees. The first is the Local Retention Committee that includes representative members of student life, academics, athletics, campus ministry, student accounts, and financial aid. This group addresses issues that arise on an individual student level.

The other retention committee is the Visionary Retention Committee. This group is made up of the Provost, the Dean of the Undergraduate College, the Registrar, Director of Athletics, and the Director of Undergraduate Admissions. The intent of this committee is to target “big picture” strategies, including best practices, in an effort to optimize student retention and success. 

Finally, the work of our Academic Standards Committee this past December was much reduced, with many less students up for probation or dismissal. These are all good signs that the long-term investment in stronger students is paying off.

 Test Optional Applications

Of interest: this year’s U.C. applications for Fall 2020 are, to date, 30% test-optional; last year at this time (our first time) we were at 16% test optional applications for fall 2019. The studies on test optional that we consulted for our decision stated that the national percentage for test optional was 25%, so we are closer in our second year to what was expected. These are very good students: in order to apply test optional, they must have a 3.0 or higher weighted, high school GPA.

Recruitment and Retention

I do this every year, to remind us all of our role in recruitment and retention:


 I will repeat here what I have said in the past: I want to remind everyone on this campus – faculty, staff, and certainly students – that we are all in the business of admissions and retention and we need to do all we can to be the face of Rosemont for anyone who reaches out to our offices or comes to our campus. It is vitally important that, having gained so much momentum over the past several years, we keep it up.

Title IX

For my annual update on Title IX, I can offer the following statistics:

  • 2015 – 4 reports
  • 2016 – 8 reports
  • 2017 – 14 reports
  • 2018 – 9 reports
  • 2019 – 12 reports
    • 2 Sexual Harassments
    • 3 Harassments
    • 1 unwanted sexual advances (touching)
    • 1 fondling
    • 1 Sexual Coercion
    • 1 Dating violence
    • 3 Rapes (1 on campus, 2 off-campus)

 Rosemont just received notice that is has been awarded A State of Pennsylvania’s It’s on Us Grant, in the amount of $24,957 for use in 2020. The focus of the grant funding will be for “Awareness and Prevention” training and programs with a special emphasis on reporting.

 Reporting to our Title IX coordinators, Jane Federowicz, Assistant V.P. for HR and Matt Baker, Director of Public Safety is very important. Every year we conduct, as we are required to do, a campus survey of students, faculty and staff; and the number of incidents reported on this anonymous survey are vastly different than the number I just read that were actually reported.

 With the grant, we will be doing lots of training and encourage reporting. One of the means for this will be a Safety and Security App.

  • Emergency Information such as instructions/plans to follow in the event of an emergency
  • Mobile Blue Light – connects individuals directly to Public Safety in the case of an emergency
  • Friend Walk – sends your location in real-time to a friend so they can watch you as you walk to your destination
  • Report a Tip – to Public Safety on a crime or sexual misconduct (can be anonymous)
  • Virtual Walk Home – allows Public Safety to monitor someone’s progress to a destination
  • Safety Tool Box – allows the individual to chat with Public Safety
  • Campus Maps
  • Resources – who to contact e.g. Title IX coordinators, Counseling, etc. and it will include the Sexual Violence resource Guide

So look forward to having that App, and using it, and thanks to our student club PAUSE (People Against Unwanted Sexual Experiences) for any help they can offer to promote this.

Financial Health

During the fiscal year ending 6/30/19, the College faced the same difficult market trends that are being faced by all small private colleges in the northeast especially, and in Pennsylvania particularly. Declining numbers of traditional-aged students have made recruiting for the Undergraduate College a challenge. For our Graduate and Professional Studies, however, there is opportunity: for adult students, the number of those wanting or needing to complete a bachelor’s or obtain a master’s is actually rising. Our Board of Trustees at the February 2019 meeting agreed to a plan to expand GPS programs and students. In the meantime, however, less students and less revenue did have an effect on our 2018-2019 audit.

The unrestricted change in net assets for the 2018-19 audit was down from last year and reflected a loss on an accrual basis. While this is of course never where we want to be, the good news is that, when you remove depreciation, which is not cash expense, the unrestricted change was very close to break even for the year.   

The College’s Composite score for the year was 1.7. This score is reported to the Department of Education and is their gauge of financial health of institutions. A score above 1.5 indicates to the DOE that the institution is financially healthy.


And now it’s time to give a shout-out to the Rosemont Ravens.


  • Men’s Basketball wins the first ever Colonial States Athletic Conferences Championship earning a berth into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.
  • Women’s Basketball captures first ever CSAC Championship earning a berth into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.
  • 64 competing teams – 128 total. Only 6 institutions had
  • Senior Ashley Murray is named CSAC player of the year.


  • Golf wins their second straight CSAC Championship.


  • Women’s Soccer advances to overtime in the CSAC semifinals before falling short 1-0.
  • Men’s Soccer advances to the CSAC finals eventually losing 1-0.

