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State of the College Address

August 27, 2014
President Pamela Fox

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Today begins a new chapter for us — our next chapter.

Let us not take this moment for granted. Let’s relish the opening of this academic year.

Our college-wide theme this year is “Roots,” and the theme for the class of 2018 is “Deep Roots, Bold Future.” Our bold and optimistic future is firmly rooted in our legacy and strength of commitment. This is our 173rd academic year. We begin planning now for our quartoseptcentennial — our 175th anniversary in 2017. For the celebration, it is my hope that we will publish a collection of essays on our core areas of institutional identity and strength. I will put out a call soon for those interested in being part of the conception of this volume and its chapters.

Our great college has deep roots.

Our community gathered here today has deep roots. Last week at the Appreciation Breakfast, we celebrated staff milestones of service from 5 to 35 years. This fall we will honor our faculty for similar milestones of service. Collectively these members of our community comprise 530 years of service! Congratulations to those we celebrate this year. Imagine the thousands of years of service rooted in this room right now. We value each of you. I honor and thank you.

The deep roots of our legacy and your commitment anchor us firmly to embark on our next chapter. Our previous chapter was intense. Over the past few years we have discerningly looked outward to align with the rapidly and constantly shifting paradigms in higher education. We have looked piercingly inward. As a community we have lived out the strains pulling at all of higher education. We have confronted our contradictions. Our tensions have been transparent. But, as J. R. R. Tolkien noted, “deep roots are not reached by the frost.” Deep roots do withstand storms. Like the mighty oak, this college was once a little nut that stood her ground. Let us recognize the strength of commitment that brings us to this new day, to this next chapter.

Today we launch a new strategic plan, Mary Baldwin 2020. Mary Baldwin 2020 has deep roots. Starting with the 40 members of the Working Group convened by the Board of Trustees nearly two years ago, almost every member of this community has participated in crafting this plan. The Study Groups advanced key issues, followed by R2, Baldwin Online, General Education, College of Education, and College to Career. 80 of pages of minutes, 265 pages of reports, and countless transcribed sticky-note suggestions were posted for the entire community. One year after the Working Group first met, all this work coalesced into draft 1 of Mary Baldwin 2020. We held seven public forums to discuss draft 1, and your feedback was critical to shaping the second draft. Further forums and planning survey responses from alumni and students offered important refinements to our final document. The result is an informed and achievable blueprint for a thriving future that aligns Mary Baldwin’s strengths with societal needs and external trends while affirming our core values and respecting our historical legacy. Thank you so very much for your creativity and perseverance.

So we begin our next chapter. Right now, together, let’s turn the page and work to craft this next chapter. While our narrative is cumulative, we cannot write the next chapter if we are still re-reading the last one. We have been weathering a challenging time, but we cannot call it a crisis since that implies the expectation that we would return to a previous state. We are engaging an evolution — an evolution toward a stronger future — an evolution that will proceed optimistically based upon our deep roots as a college, our deep roots as a community, and the deep roots of our strategic plan. That is a bold future.

Mary Baldwin 2020. The “Mary” matters. This title affirms our deep roots as we lift up Mary Julia Baldwin to the pantheon of leaders who founded great colleges and universities in Virginia. The plan proclaims our ongoing conviction that an education grounded in the liberal arts is in the 21st century still the best foundation for a life well lived. The plan affirms our core values: first and foremost, teaching and learning that is academically rigorous, that is personalized, that transforms lives, and that fosters productive and ethical citizenship and leadership development.

By 2020 we will enroll between 2,200 and 2,500 students in five primary program components. These five components unite, as seen visually in the overlay of their colors, and through them we will realize our vision:

 In 2020, Mary Baldwin will be recognized as a distinctive small university, committed to academic excellence and united through a constellation of communities, that empowers a broad range of learners to exceed expectations and pursue lives of purpose.

circlesWhy do we need a constellation? For thousands of years people have been connecting the stars in recognizable patterns. It is more satisfying to look up at the night sky and map familiarity than to ponder a haphazard host of stars. Our constellation of communities formally recognizes who we are today, respecting our deep roots as a residential college for women that has extended her branches continuously to distinctive yet interconnected programs. I want to thank Professor Sarah Kennedy for conceiving the phase that so aptly captures our reality.

