Composing Our Future

Composing Our Future:
A Conversation with the Community of Staunton, Augusta County, and Waynesboro

September 8, 2004

Distinguished guests, good evening and thank you for gathering with us to celebrate the public announcement to community leaders of the ten-year strategic plan, Mary Baldwin College 2014: Composing Our Future.

We gather here today not as town meets gown, but as a united college and community. The cream-colored cupola atop Hunt Hall is not an ivory tower, but rather a symbolic beacon of our connection—of college within community.

Dan and I want to thank you for so warmly welcoming us to the community. We both feel privileged to be members of the Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County communities and I speak to you this evening as president and as a member of this deeply committed community. It is an exciting time for Mary Baldwin College. It is a time of growth and energy for the community. I hope we can join hands and go forward together.

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, administration, faculty, and staff, I welcome you to this beautiful, historic administration building at Mary Baldwin. The 2004-05 academic year is underway. MBC ended last year with the largest overall enrollment in our history, and this year we maintain our momentum with a total enrollment of 2218. This includes about 833 undergraduate women on campus, and 202 graduate students, a 25% increase over last year, within the Master of Arts in Teaching and the MLitt/MFA in partnership with American Shakespeare Center. The Adult Degree Program is steady at 1182. The Staunton ADP program is our largest, and we have a second center in Augusta County at Blue Ridge Community College. We recently opened a new regional center in South Boston, Virginia, and continue our successful graduate and adult programs in Richmond, Roanoke, and Charlottesville.

You received the executive summary of Composing Our Future as you entered today. It was unanimously approved by our Board of Trustees on July 15. As a community, we celebrate this milestone of leadership. In nine months, we sought and obtained broad involvement, compiling more than 400 pages of responses to key questions about our future. We listened to the large chorus of voices, we synthesized themes, and within nine months we forged a ten-year comprehensive strategic plan that was unanimously endorsed by the faculty and staff.

Gretchen Newman from the Office of Institutional Advancement has created a graphically inspiring platform for our vision and strategic initiatives. I ask you to look through the executive summary with me. First, please look at the front and back covers. The rich layering of faces, depicting a chronological story of personal transformation, is overlaid with musical scores that represent the planning process—a conscious composition of elements into a richly ordered whole. The global map behind the plan title refers to Mary Baldwin’s vision to be nationally and internationally recognized.

Now open the plan and view the three-page inside spread. The vivid, bright primary colors boldly summarize our vision on the left: Mary Baldwin College will be nationally recognized as a leader in providing personalized, transforming liberal education. Realizing the Vision is in the center–the five strategic initiatives linked to one another as building blocks: Make Personal Transformation Our Priority, Sharpen Our Focus on Academic Excellence, Unite and Enrich the Community, Renew Our Environment, and Fund Our Future. The five initiatives will be realized through 31 interwoven goals. On the right panel, the values behind the vision present the shared values and core strengths that our planning conversation affirmed.

If you now fold the values page back in, The Mary Baldwin College Advantage becomes a centerpiece. This sequence of ten key experiences will not only put Mary Baldwin on the national map; it also puts student development at the center of all we do. The MBC Advantage signals our recommitment to and revitalization of the Residential College for Women.

The Mary Baldwin College Advantage is our new signature: ten steps on the path to personal transformation and the development of Mind, Body, and Character. They are: threshold experience; personalized learning portfolios; personalized wellness plans; mentors and partners; active learning communities; practical and experiential learning; distinctive academic major or interdisciplinary focus; international and multicultural experiences; capstone experience; and life and career transition. These experiences constitute 10 of the 31 goals on our planning pyramid.

The plan is visionary and practical. It mandates change, while building upon our sense of innovative tradition and our entrepreneurial spirit. It ensures that we are a college like no other—cultivating signature programs of national distinction. We will achieve our vision because Mary Baldwin is on the cutting edge of philosophies in higher education.

The plan reaffirms our values and strengths as a college. From our founding, Mary Baldwin has always been concerned with important educational aims: cultivating intellectual and ethical judgment, helping students comprehend and negotiate their relationships in the larger world, and preparing graduates for lives of civic responsibility and leadership.

Therefore, in this plan and in our presence together this evening, we reaffirm Mary Baldwin’s historic partnership with Staunton, and the entire Staunton/Waynesboro/Augusta County region.

I hope that together we will consider collective action, aimed at strategic solutions and enriching lives. I hope we can strengthen existing networks and create new partnerships to advance our shared goal of enhanced standards for life in our community.

How can we pursue this? We are convinced that Mary Baldwin’s strategic plan’s success is dependent upon our close interaction as college and community. As Mary Baldwin achieves our vision of national recognition, we partner with Staunton and Augusta County in our efforts to ensure that our historic, culturally rich city and region becomes a national destination. Our learning goals as a college build in experiences that integrate our students with our community to our mutual benefit.