 And moving forward this year, on February 4, 2020, Rosemont will take part in the first Men’s Volleyball match, in the new Volleyball Court in the new Community Center.


Finally, two wonderful things to look forward to: Graduation this year and the College’s 100th birthday in 2021.


I am happy to report that Sister Veronica Openibo has accepted our invitation to be our commencement speaker this May. Sister Vero, as she says, is the leader of the Global Society of the Holy Child Jesus, the Society of sisters that founded the college. If you read the announcement email and watched the video of Sister Vero explaining very vigorously the need for the Catholic Church to bring new transparency – total transparency – to the clergy sex abuse scandal and coverup. And she was saying this directly to the Pope! Then you know that we are in for a real treat on May 16th!  


On our 100th Birthday, coming up in 2021-22: I am pleased to report that a committee is being formed through College Relations so far with alumni, friends and parents but representative faculty, staff, and students will be invited by President Boyers. I can announce our co-chairs for the Centennial Committee: Pat Ciarrocchi ’74 and Dianne Rotwitt ’98. We can look forward to working with President Boyers and all of us to plan one huge centennial celebration!

 President Elect Jayson Boyers

I did reach out to our president elect, Dr. Jayson Boyers, to see if he wanted to say anything to all of us on this occasion:

I am grateful to President Hirsh for giving me this opportunity to briefly say hello to the Rosemont College community. I want to express my appreciation for the warm welcome through the many messages received since the announcement. My excitement about serving together in building the future of this storied institution is beyond what I can write in a few paragraphs. I thought though it might make sense to discuss what attracted me to Rosemont. 

I remember the first time reading through the material and doing research on Rosemont. It has been my deep desire to lead a Catholic college. This desire comes from my belief that as a part of the community of colleges and universities, it is essential that we transcend just vocation and create graduates that find meaning and mission in building their lives. As I read the mission statement, “Rosemont College is a community of lifelong learners dedicated to academic excellence and fostering joy in the pursuit of knowledge”, the phrase that stood out was “fostering joy”. 

So much of the conversation happening in higher education right now is about the challenges that colleges face in this tough environment. What has served me well in my past roles is to never forget the joy of our purpose. I look forward to a community-wide conversation that charts our path towards the next 100 years of Rosemont. We will chart this path together in building sustainability and purpose into our expression daily of the Power of Small. Central though must be a focus on fostering joy in our learning community and in our students. By doing this, we will continue to build on Rosemont College’s important story of service, inquiry, persistence, and courage towards Cornelia Connelly’s intent to “Meet the wants of the age.” I look forward to that kind of conversation. See you soon.

Dr. Boyers will be on campus for a very preliminary visit on February 11th and 12th to meet with some members of the College community. He will return March 17th, 18th and 19th for his first official visit. In fact we have scheduled the next Open Campus Meeting for March 18th, so that Dr. Boyers can be with us in person. 

Focus: Seeking the Truth

Each year in this State of the College address, I have concluded by asking us all as a community to focus on something important to us as a community: for example, how to work to get our students and ourselves a sense of purpose, or the crucial importance of our role as educators and how we must provide a quality education for everyone who comes here so that they in turn can play a role in creating peace.

For this, my last State of the College, I want to return to the focus that I called for in 2017: I think that as an institution of higher education, and particularly as a college rooted in Catholicism, we should keep very careful vigilance about what is going to happen to our main purpose within that tradition: to seek the truth. The truth is a cornerstone of many religions as well as the Catholic Intellectual Tradition: we are charged to find the truth about nature, humanity, and God.

But with the divisiveness of the US today, instantaneous news cycles, and the uncertainties of our future under a President of the United States who has been  impeached – we have to face the fact that the Oxford English Dictionary‘s annual “number one word” for 2016 was “Post truth” and all that that implied. Oxford’s number one word for 2019 was “climate emergency”:  Oxford chose it from an all-environmental shortlist that also included “climate action,” “climate denial,” “eco-anxiety,” and “extinction”.

So “climate emergency” is this year’s “word of the year” – at a cost of so many responses to urge global change, and our lack of real response to the need to change our ways. And while acknowledging that the biggest responsible actors are industry and corporations, we need also to understand that each one of us also has to change our ways, one individual at a time.

And to return to our purpose of seeking truth, we need to embrace the fact that truth is much more than accuracy. While we have fact-checking sites, and even Siri in our hand, true truth will never come to us from those tools. We do know that Truth involves so many human traits, like honesty and trust. So let’s join as a community in resolving to continue to pursue truth even as that requires wading through the noise of a post-truth world. And we can relate truth to the idea of “climate emergency”. We have people now living on islands who will have to start to relocate; we have no real plans so far to handle climate migration, even in in the United States.

We can look forward to working next year on new plans, new programs, new degrees and a new president! But we are, as our mission statement reminds us, a community of lifelong learners: we are scholars, we are academics, and we have a job to do, seeking truth and addressing our climate emergency.