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State of the College Address
"From Composition to Performance"
August 26, 2004

Printable Version (PDF)

Welcome to the 2004-05 Academic Year, the 163rd in Mary Baldwin’s distinguished educational legacy.

Celebrating Milestones of Leadership

Good morning. Last year as I stood before you in the first months of my Presidency, Dan and I thanked you for the warm welcome to Mary Baldwin’s caring community. Today we thank you for your ongoing support. We welcome you back to a new academic year and a dynamic chapter in our history. We missed everyone over the summer; campus seemed very lonely at sunset on commencement day. I want to acknowledge each member of this community for diligent work over the summer: in recruiting and matriculating our new class, welcoming returning students, improving and beautifying our campus, fundraising, engaging in scholarly activities, leading student research, traveling around the globe, and preparing rigorous and innovative coursework.

During this academic year we will Celebrate Milestones of Leadership. We will direct the national spotlight upon Mary Baldwin as we celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership. We also celebrate the 75 th year of student government at Mary Baldwin. And, in a presidential election year, we launch a new pilot learning community with Honors and PEG first-year students, exploring the 1912 election in conjunction with a national symposium of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Birthplace.

On July 15, the Board of Trustees unanimously approved our ten-year strategic plan, Mary Baldwin College 2014: Composing Our Future. As a community, we celebrate this milestone of leadership. In nine months, we sought and obtained broad involvement, we listened to the large chorus of voices, we synthesized themes, and we forged a ten-year comprehensive strategic plan that we unanimously endorsed. This is exceptional. We should be truly proud. Through the strategic plan, we assume collective leadership toward the milestones of our future .

From Composition to Performance

Our ten-year strategic plan is the score from which we will perform. In musical terms, as in my editing of the autograph manuscripts of C. P. E. Bach, our plan is a composing score. The themes and motifs are in place. But, we must work with it. We must orchestrate it—inviting every voice to contribute its most appropriate role and timbre. We must rehearse it in sections over time. And then, finally, we can perform it and hear it, in its perfected resonance, recorded for history in all its details, in 2014.

As we prepare to implement the strategic plan, we must continue to acknowledge our institutional challenges. Pending our final audited figures, we project a substantial gain in overall net assets, expected to be in excess of $2,500,000. This is primarily due to positive endowment performance, and it is a vast improvement over last year’s the $1049 change in net assets. Yet, despite valiant year-end fundraising efforts, we experienced a shortfall in annual giving, and a resultant deficit at fiscal-year conclusion of slightly more than $500,000. We will work through the cash-flow management without budget reductions or further invasion of the endowment. Indeed, we are entering the bridge period of our financial plan when our phased reduction in endowment draw begins. With Board approval, we are working toward refinancing a portion of the college’s debt which will provide $450,000 relief in annual fundraising targets.

MBC ended last year with the largest overall credit enrollment in our history, 45,613 credit hours, which is 1405 FTE. That’s an increase of 5.4%. Almost all of the growth is due to increased graduate enrollment. This year, we expect stable enrollment overall with a total headcount around 2236, virtually the same as last year. We anticipate continued growth in graduate programs and a slight decline in on-campus numbers. We open the year with more than 200 graduate students, an increase of 49 over last year. This includes 152 MAT and 52 MLitt/MFA. The Adult Degree Program, which will orient the first students in our new South Boston Center, will be up slightly, to a headcount of 1190. PEG is stable at 75, VWIL is down slightly at 131, and the remaining on-campus program enrolls 640, down about 35. We welcome 295 new students on-campus. The slight decrease in enrollment yield from the target of 305 incoming students is financially offset by a slight decrease in the discount rate.

Therefore, we forge the path before us:

  • with realism and renewal,
  • with transparency and time-sensitive urgency,
  • and, with strategy and solutions to optimistically advance our shared vision.

Composing Our Future: The Essence

A Visually Inspiring Platform

When you entered the auditorium today, you received the Executive Summary of Composing Our Future. The printed version of the complete plan will be available by Labor Day and will be sent to all faculty and staff and posted as a PDF on the website. The plan is comprehensive and direct; it is important that each of us is able to communicate the plan’s essence.

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. In the complete plan, each goal is numbered and explained. 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.

The Mary Baldwin College Advantage is our new signature of ten steps on the path to personal transformation and the development of Mind, Body, and Character.: 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.

As the final version of the plan emerged, insights from the Board and others clearly suggested that “advantage” is a stronger phrase for our signature experiences than “difference,” as designated in the final draft of the plan. This holistic structure of integrated learning will shape the revitalization of our residential program—a high priority of the strategic plan– and will be adapted as appropriate to the Adult Degree Program and graduate programs.

We need to be able to communicate why our aspirations can and will be achieved. We will achieve our vision of national recognition for this reason: Mary Baldwin College is on the cutting edge of philosophies in higher education.

Why: because of our timeless and timely commitment to liberal education. The leadership of higher education in the United States is forcefully proclaiming that liberal education should be the uncontested preference of virtually everyone who goes to college.