Celebrating our constellation of communities is one very important reason why we must not take this moment for granted. Two members of this constellation did not formally exist last year. We have a new family member — the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences. This week the charter classes in physical and occupational therapy start their second term. The building was a steel frame last August. The vision is now reality.

Our deep gratitude extends to founding Vice President Linda Stanford, the founding program directors and faculty, Mrs. Smith and other donors who believed in the vision, our partners in design and construction who worked round the clock to complete the building in time for our students to arrive on June 16, and to everyone here who added to their job responsibilities to make this possible.

We have a new family unit: the College of Education. Today we celebrate the launch of the College of Education, under the leadership of Dean Rachel Potter, Leading Learning through this mission statement:

The mission of the College of Education is to prepare confident practitioners who apply solid academic knowledge, strong leadership skills, and compassion for others to serve learners in diverse communities.

The college structure will assist us in serving our students more effectively, bring to the forefront our signature approaches such as teaching partners, and pave the way for a potential doctoral degree. Education accounts for nearly a quarter of our credit hours, and each year over 100 students earn teacher licensure. Among prospective students who inquire or apply, education is one of the top listed fields of interest. Increased visibility in this area will build on our strengths and raise our profile as a leader in this area.

Our other components are also shining. The distinctive excellence of Mary Baldwin College, and of our Shakespeare and Performance program, was proclaimed on the stage of the Globe in London as Ralph Cohen was honored with the prestigious Sam Wannamaker award.

Over the summer, the signature approach of our Adult Degree Program was highlighted in an aggressive regional marketing campaign, and we launched the new Baldwin Business Online with three concentrations in women’s leadership, entrepreneurship, and management.

This week in the Residential College for Women we welcomed the class of 2018 through their Leadership Gateways. The total number of freshman students is significantly higher — a 20% increase over last year. We have more than doubled the number of students in the top academic tier this year. VWIL has a very strong class of more than 50 students. The hard work of many individuals contributed to this outcome, and I thank each of you.

The entire RCW website has been reconceived. One section features the College to Career initiative Through the work of our College to Career task force, MBC 101 is now BOLD 101 (Baldwin Opportunities for Leadership and Development) and will be delivered in a hybrid format with much greater focus on career exploration and development as the first component in a four-year program. Our RCW student leaders this year have an ambitious and admirable slate of objectives designed to strengthen the roots of our student leaders to Mary Baldwin and help them translate their commitment to the foundation of their lives and careers. I am very proud of them.

Our next chapter is before us.

Mary Baldwin 2020 has four goals:

1. Create sustainable synergies among academic programs where each component is distinctive and mutually advantageous.

Today we have five excellent components. We will support the academic integrity of each component and maintain personalized attention to the needs of every student while offering them the advantages of connections among the constellation of communities.

2. Create the infrastructure for our institution of 2020 by engendering an all-institution mindset that supports all members of our community through improved infrastructure and facilities.

We will claim our identity as a distinctive small university, demonstrating on a daily basis that we are more than the sum of our parts. To do this we will upgrade technical underpinnings and enhance facilities, fostering pride and comfort in our lived environment.

3. Achieve the components of financial sustainability by achieving our target enrollment of between 2,200 and 2,500 students, building financial reserves, and investing in the compensation of our community.

We celebrate focus on the individual within each community while building to achieve a sustainable scale for the institution as a whole. We will lay the foundation for a legacy of greater financial strength to support excellence today and benefit future generations.

4. Enhance external funding by completing the Ever Ahead campaign, building a sustainable annual fund, and raising capital to fund the strategic plan’s initiatives.

Our constellation of communities is compelling. We strive to inspire investment and to attract new supporters to our distinctive strengths.

