State of the College Address
August 29, 2012
President Pamela Fox
The Place of MBC in a
Today we open our 171st academic year. This is a powerful legacy created in our spirit of place, our beautiful historic campus framed by mountain vistas; our regional centers radiating our place throughout the Commonwealth; and our new place, the hilltop on Goose Creek that is already becoming the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences.
Place is our college-wide theme this year. We have welcomed 305 new students in the Residential College for Women over the past few days with their theme: Discover Your Place. Our graduate students in education and Shakespeare are taking their place among us, as are more than 300 new Adult Degree Program students throughout the Commonwealth. Our graduates dot the globe. Our founder Rufus Bailey stated, “Everywhere she moves in the center as a radiating point of influence.”
MBC’s place in a changing world is the theme of my remarks today. And, your place in this valued, compassionate community, as well as my place, as I humbly begin my tenth year as your ninth president.
There is one place empty in this auditorium, yet it is filled with the remarkable spirit of our beloved friend and colleague Dr. Brenda Bryant. I cherish my last conversation with her, which was about these remarks. She is in my words. She is within us. Her leadership led each of us to create our own solutions, not to tell us what to do. That is an indelible gift. Now it is our responsibility to carry it forward.
We also pause to honor Dr. Patricia Menk, who occupied so many important places in our community. She truly made MBC history and chronicled our history.
Last year was impressive by many measures. This is your collective work and I thank you profoundly.
- Once again we achieved record enrollment, with a modest increase of 316 credit hours more than the previous year.
- We received applications to the Residential College from all 50 states and citizens of more than 50 countries.
We marked the highest year in fundraising in the history of the college: $21 million in cash and pledges. Mrs. Smith’s $15 million dollar lead gift to health sciences was the cornerstone. Several million-dollar gifts were directed toward scholarships and campus improvements, and we announced the H. Gordon and Mary Beth Smyth Chair in Business.
- We completed the $300,000 Spencer Center endowment challenge, garnered support for student/faculty research, and enhanced the Ross and Yum Arnold Fund to support student travel. Our campaign has raised $57 million since 2005. On October 18, we will launch the public phase of our $80 million dollar campaign, slated to be completed in fall 2014.
- We researched, discussed, and created the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences. Guided by the transformational criteria set forth by the Board of Trustees, we are now implementing this vision to form our new graduate programs in physical therapy, occupational therapy and physician assistant studies.
The Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences will be a national model in health sciences education and community transformation — offering innovative programs and an atmosphere fostering wellness to attract the best students, faculty, and collaborative partners and garner the respect of peer institutions.
The Murphy Deming College will be fully integrated into the Mary Baldwin College mission and legacy, therefore elevating all aspects of the institution and inspiring excellence.
We have developed a campus master plan for our entire new campus site.
We will break ground on our first building October 18 preceding the campaign kickoff. The shape of the first building, the darker blue, includes two wings and an asymmetrical central atrium spine. The design program design for the building will foster inter-professional synergy. The diagram below is of the bottom of three floors, showing how the central spine with cascading staircases offers open gathering spaces, the medical simulation laboratory, examination rooms, and physical and occupational therapy spaces where students in all three programs will train together. Our new Vice President for Health Sciences, Dr. Linda Stanford, will be providing updates and opportunities for input over the next few months.
- Our beautiful campus was home to two vibrant programs this summer. Francis Auditorium was filled to overflowing for each concert of the Heifetz International Music Institute; the community’s enthusiasm exceeded all expectations. The campus was also animated by the rehearsals of the American Shakespeare Center Theatre Camps.
- We completed our seventh straight year of balanced budgets $175,000 to the positive.
The Board of Trustees has designated that $150,000 should be returned to you in the form of a one-time bonus. Although the amount per person is modest, $500, it nonetheless supports the Board’s promise to direct available resources, made possible by your hard work, back to you. The bonus will be issued in September to all eligible employees.