We propose that we might work together as college and community to strengthen our relationship in seven specific ways. These seven ideas are potential starting points, as we hope that many further creative alliances will naturally also unfold over time. The seven starting ideas are:

  • Academic Excellence
  • Economic Impact
  • Facilities
  • Community Service
  • Community Mentors
  • Programmatic Partners, and
  • Internships.

I will address each briefly. First and foremost, Mary Baldwin College will enhance its primary mission of academic excellence. We will continue to provide access to a diverse population of students from this community and the nation. Our student body looks like America, as a rich quilt of human experiences and backgrounds. Our programs reach students from age 13 to beyond retirement. Almost 30% are first-generation college students. We have an outstanding faculty of committed teachers and scholars.

Second, as we fund our future, achieve our national reputation, and grow modestly, we will enhance our already significant economic impact upon the region. Currently the college spends more than $30 million dollars annually in Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County. This includes college, employee, student, and visitor spending. MBC draws more than 25,000 visits annually to area. We sponsor over 100 public events. 812 of our alumnae/alumni live and work in the region, the largest concentration of our more than 11,000 living graduates. We wish to grow this economic support in the region and we are exploring methods for doing that.

Third, we will enhance our physical plant, currently valued at $93 million, through our strategic initiatives to renew our environment. The plan calls for us to complete and implement a campus master plan. Through the campus master plan, we promise to work closely with the continued revitalization of our historic district. We hope to expand our interactions of program and facility, as we have so successfully established with American Shakespeare Center and the Blackfriar’s Playhouse and with the new performance spaces this year for the graduate program in the Masonic Building. We hope to involve the community as planning partners in our campus master plan: the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library, the Staunton Performing Arts Center, the R. R. Smith Center, Historic Staunton, the Stonewall Jackson project, the Western State redevelopment, and all our surrounding neighbors, including our historic sponsor, First Presbyterian Church.

Our renewed and enhanced facilities can offer more opportunities for community use, as we expand our campus into a year-round hub of community activity and programming. As Mary Baldwin understands in a holistic sense what our campus needs are, we hope to work with the city to make maximum use of cost-effective solutions, shared facilities, and to be a part of the evolving economic development of Staunton and Augusta County.

Fourth, we propose to expand upon our historic commitment to community service. Currently MBC employees and students contribute more than 13,000 hours annually in community service throughout Augusta County. As a mutually beneficial connection, our strengthened commitment to community service builds academic skills, teaches civic and social responsibility, and makes genuine contributions in strategically focused areas of community need. At MBC, students are involved in community service as a voluntary commitment and as academic requirement.

This fall, the Mary Baldwin’s Community Service Learning Task Force is beginning a Community Service Speaker series featuring representatives from organizations throughout Augusta County.

Fifth, with your support, we hope to expand the network of community mentors for our students. The Mary Baldwin College Advantage calls for every student to have a network of mentors for career and life guidance. We have many treasured volunteers already, as area Staunton Military Academy graduates mentor VWIL cadets, cooperating teachers in the public schools supervise our aspiring student teachers, community members serve on our Advisory Board of Visitors and on the advisory council of our esteemed program in Health Care Administration, and many others. Through enhanced communication and clear college contacts, we hope you may be for willing to serve as mentors for MBC students.

Sixth, we seek to expand our programmatic partnerships, building upon for example, our programmatic collaboration with American Shakespeare Center, the Teaching American History project supported by our NEH grant involving area educators, and the signature feature of the Master of Arts in Teaching curriculum where there is a practicing teacher in every class with a MBC faculty member. Our enhanced partnerships may lead to new collaborative degrees, seminars, funding opportunities, and international recognition (such as the recent inspired work and cultural exchange with France through Larry Vickers, Louise Dixon, the Al Hamilton Choir, others in the community, and MBC’s gospel group, the Anointed Voices of Praise).

Seventh and finally, we hope to expand our community network of internships and experiential learning opportunities to the mutual benefit of our students and area business and non-profit organizations, civic government, health care, churches, and schools.

We are still developing specifics within the strategic plan for how we will be able to form these linkages. But we look forward to speaking with you individually and within groups and organizations to explore these and other potential avenues of cooperation.

In Democracy, and Education, John Dewey wrote that “a democracy is more than a form of government; it is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience.” He stressed that the college and university should be a microcosm of society. As a united college within community, we aspire to model the behavior we seek to inspire in our students:

  • An inclusive view of the civic polity that celebrates its diversity
  • A simultaneously global and local definition of responsibility
  • An inquiry-based, active-learning model in which students work to solve real problems
  • A commitment to promoting constructive social change and
  • An understanding of the complexity of civic responsibility.

Let us join together to Compose Our Futures. Let us meet where isolated energy becomes synergy; where action melds into interaction; where theory and application are joined.

Thank you.
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