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State of the College Address 2019

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 a lot to celebrate over the past year. We have continued our efforts to form new partnerships with our Higher Education peers, including a partnership to have our students pursue a PharmD at the University of the Sciences on a pre-set path, and agreements with Salus University for in most cases accelerated application process with saved places for Rosemont students in the following Master’s Degree programs:

1. Master of Education, Blindness and Visual Impairment (TVI)
2. Master of Science, Low Vision Rehabilitation (LVR)
3. Occupational Therapy (MSOT)
4. Master of Science, Orientation and Mobility (O&M)
5. Master of Science, Vision Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT)
6. Physician Assistant (MMS)
7. Doctor of Audiology (AuD) On-Campus Program
8. 3 + 4 Doctor of Optometry (OD)
9. Doctor of Optometry (OD) Traditional Program

In addition we have a new agreement with Harrisburg University, a fast-growing institution with emphasis on technology and other STEM fields: we are hoping our students can take advantage of free cross-registrations to take courses at Harrisburg’s new Philadelphia campus.

Rosemont is also getting the word out on those things that we do so well: The dedication of the new Patricia M. Nugent Gallery was a highlight of our fall semester. We have made a point of marketing the fact that, again this year, 92% of our 2018 graduates are full time employed or in graduate school (or are full time engaged in some combination of the two), and we were named #28 – of 182 institutions in Pennsylvania for having a low average student debt (they called it “debt limitation”). Finally, do remember that we will be initiating men’s volleyball and women’s golf next year. The women golfers will be able to use the Indoor Golf Facility that we built last year, and the men’s volleyball team will use the brand new volleyball court on the first level of the new Community Center starting in August 2019.

Last year I opened this address by explaining that I had several times in the prior year signed on behalf of the college petitions or pledges through various national organizations in which we are members, to influence both lawmakers and President Trump to act in certain ways that would protect environmental efforts, DACA (that is, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – people who were brought here as children, illegally, by their parents), and an NCAA pledge on diversity and inclusion. Unfortunately only one of these requests, the NCAA pledge, has happened. In 2018, we were asked to continue our participation in many of these efforts. Because they align so closely with our mission, we have continued to do so. As I pointed out last year, this is one more aspect of the “POWER of small”: that we can be our size and still play a leadership role in Higher Education.

I want to thank the members of the Commission for the Legacy of Slavery at Rosemont College for their good, important work. Here you can see the members:

  • Jeanne Marie Hatch, SHCJ, VPMM, Co-Chair
  • Troy Chiddick, Dean of Students, Co-Chair
  • Kamil Ali-Jackson, Trustee
  • Elizabeth Cunningham, Student, RAC
  • Dwayne Dantzler, Alumni Board
  • Kierra German, Student, Black Student Union
  • Brandon Jones, Student, SGA
  • Helen McDevitt-Smith, Alumni Board
  • Roseanne McDougall, SHCJ, Trustee
  • Peter McLallen, Dean, SGPS
  • Michelle Moravec, Professor
  • Maureen O’Connell, Trustee
  • Kendyl Oliver, SASC Coordinator Advising & Academic Support
  • Kruti Quazi, Director, Counseling Center

They have already had two meetings and I have heard that they are making progress in identifying our understanding of the College’s relationship to the fact that Cornelia Connelly, who founded the Society of the Holy Child Jesus in the 1840s in England, had earlier in her life in the United States been married to a man who owned enslaved people. The commission’s primary task is to make recommendations that will help the College to develop that understanding going forward.