We are a strong and determined community. In our Campus Report Card survey last spring, 87 percent of employees responded that MBC is a good place to work. I know I am blessed to work with you. Our core mission is academic excellence: 93 percent of you believe that we are doing a good job of educating our students, up 10 percentage points since 2005. Faculty and staff believe we are supporting our students well, as evidenced in the Report Card by dramatic gains in areas relating to the student environment, such as student life, the contribution of diversity, leadership gateways, and campus safety. Eighty-three percent of respondents believe that our new programs are strengthening the college.
Our Report Card also revealed areas of strain in morale and workplace and compensation satisfaction. I want you to know we are listening and taking your comments seriously.
I acknowledge that last year’s significant accomplishments have not yet touched the lives of each person in this room. We all want what’s best for MBC, even though we sometimes disagree on what that looks like. I recognize these differences in perspective and have deep respect for each of you.
Last year we weathered some tough circumstances. Through hard work we have achieved a more sustainable student/faculty ratio as the Board mandated, and many faculty must now teach in new ways or in a new environment. The year-round utilization of our campus is important, but it required significant extra work from our staff this summer along with accelerated campus projects. The wind storm in late June and the resultant 84 hours without power destroyed important faculty and student research in the School of Science. Admissions and fundraising colleagues have been successful in the face of volatility and shifting trends. IT has mobilized to facilitate our technology-enhanced instruction. CoMPA nimbly follows our pace of accomplishment and tells the world of our work.
The intensity of the past few years has challenged many cultural assumptions. It may have left some of you wondering, “what is my place here?”
Each of you has an important place in fulfilling our mission and within our community. You are not alone.
Fundamental shifts in the ways we work are being played out across the United States, in some cases much more extremely than here. Every college and university in America is dealing with a growing disproportion between resources and needs. Every Board is dealing with strategies to control costs and raise revenue. The University of Virginia crisis in June brought the whole theatre of the higher education debate into household consciousness.
Higher education has risen to a level of public consciousness and scrutiny unprecedented in my career. A college education is a public necessity in ways it wasn’t twenty years ago, but the public questions the value received for the price, low graduation rates, job skills versus the liberal arts and sciences. The push for increased college completion numbers from President Obama and Governor McDonnell, the national emphasis on community colleges, and the rising tide of online education are constantly featured in the media.
Whether or not we are experiencing a crisis of proportions greater than other historic moments of evolution within higher education is a topic for debate, but one thing is certain:
Attendance patterns are shifting permanently. More students opt for obtaining a college degree through multiple routes, including a mix of community college, online, and residential. This national trend is already affecting us, as the most frequent reason given for RCW deposit withdrawals over the summer was the decision to attend community college instead.
I have spent my weekends this summer reading 30 of the most discussed books on higher education published since 2008. There are books for every viewpoint.
Here is a sampling, organized around common themes:
THE CORPORATE CORRUPTION OF HIGHER EDUCATION THREATENS FACULTY CENTRALITY AND ACADEMIC FREEDOM
The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All Administrative University and Why It Matters.
(Benjamin Ginsberg, 2011)
“My book sounds a warning and offers a prescription designed to slow if not halt the spread of administrative blight.”
The Last Professor: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities
(Frank Donoghue, 2008)
“The growing corporate culture of higher education threatens its most fundamental values by erasing one of its defining features: the tenured professor.”
The Lost Soul of Higher Education: Corporatization, the Assault on Academic Freedom, and the End of the American University
(Ellen Schrecker, 2010)
“The financial plight of the university and the encroachment of private-sector influence and business-friendly priorities reveals a faltering enterprise, whose potential collapse threatens the intellectual freedom our democratic system requires.”
Wannabe U: Inside the Corporate University
(Gaye Tuchman, 2011)
“Wannabe U tracks the dispiriting consequences of trading in traditional educational values for loyalty to the market. Aping their boardroom idols, the new corporate administrators at such universities wander from job to job and reductively view the students there as future workers in need of training.”
THE CRY OF THE MEDIA AND THE GENERAL PUBLIC
Higher Education: How Colleges are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids — And What We Can Do About It
(Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus, 2011)
“Higher education has lost track of its original and enduring purpose: to challenge the minds and imaginations of this nation’s young people. Campuses have become preserves for adult careers of tenured professors. If the professoriate doesn’t embark on some serious self-scrutiny, outsiders may start prowling their once-protected precincts.”
