This week, the first hints of winter arrived on campus, forcing us to say farewell to a warmer-than-normal fall. Golf clubs and mountain bikes are being stored and skis and snowboards are coming out of closets to be waxed. Students have finished midterm exams, and term projects are well underway. Already one quarter of the fiscal year is over, and every part of campus is buzzing with activity.
As I discussed in the recent faculty and all-college meetings, the fall enrollment numbers did not meet our budget goals. We landed short on our undergraduate numbers and while a few graduate programs, such as the MBA, exceeded their recruiting goals, we came in under-goal on others. In reaction, the senior team and deans have been working on ways to boost enrollment for spring and summer semesters. We have approved some additional financial incentives to attract transfer and graduate students and we have made some investments in recruitment and retention. Carlos Linares has been hired as the new recruiter for the CBE programs. The new director of retention and student services, Dr. Christie Fox, has been hired to work on our ongoing retention efforts. Recruitment efforts for veterans are ramping up, and budget directors are holding back on expenses and other commitments they can defer. It will be another challenging budget year for us.
Work on the 2016–2017 budget has begun. Our main focus is creating an enrollment model that that provides long-term financial sustainability while allowing the college to achieve the goals of the strategic plan. The Budget Advisory Committee met last week to review major planning assumptions for next year, and they will be active over the next few months in helping the senior team and deans prepare the 2016-2017 budget.
The brightest spot on the enrollment picture this year is the record-breaking 82% undergraduate retention we achieved this year. This accomplishment is directly related to the collaborative efforts put forth by each and every one of you working to make Westminster College a positive and productive experience for the students. Thank you. Good retention numbers help our budget—and our rankings. If these high rates continue into the coming years, it will help considerably to improve our financial stability. Please continue this good work by attending one of the upcoming enrollment fairs and open houses and by working with students to get them registered for spring semester. All of these efforts are already making a big difference, and I appreciate everyone's continued commitment and hard work.
Provost Lisa Gentile has received many responses to her question of "Why Westminster?" As I read the first 15 pages of comments, I was impressed with how passionate we all are about the college and why we work here. This information will be helpful as we develop new enrollment/marketing strategies.
This week, a small investigation team from the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) visited campus to evaluate the college's handling of a specific case from 2013 and to review the college's compliance with Title IX and other federal programs. Their report will not be completed for several months, but we will continue to strengthen our Title IX policies and procedures to make sure the campus is a safe environment for all students. I want to thank Melissa Flores, Jason Schwartz-Johnson, and everyone who participated in the evaluation and who worked hard to prepare us for this audit.
International Partnerships and Local Visibility
Our outreach efforts to increase the visibility of Westminster internationally are producing positive results. John Baworowsky, John Schaefer, and LeAnna Kowallis recently visited an aviation university in Guangzhou, China to strengthen our student exchange program. Jerry Van Os and Ryan Lewis reviewed new opportunities with our exchange program at Donghua University in Shanghai. On a local level, I am presenting at four different Utah Rotary Clubs in the coming months to talk about the value of a Westminster degree and our significance to the Utah community and economy.
Finally, I need to report that I fulfilled one of the commitments I made in my Inauguration Address. You might recall I ended my speech by talking about running marathons and what I have learned from them about preparation, goal setting, and endurance. I said that I would be doing another marathon in the next few weeks. Thanks to trustee Kim Adamson, I was able to run the Marine Corps Marathon at the end of October. Given my limited preparation, this was the hardest marathon I have run to-date. In fact, I would have hopped on the Washington D.C. metro at 18 miles, having hit the wall, so to speak, but my long-term running friends stayed with me and we all finished the race together. I wanted to share that story with all of you as we approach the busy end of the semester because I hope that in the midst of our busyness, we can all be sources of encouragement, strengthening one another as we remain committed to our school, our culture, and our goals.
All the best,