We are – this month – beginning our Self-Study process for Middle States. As you probably know, the purpose and end goal of our Self-Study, to be followed up by a team visit from peers selected by Middle States, is nothing less than our re-accreditation as a college. I want to thank also Deans Paulette Hutchinson and Peter McLallen who serve as the Co-Chairs of the entire Self Study and Dr. Lisa Dolling who is our Accreditation Officer. This slide shows all those on each work group:

I. Mission and Goals
Nicole Contosta, Co-Chair
Katherine Baker, Co-Chair
Courtney Clarke
Jay Verzosa
Donna McKeever
Student, TBD
II. Ethics and Integrity
Keely Cutts, Co-Chair
Aikaterini Skokotas, Co-Chair
Helen Cline
Jane Federowicz
Thomas DeGeorge
Troy Chiddick

III. Design and Delivery of the Student Learning Experience
Adam Lusk, Co-Chair
Anne Coleman, Co-Chair
Joseph Tresnan
Karen Geiger
Steven Brusstar
Susan DiGironimo
Student, TBD

IV. Support of the Student Experience
Jeannette Dumas, Co-Chair
Kruti Quazi, Co-Chair
April Higgins
Ian Jackson
Joseph Pavlow
Travis Marshall
Student, TBD

V. Educational Effectiveness Assessment
Denise Falconi, Co-Chair
Patrick Rowley, Co-Chair
Ashley Hodges
Carla Spataro
Catherine Fennell
Michael Willse
Xiuni Wu

VI. Planning, Resources, and Institutional Improvement
Juliann Ewing, Co-Chair
Becky Monaghan, Co-Chair
Christopher Sherlock
Daniel Mason
Matthew Baker
Tatiana Ripoll-Paez
Student, TBD

VII. Governance, Leadership, and Administration
Faith Byrne, Co-Chair
Tina Bizzarro, Co-Chair
Dennis Perkinson
Kathleen Colucci
Kendyl Oliver
Margaret Hobson-Baker

VIII. Verification of Compliance and Affiliation Requirement
Chair, TBD
Joe Alaimo
JM Gillece
Steve Alessandri

You will see that there are a LOT of faculty, staff, and administrators involved. I thank each and every one of you. Please know that every co-chair of a work group plus a few Vice Presidents will make up the Steering Committee. Please stay tuned for more about this two year process for Accreditation – if you have any thoughts about any one of these work group topics (which are the standards we are to address for Middle States), please be in touch with one of the co-chairs or really anyone in that work group. We want, and need your feedback.

So we’ve had a good 2018 in terms of what we as a College and campus can accomplish. But I want here to also back up and consider our situation as a small liberal arts college in a national context. Over the past year, Rosemont College has faced the many challenges that have arisen for most colleges and universities in this country: the diminishing demographics of traditional age college applicants is primary among them, as we all struggle to attract and retain high achieving students from smaller and smaller applicant pools. But there are others as well: recruitment and enrollment patterns are shifting; cost structures require constant analysis and adjustment, and an increase in financial need for the majority of families. Add to this a negative public perception of the purpose and value of the liberal arts and even a college education and you have a nearly perfect storm of challenges, especially for small and medium-sized colleges. About two weeks ago, I was at a conference held for presidents of precisely those colleges – all small and medium-sized private colleges. We were able to benefit from each other’s experience, discussing all of the challenges –lots of continuing challenges, but also shifting challenges and definitely new challenges.

 I want to share with you the title of this conference, the 2019 Presidents Institute convened by the Council of Independent Colleges: the title was “Leading Strategic Change”. Now, we at Rosemont have a pretty good history of change. Back in 2007-08, when everyone involved in that Strategic Plan -- students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the College – were debating whether or not we should become coeducational, we talked about the necessity for change. In the end we had the data that we needed to make that change: namely the results of an extensive survey that we commissioned an outside firm to make of 30,000 high school girls within a 90 mile radius of the campus that proved that we had a small market for remaining an all-women’s college, a nice and reasonable market for remaining a Catholic institution, but no market – under 1% -- for a Catholic women’s college. When the results of that study were presented to the Steering Committee of about 30 people, everyone realized that with such strong data, the decision to “go coed” would have to be an intellectual one, and not an emotional one.

 That 2008 Strategic Plan took 15 months to complete. We held up a mirror to the college as an institution, saw our problems clearly and then made the decision to change. Back in 2008, this change also included going fully online for some of our programs and pursuing partnerships. Once we made the decision to change – a lot – we did a remarkable job of getting ourselves together as a community, getting the work done and I think we even enjoyed the work.