Crisis on Campus: A Bold Plan for Reforming Our Colleges and Universities
(Mark C. Taylor, 2010)
“End tenure. Emphasize teaching rather than increasingly rarified research. And bring the teaching to new domains, using emergent online networks to connect students worldwide.”
The Faculty Lounges and Other Reasons Why You Won’t Get the College Education You Paid for
(Naomi Schaefer Riley, 2011)
“College tuition has risen four times faster than the rate of inflation in the past two decades. Parents and taxpayers shouldn’t get overheated about faculty salaries: tenure is where they should concentrate their anger. The job-for-life entitlement that comes with an ivory tower position is at the heart of so many problems within higher education today.”
DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education
(Anya Kamentez, 2010)
“The system particularly fails the first-generation, the low-income, and students of color who predominate in coming generations. What we need to know is changing more quickly than ever, and a rising tide of information threatens to swamp knowledge and wisdom. Our choice is clear: Radically change the way higher education is delivered, or resign ourselves to never having enough of it.”
THE CHARGE THAT WE HAVE LOST OUR FOCUS ON LEARNING
Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses
(Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, 2011)
“45 percent of these students demonstrate no significant improvement in a range of skills — including critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing — during their first two years of college.”
We’re Losing Our Minds: Rethinking American Higher Education
(Richard P. Keeling and Richard H. Hersch, 2011)
“There are critical gaps between what institutions of higher education promise and what they deliver.”
BALANCED VIEWS, HISTORICAL CONTEXT, AND CONCRETE RECOMMENDATIONS
College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be
(Andrew Delbanco, 2012)
“The American college is too important ‘to be permitted to give up on its own ideals.”
Abelard to Apple: The Fate of American Colleges and Universities
(Richard A. DeMillo, 2011)
“There are 10 new rules for higher education: forget about who is above you; focus on what differentiates you; establish your own brand; don’t romanticize your weaknesses; be open; balance faculty centrism and student centrism; use technology; cut costs in half; focus on your own measure of success; adopt the New Wisconsin idea.”
The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out
(Clayton M. Christensen and Henry J. Eyring, 2011)
“For most of their histories, traditional universities and colleges have had no serious competition except from institutions with similar operating models. Now, though, there are disruptive competitors offering online degrees.” “How can institutions of higher education think constructively and creatively about their response to impending disruption?”
Mary Baldwin College has navigated the worst economy since the Great Depression without layoffs or major program cuts. Claims of the demise of small private liberal arts colleges are greatly exaggerated. I sifted through all the recommendations in these 7,000 pages and compared them to MBC. We must watch for threats from multiples directions, but consider the key ways that we buck the trends.
- We are not academically adrift. Learning is our touchstone. Students are our priority. Of the scores of recommendations in these books about how to foster higher learning, we already have 90 percent in place: our college-wide learning goals; our multi-step cumulative learning through reasoning, research and required capstone projects; our holistic emphasis on leadership and civic engagement in a global context; our first-year gateways.
- We excel in access and success for a diverse cross-section of America. This is counter to the academic predeterminism that emphasizes inputs (SATs) over the outcomes that a Baldwin education produces through a process of transforming, not informing.
- We have invested in our students even in times of constraint by increasing financial aid.
- We countered the trend of shrinking enrollments: nationally, private college enrollment declined by 22 percent in 2011. We are holding steady. The new strategies in RCW recruiting on a national scale are paying off. The Learn Local initiative in ADP is the right approach for us. Teacher education continues to innovate and increase despite fewer jobs and budgetary crises in public school systems. Our MFA in Shakespeare is revamped to position our graduates most effectively.
- We have invested in academic excellence and steadfastly maintained our emphasis on the liberal arts and sciences. New majors have been developed and existing majors have been enhanced.
- We reduced staff and administration to invest in instruction, even though this involves considerable sacrifice by some parts of the institution.