National movements in higher education are also currently focused on how individuals connect and reflect: a 21 st century liberal education must be rooted in personal frames of reference and personalized pathways and plans. What personalized transforming education requires is integration: a holistic approach to developing connected experiences and creating self-authorship.

In the U. S. News and World Report rankings released last week, a center spread titled “Choosing a School, Programs To Look For,” features eight outstanding examples of academic programs that are believed to lead to student success: internships, senior capstones, first-year experiences, undergraduate research, learning communities, study abroad, service learning, and writing in the disciplines. All eight listed are found either within our current curriculum or The Mary Baldwin College Advantage. At this point, there is no single college or university listed in all of these categories. The MBC Advantage adds further dimensions of student success, through personalized portfolios and wellness plans, mentors and partners, strong academic majors and interdisciplinary focuses, and life and career transition programs. We cannot hide our strengths, we must proclaim them prominently. We are creating a national model for integrated learning.

This year we will utilize the Yum and Ross Arnold III 2014 Innovation Fund to send faculty and staff to key national conferences and symposia related to liberal education and integrated student success. I will distribute the guidelines next week to invite your application and participation.

Putting the Plan Into Action

Orchestrating and Rehearsing

So, as promised last year when I initiated this process, this ten-year strategic plan will be a living document, not a dust-gathering space on a shelf. How do we begin the rehearsals? How do we transform the composing score into a fully orchestrated set of performance parts? Over the summer, the Executive Staff has begun to weave the texture of this implementation process.

10-year Timeline

We have considered the 10-year timeline. We foresee three large phases of implementation: near-term, mid-term, and long-term. During the initial two year phase, we investigate further through several specialized planning processes and initiate immediate enhancements. A four-year middle phase will launch and advance . We will launch the Mary Baldwin College Advantage in Fall 2006 and graduate its first class in 2010, and during this period we will mount a comprehensive capital campaign. In the final four-year phase, we will complete and assess.

Defining Measures of Success and Evaluation Indices

We have considered the eleven defining measures of success and developed 48 evaluation indices to carefully track our progress through data and documentation .

2004-05: Initiate, Investigate, Communicate

We have formulated our college-wide priorities and objectives for this year, with implementation and oversight responsibilities. This year, as in all subsequent years of the plan’s implementation, the five strategic initiatives will be the organizing framework for annual planning and incorporated into academic triennial planning processes.

As we begin the first two-year phase of the plan, we must Investigate, Initiate, and Communicate .

  • Our first priority this year is to prepare to launch the Mary Baldwin College Advantage in fall 2006 to Make Personal Transformation Our Priority. This year we will be:
  • defining each of the ten experiences (for example, gaining consensus on how Mary Baldwin will implement learning communities and capstone experiences);
  • developing models for the personalized learning plans and portfolios and wellness plans;
  • creating comprehensive inventories of existing programs and initiatives (such as a centralized inventory of community service opportunities and other practical and experiential learning offerings currently available);
  • conducting pilots this year and planning more for fall 2005; and
  • considering staffing and organizational needs .

Second, we will plan curricular and programmatic enhancements to Sharpen Our Focus on Academic Excellence. We will, among other academic objectives:

  • assess our curriculum to establish baseline understanding of the state of global, multicultural, and gender perspectives;
  • explore programmatic enhancements to existing majors and programs and consider new interdisciplinary focuses;
  • and, in addition, we will plan for the 25% expansion of the Adult Degree Program, determine the feasibility of the MA in Counseling Psychology, support the growth of MAT and the national reputation of MLitt/MFA, and continue progress towards 2007 SACS reaffirmation.

Third, we have several important priorities under Strategic Initiative #3, Unite and Enrich Our Community.

  1. We must disseminate, teach, and promote the strategic plan to all audiences. The Executive Summary will be mailed to nearly 15,000 alumnae/i, parents, and friends. I am hosting a community announcement of the strategic plan on Wilson Terrace, September 8, at 5:00 p.m., and we will travel across the country to speak with our alumnae and friends about the plan.
  2. We will sharpen and focus the identity of the college. New Board of Trustees Chair Louise McNamee has already begun work to help us identify our compelling themes. We have an amazing story to tell as a college, and we want to ensure that our messages are as clear and compelling as our college is distinctive. Every week I hear amazing sagas of personal transformation from current or former students, lovingly attributed to the outstanding scholarship, pedagogy, and caring mentorship of our faculty. Our focused identity will begin to enhance the college’s national presence through the development of an integrated marketing and strategic communication plan.
  3. This will in turn aid us in the development of a comprehensive ten-year enrollment management plan. We are finalizing our association with the preeminent national consulting firm for enrollment management. To achieve the enrollment and retention goals set forth in the strategic plan, the consultant will help us to enhance current recruitment strategies to enroll students with the best fit for our programs, customize financial aid to increase our yield rate, reduce our discount rate and optimize net tuition revenue, and develop an integrated and comprehensive retention program building upon the Mary Baldwin College Advantage.