 But that was ten years ago. The state of higher education now requires that kind of data collection, analysis, decision-making and change on a nearly constant basis. Recent studies trying to measure the rate of change in current society have even gone so far as to predict that the current rate of change will double every two and a half years. So that means that in the next five years our current crazy rate of change would multiply four times. So the “new normal” means that higher education must be more quick, more nimble, and more clearly strategic than ever before.

And how is higher education viewed in the midst of all this? Just this year, the Pew Research Center found that more than 60 percent of those asked thought that higher education was headed in the wrong direction. For the past two years, polling by New America has found that only a quarter of those who responded said that higher education was fine the way it was. These are serious misconceptions that all of higher education has to address. How is Rosemont doing this? We are focusing on the value of our education for our own students, and this means that we need to focus on building academic strength for all of our programs and all of our students.

I told you last year that we were going to increase, for last fall’s class, the academic criteria for acceptance to Rosemont College. We knew at the time of that decision that we were running the risk of a smaller class, as we would be denying acceptance to students who we would have accepted just one year earlier. And both of these things did happen: we brought in a smaller class that is, overall, academically stronger.

But at the same time that we were working on academic standards, we were looking at recent studies (2014 and 2018) that established that the High School GPA (weighted) was a much better predictor of success in college than test scores. The 2014 study was the first that analyzed the results of several institutions that had offered “test optional” (applying with only high school grades, not submitting any standardized test scores), and found that non-submitters did not do as well as the submitters in their first semester or year of college, but they did persist and graduate at a slightly higher rate. And graduation rate is what we must all be concerned about because our retention rate has decreased over the past few years. So – back to the theme of constant data collection and analysis to make good decisions – we ran our own study to compare to the 2014 and 2018 studies, using our own undergraduate students over the past four years (in other words we studied incoming students’ GPAs but not any test scores and then saw how they did at Rosemont) and found exactly the same results. In all three studies, the results were success for High school GPAs at 3.0 or above. So we announced last fall, with a very positive article in the Inquirer, and an extensive marketing campaign, that we would offer Test Optional applications for any student applying to Rosemont with a weighted High School GPA of 3.0 or above. We have had a good response, often from students applying who we wanted to attract – very good students in high school who were not good test-takers. Right now 16% of our applications for fall 2019 are test optional and we are hopeful that this latest change will also strengthen the academic success of that class.


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 on campus. It is vitally important that, having gained such momentum over the past several years, we keep it up.

In GPS, Our biggest initiative is that we are seeking professional accreditation for our Program in Counseling through CACREP (Counsel for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs). Right now, our Counseling Master’s program is our largest graduate program with between 130-140 students going through the program at any given time. It has become increasingly expected that Counseling programs have the professional accreditation that CACREP will provide, and so we are doing what we need to do, with added resources for that program, to be in good shape for an accreditation decision in fall 2020.

We continue to take our responsibility to enforce Title IX very seriously. We are expected to study, review, and implement ongoing directives from the Federal Government. Right now new guidelines proposed by the Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos are in a final feedback phase. Most institutions, however, are proceeding as if the new guidelines will mean that we will be required to make many changes to policy and procedures earlier proclaimed under the Obama administration. Rosemont has already joined such institutions and is already working to make sure that we can respond to any report of sexual misconduct with fairness and within the new guidelines. Our co-directors of Title IX and the SART team (Sexual Assault Response Team) Jane Federowicz, Assistant Vice President for Human Resources and Matt Baker, Director of Public Safety, have worked very hard to establish proper awareness of sexual misconduct and assault, as well as proper investigation and resolution of any sexual harassment and misconduct cases. We really need to thank them both for the almost heroic work they are doing. Last January we conducted our second National Student Sexual Misconduct Climate Survey. We have these anonymous surveys administered and tallied by an outside firm. The Climate Survey for students will be distributed later this spring: Please, students, take this survey and take it seriously. The survey is completely anonymous, fairly detailed, and gives us information and an understanding of context that we otherwise would not have.