- We uphold academic freedom and tenure. We have hired 18 new tenure-track members since 2009, when a Chronicle of Higher Education survey reported that 40 percent of colleges had suspended tenure-track searches. In 1975 60 percent of faculty in the U.S. were tenured versus only one third today. At Mary Baldwin, 73 percent of our tenure and tenure track faculty are tenured, and 67 percent of all full-time faculty are tenured. While many institutions are phasing out tenure and increasing adjuncts, we lifted the cap on tenure, converted our term-contract system in ADP to tenure and tenure track, and decreased adjuncts in both the RCW and ADP. We have maintained sabbaticals while many institutions have limited or placed them in hiatus. Nine members of our faculty will be on sabbatical this year.
- We recognize that our Adult Degree Program is a model few can replicate. We offer the same degrees and curriculum to our residential and non-residential undergraduates. ADP is vital to the success of MBC. We did not spin it off in an independent business model as so many colleges have done, but rather created a one-college model. We have worked to integrate all undergraduate instruction and have reached a point where a majority of ADP credit hours are taught by full-time faculty and staff. As part of this approach, we already have the mix of delivery systems in place that all the books are calling to create: in-person, online, and hybrid.
- We have time and time again enacted sustaining innovations. We were not afraid to take the next big leap in creating the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences.
- We are increasingly a college within a community, a rallying cry in the national dialogue to extend our relevance and connectivity to our region.
I am so proud of Mary Baldwin College. We should all be extremely proud of these and many other core characteristics of our college.
This brings us back to our central theme: What is MBC’s place in a changing world? Do we know the path forward? Certainly we do.
We are entering the third year of our updated strategic plan. We have 49 specific objectives. Among many other things, we are entering a year of intense SACS scrutiny, as we submit to become a doctoral degree-granting institution and complete our fifth-year reaffirmation review. We want to forge the next chapter in the history of VWIL, putting into place the vision of building the corps to 200. We are going to create the structure for the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences, build a new campus, launch a public campaign, and much more. Copies of this year’s strategic planning goals are available as you leave.
Our strategic plan is just seven words: ensure academic excellence; grow enrollment; and attract resources.
What we need to keep in mind is the context that will be required to achieve these goals.
- Student success must be our priority and we must serve all our students from their point of first recruitment through graduation.
- Change will be constant. We must be vigilant in predicting and reacting quickly to threats and opportunities or others will pass us by. The Board, the administration, the faculty and staff, and Student Government will all need to keep working together to make our governance system responsive to this constant change.
- We must seize enrollment growth wherever it is available to us in existing programs and in new programs and partnerships. Every year enrollment may shift and fluctuate. We must expect this uncertainty.
- We must launch the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences and support all synergies in the undergraduate program to maximum benefit.
- We must continue to articulate our combined strengths clearly and further differentiate ourselves from the hundreds of colleges that look superficially like us.
So we look five years ahead. In 2017 the first students will graduate from Murphy Deming. We will have zealously held fast to our strengths and advantages and aggressively seized all opportunities to grow enrollment in our existing programs. We will have completed an $80 million dollar campaign, built our fundraising capacity for the future, and pursued some special fundraising initiatives in much-needed areas such as arts and athletic facilities.
MBC’s place in a changing world is what we make of it.
And what is your place? It is vital and valued. There will be room for you to make your place just as MBC claims hers. Everyone is essential. It is through our combined success that we will be able to invest in ourselves and compensation and extend the benefits of a transformative Baldwin education to generations of students. It rests upon each of us to not only endure but be part of positive change.
We will strive to improve our communication in this fast-paced environment. I really admire the goals of the Executive Committee of SGA for this year: “SGA: a place for your voice in the community.”
What is my place as your president? I believe that, in the truest sense, my responsibility is to support each of you in finding your place at Mary Baldwin and to help us collectively claim our place in the higher education landscape. In order to do that, I am in the watchtower of all that is around us, monitoring all that is around us. I commit to creating enhanced opportunities for open dialogue around campus.
Please never doubt that my belief in each of you and in Mary Baldwin College is abiding and unshakeable.