    We will be inviting interested faculty and staff to a special session on retention with the consultant on September 21-22. This is of urgent importance to us as we anticipate that final retention figures this year will not be improved over the previous year, and SAT scores for this year’s incoming class dropped from 1070 last year to 1025 for our entering students. It is becoming increasingly difficult to compete financially for the top students. This further highlights the need to sharpen our national recruiting focus on the quality and uniqueness of our programs so that we become a strong top choice for entering students. We have a dedicated and talented staff in admissions and financial aid, and the consultant will work with them to maximize use of their time and talents.

Fourth, Under the Strategic Initiative Renew Our Environment, we will complete a two-part process. We will begin in the very near future a facilities condition assessment through an external firm. This assessment will explicate and prioritize the deferred maintenance needs.

This will prepare us to work with a national architectural consultant to complete a Campus Master Plan. The plan will strive to help us translate the themes of our strategic vision into a campus with distinctive form and function. As the architects visit campus, they will engage us in discussions about how the hills and plateaus of our historical campus can create community through the ideal utilization of existing space.

We will consider how we may strengthen our physical relationship with the Staunton community while maintaining a clear sense of campus entrance and identity. A long-term plan for information technology and infrastructure will complement the campus master plan.

And fifth, as we advance Strategic Initiative #5, Fund Our Future, we will build our fundraising capacity and consider current business practices. We will begin securing the bridge funding. The bridge seeks investors in the vision and strategies of the strategic plan. It includes funding for: annual budget needs, additional faculty and staff positions, admissions and retention, facilities and deferred maintenance, and achieving peer medians in faculty and staff salaries.

The Teamwork, Shared Creativity

We know we can’t do everything at once. Executing purposeful, paced strategies requires vigilance. As various proverbs inform us: it’s tough, if not physically impossible, keeping your feet on the ground, your nose to the grindstone, your shoulder to the wheel, your finger on the pulse, your eye on the ball, and your ear to the ground while you stick to the knitting.

So, the Executive Staff has carefully considered how we can work together most effectively, to build upon our community spirit and the successful model of the Strategic Planning Task Force.

Five Functions of Teamwork

We have developed a pyramid of successful teamwork to parallel the pyramid of planning initiatives. The pyramid sets forth the functions of trust, open dialogue, commitment, accountability, and results in a document titled “The Five Key Functions of Teamwork at Mary Baldwin College.” You will receive this as you leave this morning.

The Executive Staff also recommends that implementation of the strategic plan continue through a cross-college team similar to the Strategic Planning Task Force.

So this year we will constitute the President’s Advisory Team. The PAT, a group of about 30 faculty and staff, will share in distributed governance, aid in communication, and serve as the ongoing coordinating group for implementing the strategic plan. It is our intent to hold monthly Friday afternoon meetings open to the entire community, with agendas distributed prior to the meeting, and minutes published following each meeting. A complete list of members and meetings will be sent next week.

The PAT will oversee working task forces advancing key work of the strategic plan. This year the PAT task forces will include The MBC Advantage Task Force, and the newly formed President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusive Community. The President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusive Community will assist in a campus climate survey and consider the development of a campus statement of inclusivity. The PAT will also examine committee and organizational structures throughout the college to ensure that we are aligned most effectively to advance the strategic plan, utilizing the excellent suggestions of the Organizational Audit Task Force’s recent report for Academic Affairs.

I will circulate a list of the working groups within the Mary Baldwin College Advantage and ask for volunteers willing to serve. The list will also ask for interested faculty and staff to join the President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusive Community.

I am sensitive to and respectful of the contributions of several working groups: the task force on community service learning and the general education task force will interface ongoing work as part of planning for the MBC Advantage The excellent work of the first-year experience task force from last year will be fully utilized by the working group developing the threshold experience. Standing faculty committees will work on other objectives within academic affairs.

Finally, we have also realigned the work of our key volunteer groups to advance the strategic plan, including the Advisory Board of Visitors, the Parents Council, the Alumnae/i Board, and the National Leadership Gifts Council.

A Moment of Clarity, A Window of Opportunity

I will not minimize the threats posed to colleges like us. We must maximize our ability to capture the momentum of the strategic plan. The plan makes a bold statement. We believe in ourselves. We believe in the transformative power of a liberal education, in a community of scholars, in residential single sex education. The plan delineates the Mary Baldwin Advantage, the path to transformation that we have found and practiced. It proclaims that we can inspire families and students with our vision. It attests that our extended community of alumnae and friends will support the renewal of our mission—of our sense of innovative tradition. The structures and objectives I have reviewed today are the beginning of this renewal.

The plan celebrates our many current points of excellence—it strives to connect our stars into a bright constellation. The most exciting moments of orchestration, rehearsal, and performance ahead will happen naturally from our creativity. Igor Stravinsky believed that good orchestration exists when you are unaware that it is orchestration. We seek to harmonize our efforts and join our voices. As Hector Berlioz stated: Where one ordinary voice is detestable, fifty ordinary voices will be ravishing. The average warmth of feeling that always resides in a really musical multitude brings out the inner flame of the work, and now it lives, whereas a single virtuoso might have killed it.

Please join me in a decisive and eventful year of our history of Mary Baldwin. A college like no other.

Thank you.