Now let me outline our actual reports from last year: (2018 calendar year): we had one report of harassment, one of sexual advance, four inappropriate behaviors, one sexual exploitation, one rape and one report of dating violence. This was a total of nine reports for 2018, compared to 14 reports in 2017, eight reports in 2016 and four reports in 2015. We do have strong evidence that each year we seem to increase everyone’s awareness of the seriousness of sexual misconduct as well as the right and the need to report it. So I would like to commend the students who in 2017 formed a new club called PAUSE (People Against Unwanted Sexual Experiences). Please continue to do your wonderful and important work.

So at this point in January 2019, where do we go from here? We do have our two year extension to the 2013-2018 Plan which, while keeping the same goals introduces many new strategies and tasks: we will need to keep up with this if we want to be successful moving forward. We need to address the increasing questioning – from the media, from the public, and even from the government --of the value of a college education by continuing program review, which should include our graduate programs as well as our undergraduate General Education program. Our students continue to attract prestigious awards: in both fall 2016 and 2018 two students won first prize in the prestigious national Undergraduate Research Symposium for the Chemical and Biological Sciences at University of Maryland. As happened each year at the same competition, we were the only “college” in the finals – all the other institutions represented were large universities. This past fall, 307 student researchers participated, representing 47 institutions. In fall 2016, Elizabeth Walton and Aaron Pinninti were finalists in Biology and won first prize. And in 2017 James Hughes and Nathan Navarro entered the same competition, again representing the only college, not university, and again won first prize! I must also add that biology student Krushna Mantri and chemistry student Bianca Paranzino won the outstanding poster award at University of the Sciences Undergraduate Research Symposium last spring. Krushna graduated in May but Bianca, would you please stand so that we can congratulate you? This past year we AGAIN had Rosemont students Christopher Cortes and Mary Grace Murray with the first prize in Biology; this past year also we had one student, Jamira Bowens enter the Environmental Science division, and guess what – she won first prize! This is truly the POWER of small!

In terms of our financial status, the Board of Trustees at their last meeting in October voted to accept the audit for fiscal year 2016-17, an audit that was clean, with no material findings and showed a surplus. Another annual “audit” that we undergo (and we undergo a lot each year – for Financial Aid, for the NCAA, the list is either impressive or depressing) is for the Federal Department of Education: this results in what they call a “Composite Score”. The range of score is from minus 1.5 to a positive 3.0. –3.0 is the highest score that an institution can receive. For this past year, Rosemont’s score was a very respectable 2.4.

I must report also that we are on track to open the new Community Center for selective use as planned in August 2019, but we will probably not be able to use the full building at that date. The main problem has been out of our hands: 2018 was the wettest in Pennsylvania history – ever. This has impacted us and our timeline: we for a couple of months in the fall were unable to pass the “impaction inspection“ for the township due to the over-saturation of our soil. Eventually we had no choice other than to do what is termed a “soil transfer”: remove the top level of over-saturated soil, and pay for what is called “dry dirt” to replace it (It is not actually dirt – it is gravel of stone and cement). But I will never again use the term “dirt cheap!” I have spoken before about the importance of the Community Center as a “beacon” building for our campus, with smart classrooms, expanded dining areas, student offices, a large multipurpose room that will double as a volleyball court, and a new fitness center. We are planning on having this beacon building completed, landscaped, and wonderfully ready for us to occupy, later in the fall.

