Spring semester has finally arrived. I hope you had a restful winter break. Over the last couple of weeks, offices across campus have been quietly preparing for another semester. A new term, much like a new year, is an opportunity for a fresh start. As students return to campus today, a fresh excitement is in the air. It is a time of resolutions and new commitments as well as an opportunity at the midpoint of our academic year to assess how we are doing on the goals we set for ourselves. I have asked the Senior Team and Deans to provide me with a report card on the three institutional goals outlined in my President's Breakfast speech, which I will share with you in the next Presidential Post.
You may have noticed that Westminster had a little facelift over the winter break. You will find new banners and kiosks across campus featuring the new logo and other components of our visual brand. The website has been updated with photos and graphics that reflect our brand. Over the next couple of weeks, letterhead, nametags, and business cards will make their way to offices across campus, and signage on some of our buildings, such as The Draw, Jewett Center and Gore, will also be updated.
Seeing the new visual elements of the brand is exciting, but the brand is about so much more than just a logo—it is about who we are, what we value, and the important work we do each day. At the core of our brand lies our love of learning, dedication to quality education, and commitment to providing opportunities for students to explore their passions. These values have always been at the heart of Westminster; the new brand does not change that. What it does is provide us the tools we need to communicate our values more effectively and share what we all love so much about Westminster.
I encourage you to take another look at the brand information online and reach out to the Office of Marketing and Communications if you have any questions.
This week we expect to welcome 150 new students to campus. We predict that we will meet our spring enrollment targets for new first-year students and are very close to meeting our transfer student goal. Total graduate enrollment is ahead of last spring, but still expected to fall short of what we had optimistically planned for in the budget. We also were able to retain between 89-95% of those students eligible to return and not graduating. Over the next few weeks, actual enrollment for spring semester will settle and we will have a clearer picture of where we are on actual enrolled credit hours and net tuition.
For next fall semester, the good news is our applications are up in all categories, but now the real work begins to get them converted to admits and enrollees. The Enrollment Task Force and the admissions and financial aid staffs continue to work hard on the systems and processes that will support growing our enrollment along with the initiatives described in the Five-Point Enrollment Plan. I want to thank the many staff and faculty, especially those who are part of the admissions, communications, and IS teams who have been working so hard to help us grow enrollment. Combined with the new programs faculty are designing, fundraising goals for the comprehensive campaign and strategic initiatives, our brand work, and our focus on ensuring a strong core, I am optimistic about the future.
Learning From Other Institutions
During the winter break, I had the opportunity to represent Westminster at the Presidents Institute for the Council for Independent Colleges. I was one of 356 presidents attending the Institute. The theme of this year’s conference focused on how we as private independent institutions might better prepare graduates in the liberal arts and professional programs to become the leaders of tomorrow. Many of the institutions attending this year were similar to Westminster in size and mission, and it was reassuring for me to learn that many of us share common challenges and opportunities. Many schools are exploring new business models and looking at ways to increase enrollment, almost all of the colleges are trying to increase the diversity of their student body, and the current political climate was front and center as a key issue for all of the presidents. Reflecting on all that I learned at the Institute, I feel confident that the work we are doing at Westminster is moving us in the right direction.
December 30 was the deadline for reports regarding various program accreditations. Before the winter break, the college’s aviation/flight program was reviewed by a team from the Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI), and we will learn in the next few weeks the results from that visit. We also submitted a progress report to AACSB International for the Gore School of Business and we anticipate a formal review and visit sometime in 2017-18. In February, we will welcome a team from the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), to review our graduate program in public health.
MLK Week Events
There was a good turnout for the MLK rally and march yesterday. If you missed it, I hope you will all make an effort to attend the other MLK events on campus this week.
As I was leaving campus last Friday, I met a new transfer student who had just arrived from Boston. He had just taken a taxi from the airport and was standing in front of Converse. I offered to help him find his way to Shaw for check-in, and on the way asked why he had decided to come to Westminster. With a big smile on his face, he told me he had discovered the college last summer when he was here attending a workshop. He had already committed to a school in New England, but after one semester there, realized he had made a mistake. He applied to Westminster in hopes of being accepted for spring semester because he didn’t want to wait until next fall. He told me about the faculty and staff that helped him get here, and how excited he was to be here. As I left him, I assured him he had made a great choice in coming to Westminster and we had high hopes for what he will accomplish here.
This week, our country will face a historical presidential change. While much of the future is unknown, I am proud of the Westminster community and the role we play in changing lives and preparing the future leaders and citizens of our world. I want to thank each of you for supporting our noble mission and striving to make everyone feel included and valued. I look forward to the semester ahead with confidence and appreciation.