State of the College Address 2018
Welcome to those gathered here and watching the Livestream.
With this State of the College Address, we are continuing our tradition of reviewing the last calendar year with a mid—academic year report. I am most pleased to report to you that our last calendar year continued to be very good.
Last year I opened this Address by explaining that I had several times in the past 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 was answered, and has happened. President Trump did not honor the Paris agreement, and the future so-called DACA persons remain in limbo. Only the NCAA pledge has taken hold, with a true commitment on the part of our Athletics Association to increase the number of women and persons of color in collegiate athletics administration the NCAA has already launched that program.
In the past year, we have been 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. As I said, “It is not only our right, but also, I believe, our duty to speak out about issues that come directly from our mission. We have, thanks to Sister Jeanne, joined with representatives of most of the Catholic colleges and universities in Philadelphia to focus on any kind of program that will help raise awareness – and possibly help – the plight of immigrants and refugees, not only abroad but in our own country. This group is organizing our collective efforts on everything from specific coursework to lectures, outreach, service, and other programs. And I must point out that, even with these all-College efforts, we have remarkable students who are going out on their own and “just doing it”, living our mission. I want to publically thank our Professional Studies Student, Tawana Fleming, who is Founder and CEO of her own non-profit Family Feeding Family, Incorporated. Family Feeding Family collects and donates food to needy families twice a month. This is important work and I understand that they always need and welcome volunteers!
So please return to this theater tomorrow evening at 7:00 to hear from Michelle Ortiz, an alumna of our graduate program, who is an artist who addresses issues of immigration in her well-regarded work (Ms. Ortiz has participated in the Mural Arts Project). She will begin by talking about her own childhood as an immigrant, themes of immigration in her work, and then address how we might become activists for immigrants and refugees. I’ll hope to see you here.
And now on to other accomplishments: thanks to the continued success of Our Tuition Promise and the rollout of our new extraordinary quality brand, we have continued to do well with admissions in the Undergraduate College. Over the past three years, including new students for the fall 2017 entering class, our average SAT or ACT and High School GPS has gone up, year over year over year. For next fall, we have made the decision to increase the academic criteria for acceptance to Rosemont College: raising the SAT and ACT scores as well as high school GPAs for acceptance, gradually, over the next 4-5 years.
May I ask all those who work in the Offices of Admissions, College Relations, Student Academic Support, and all of our faculty and Deans to please stand and be recognized for your efforts.
I will repeat here what I said last year: I want to remind everyone on this campus – faculty, staff, and certainly students – that we are all really in the business of admissions and 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 the Schools of Graduate and Professional Studies, 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 graduate program is our largest graduate program with between 150-160 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 spring 2019.
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. To date, however, we have received only preliminary guidelines and preliminary question/answer examples that hint at some changes in the future, so we are maintaining our current procedures while monitoring any future federal directives. 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, in accordance with current guidelines. 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. Our first such survey, in February 2016, provided us with some information from limited responses.
So I would like to thank the students who last fall formed a new club called PAUSE (People Against Unwanted Sexual Experiences). If the president of the club, Grace Beecher, is here, please stand so that we can congratulate you on having over 40 students in attendance for the first meeting and on your plans for movie nights, presentations, and other programming on campus. Thank you, everyone, for continued due diligence on this very important matter.
Finally, our new Strategic Plan “extended” for 2 years was approved by the Board of Trustees at their October meeting. This new plan, including a 5 year Athletics Plan and accompanied by a strong Operational Plan over each year that will ensure that we will do the work, is in place. The “Vision” for this extended Strategic Plan is very simple, but very compelling:
ROSEMONT COLLEGE WILL BE WIDELY RECOGNIZED AS A COLLEGE OF ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE AND SUPERIOR VALUE
So at this point in January 2018, 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. We also should be continuing to distinguish Rosemont College with an emphasis on the rigor of our programs. On one hand, a large part of our retention challenge is the result of academic dismissals: we have not lessened our very high standards for students, and for those students who do reach those standards, we can guarantee that they will find success in the workplace, and most importantly in their lives.