So it is January 2019: It really has been 10 year since that original, thoughtful but LONG process of strategic planning and we are now in what is called the “new normal”: we need at all times to analyze what is working and what is not working. And I can tell you that all of our current assessments of all of our current challenges keep coming up with one agreed-upon primary challenge, and that is retention. I am asking everyone here and throughout campus to pledge to work towards greater retention: all of us, including students, have a role to play for each and every student who is having one trouble – any trouble – that may result in their not thriving here and leaving. Our Undergraduate College students are 41% first generation; with no one in their family having had college experience, they need help in getting acclimated to college, maybe just a small thing, but they need help. Some of our students need encouragement for their coursework: this can come from anyone, not just professors, although faculty, I know, are devoted to their advisees.
If you think about it, this is a perfectly good application of our mission: if we are truly committed to the reverence for the dignity of every human being, and want to foster moral reasoning and good decision making, then we want to support our students in every possible way. Please join me over the next year in making this a priority.
One final thing: let’s do a shout-out for our two basketball teams currently in season. While the men are holding their own, it’s the women’s basketball team that has been called “Red-Hot” by local media. Their overall record is 12 wins 2 losses, and their conference record – what counts for us to win the CSAC championship and go on to NCAA post-season play is 10 wins ZERO losses. Go Ravens!

Thank you.

2018 Publications

Tina Bizzarro, UC 
“ ’The Scattered Limbs of the Giant’: Recollecting Medieval Architectural Revivals,” in Companion to Medieval Art: Romanesque and Gothic in Northern Europe (Wiley Press)

Jennifer Jackson, UC
“Questions, Friendship, and the Journey” was published by Boston College C21 Resources, in the issue entitled "The Gift of Friends"

Timothy Jackson, UC
Researched manuscripts by Edna St. Vincent Millay at Columbia University, the New York Public Library, Vassar College, and the Library of Congress for a book to be published by Yale University Press.

Paul Mojzes, UC Emeritus Faculty
Served as editor of North American Churches and the Cold War (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co.) and co-Editor of the Journal of Ecumenical Studies

Alan Preti, UC
Working on a chapter for “Teaching Ethics Across the American Educational Experience: Models for Design, Instruction and Assessment of Learning,” v.4, ed. D. Wueste (Rowman and Littlefield, projected publication date: 2020)

Christine Salvatore, SGPS
Work was included in the craft book More Challenges for the Delusional, as well as part of the art book, Mother Monument by Holly Trostle Brigham and Maryanne Miller.

2018 Presentations & Exhibitions

Chelsea Covington Mass, UC
Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference

Thomas DeGeorge, SGPS
International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors

Jeanette Dumas, UC
Environmental Advisory Council of Lower Merion Township

Timothy Jackson, UC
Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers

Anne Leith, UC
Solo Exhibitions: Easttown Library, St. David’s Church, and Granite Run Estates. In addition, her work was included in ten group exhibitions in the Philadelphia area, including the Henry Gallery, the Wayne Art Center, and the Delaware Valley Art League

Paul Mojzes, UC Emeritus Faculty
First Annual Conference of the European Academy of Religion
Conference on Religion and Migrations in Eastern Orthodox Countries
Council on Interreligious Cooperation

Alan Preti, UC
NCAA Convention

Michael Willse, UC
Exhibitions: In Liquid Art & Design, Fleshier Art Memorial, NAP Space, Mark Arts Center, Rochester Contemporary Art Center, and Schmidt/Dean Gallery

2018 Awards & Grants

Neeti Bathala, SGPS
Children’s Book Council and National Science Teachers Association - Outstanding Science Trade Book 2018
International Literary Association and Children’s Book Council - Children’s Choices 2018 Reading List

Jeanette Dumas, UC
Environmental Advisory Council of Lower Merion Township - “Go for the Green Award”
Grant from Margaret M. Healy Fund for Faculty Research in Ethics and Leadership

Jennifer Jackson, UC
Consortium on Digital Resources for Teaching and Research Development
Grant sponsored by the Mellon Foundation through the Council for Independent Colleges

Christine Hagedorn-Nordenholt, UC
Grant from Margaret M. Healy Fund for Faculty Research in Ethics and Leadership

Dennis Perkinson, UC
Grant from the South Eastern Pennsylvania Consortium for Higher Education (SEPCHE)

Xiuni Wu, UC
Awarded a Rosemont College Faculty Professional Development Award

Erin Entrada Kelly, SGPS
American Library Association – John Newbery Medal