So what does this mean for us in this first year of implementation?

As you leave this morning, we will distribute the strategic plan (beautifully designed by CoMPA) and the goals and strategies for year one of its implementation. Each part of the college will review these goals and add unit goals specific to each area of responsibility.

Our action plan for 2014-15 can be viewed in several large categories.

We must act and implement. For example, the College of Education and the College to Career initiatives need visible homes, and we must revisit our plans to advance the renovation of Pearce Science Center.

We must decide. There are significant decisions to be reasoned through together such as a re-articulation of our mission statement and choosing the specific product for our new enterprise technology platform.

We must explore feasibility in key areas. What will our fourth graduate program be in Murphy Deming? What is needed to grow our enrollment in ADP? We need to update our 2006 campus master plan, and document and prioritize deferred maintenance needs.

We must fund the plan. The case for the Ever Ahead campaign will be expanded to include the priorities for the new strategic plan.

We must communicate. We will utilize our biweekly e-newsletter — formerly called Cupola Now — to provide our internal community with updates on our progress in achieving these goals. We are convening a new group, the President’s Council, as an extension of executive staff with leaders of key parts of the institution, to meet monthly and guide implementation of the strategic plan.

Also, and I say this somewhat tongue-in-cheek, we must accredit. This year we face what surely must be an unprecedented confluence of required external accrediting processes and visits through our 10-year SACS-COC reaffirmation, Murphy Deming programs, and education.

Above all else, we must live this plan to write our next chapter. Our constellation has new family members. Family dynamics must evolve. Let’s be patient with our evolution and with one another. There will be many times in the next year when we will ask: how does this work now that we have our new components? We will need to figure out in manifold ways when we are together and when are we apart.

We have planned. We have a strong and achievable strategic plan. As we take up this new chapter, planning will not suffice. Progress is required: vigilant progress that yields incremental success and demonstrable differences, progress that has a positive impact on individuals — you, what you do, what you care about — as well as on the entire community.

We are on the right track:

Leading indicators of promise ground our confidence.

 

  • We have created the Mary Baldwin of 2020. The Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences is open and filled with successful students, and we will dedicate the building on April 17 with Trustees and community members.
  • Today we celebrate the launch of the College of Education.
  • Despite national trends, the Residential College welcomes a larger class with elevated academic profile.
  • For the first time in many years, we have a complete Executive Staff. Lois Williams brings her extensive experience to bear as we create admissions strategies for all programs and devote considerable attention to ADP’s repositioning in a brutally competitive market.
  • Our year-end annual fund efforts were highly successful through the inaugural Day of Giving and the leadership challenge put forth by Lyn McDermid and Jane Miller. Alumni participation increased, with the largest increase coming from graduates of the last ten years. Campaign momentum is strong. We are delighted that alumna Paula Lambert ’65 kicks off her 50th-Reunion fundraising with a $100,000 gift to support study abroad. The Shufords of North Carolina have documented a generous bequest addition to their scholarship honoring their daughter. At Murphy Deming, the completion of our beautiful new building is inspiring named spaces: the Dahl Flagpole Plaza; the Saxman Rain Garden; the Cochran Conference Room; the Dahl Conference Room; the Sopher Research Laboratory; the Wren Balcony; the Luck Terrace; the Medical Facilities of America Café; and the Berry Exam Room.

 

Above all else, our Deep Roots secure the next chapter of our Bold Future.

Let us utilize the traditions we cherish to continue to bind our expanded family together. As Gladys prepares to cheer on the Fighting Squirrels in their fall athletic matches (including Saturday’s cross-country meet taking place on the new Brenda Bryant Fitness Trail at Murphy Deming), she is also embraced by our new doctoral students in physical and occupational therapy, sporting scrubs and a stethoscope!

Let’s turn the page. Let’s savor the moment and celebrate how far we have already come together.

With deep admiration and gratitude, I honor each of you.

Thank you.

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