The most common story of success that I hear – from recent graduates to graduates who are back on campus for their 50th reunion – has to do with their first employment or their first year in graduate school. And the stories have a common thread that involves someone at that workplace or at that graduate program asking the Rosemont graduate “Where did you go to college?” with a certain tone of admiration; in other words, they report being asked that based on some outstanding performance. Rosemont graduates tell these very similar stories with a sense of gratitude and real pride. Thus we are back to our decision to raise our admissions academic criteria over the next several years: we want to bring in students who are prepared to relish a rigorous Rosemont education and succeed. The Spring issue of Rosemont Magazine will profile recent graduates of all 3 schools who have achieved success soon after their Rosemont graduation.
Our students do succeed in oftentimes remarkable ways: I am thinking of our two students this past fall who won first prize in the prestigious national Undergraduate Research Symposium for the Chemical and Biological Sciences at University of Maryland. As happened last 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. It was just amazing to have this confirmation of the POWER of small. And this past fall, 2017 James Hughes and Nathan Navarro entered the same competition, again representing the only college, not university, and again won first prize! I am so proud of our students in the Pre-Health program. James has graduated, but Nathan and Lizzie, would you please stand so we can applaud your double accomplishments? 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? And I have just been told that Bianca was just accepted into the PhD program at Temple University, so we congratulate on that, too.
And the Pre-Health program will, we hope, be growing: as of last month, we signed an agreement with Drexel University to offer nursing in a 4+1 program that will allow Rosemont students, with a 4 year degree in science, to immediately enter Drexel’s “ACE” Program that provides a BSN in an accelerated 11 months. So that is 2 degrees in 5 years, providing a liberal arts education from Rosemont (which is what Drexel wants future nurses to have) and a clinical practical training from Drexel. At present, we are the ONLY college or university to have this partnership with Drexel Nursing, and the ONLY college to be providing this incredible nursing opportunity.
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 with no deficits. 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. The score is based on a formula coordinating a series of ratios measuring size of endowment to operating to debt, etc. For this past year, Rosemont’s score was 2.95.
I am happy to also report that we are on track to break ground for the new Community Center, as planned, on May 14th. We have successfully made it through several Lower Merion Township hearings and are waiting for one final approval. At this point we can apply for permits, which is what we are doing. 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, and a large multipurpose room that can accommodate large lectures, or banquets, as well as serve as a volleyball court. (Remember we are adding five teams over the next four years, and the last will be men’s volleyball). Please see the virtual tour of the new Community Center on our website. Please also be sure to mark the date for our ceremonial ground breaking at the Reading Day Picnic next May 1st.
So it is January 2018: we have many things to work on during this calendar year, but we also need to stay focused. While colleges and universities are under constant criticism about new pricing strategies, the need for new business models, concern over huge endowments (well, that’s one worry we don’t have),and all manner of reforms seen as necessary for Higher Education, we should remember as we begin a new semester is that we are, above all else, learners. As our mission statement reminds us, we are, as a community of lifelong learners, constantly providing education for each other. The importance of education has never been so great, and yet we see areas of the world that are war-torn, filled with refugee camps holding entire families, and even places where girls and women are denied education. So we are blessed to be where we are, empowered in that we can in fact provide quality education to anyone who wants to come to Rosemont and who is ready to learn.
In Gravissimum Educationis/ Declaration on Christian Education from Vatican II: Pope Paul VI wrote:
“All people of whatever race, condition or age, in virtue of their dignity as human persons, have an inalienable right to education. This education should be suitable to the particular destiny of the individuals, adapted to their ability, gender, and national cultural traditions, and should be conducive to amicable relations in order to promote true unity and peace throughout the world.”
If you think of this statement, there are two important connections being made: the first is the connection between being human – not a special human or important human – just a human being – and the right to education. The second connection is equally basic: that by being educated, all humans can play a role in world peace.
This is a pretty astounding statement, and it goes to the heart of why we are really here, why we work every day to make Rosemont College and all of its people, better and stronger. We are going to be excited in the next year about new programs, new changes, new degrees and new buildings! But we should remember that we are, above all, about education, and what education – for everybody – can achieve.