“Seek the Light” — State of the College Fall 2016
Tuajuanda C. Jordan, President
St. Mary’s College of Maryland
i am accused of tending to the past
as if i made it,
as if i sculpted it
with my own hands. i did not.
this past was waiting for me
when i came,
a monstrous unnamed baby,
and i with my mother’s itch
took it to breast
and named it
she is more human now,
learning languages everyday,
remembering faces, names and dates.
when she is strong enough to travel
on her own, beware, she will.
I just read, “i am accused of tending to the past” by Lucille Clifton. This poem jumped out at me on the afternoon I returned to my office after attending a division’s retreat. After I gave my remarks, I opened the floor for comments and questions. One of the attendees asked me essentially how to deal with individuals on this campus who don’t believe we will accomplish what’s in the strategic plan, don’t believe that the College is on a positive trajectory. What are we to do with those who do not have hope for the future? Those who do not believe that we can make it to a better place and get our College closer to reaching its full potential?
The recent past – and by that I mean pre-2014 “recent” past – may have had more darkness than light. But, if you were to analyze from whence we have come in a very short period of time, you will see that we, as a community, have accomplished more than the naysayers said was possible.
They said we would not be able to write a strategic plan with community feedback in less than a year. We did.
They said we would not be able to give our employees bonuses when it was mandated that state employees not get pay increases. We did.
They said we would not be able to raise $2.5 M for a capital campaign by FY18. We did.
They said The Pause was a “one & done” and that we wouldn’t be able to get the campus to participate in any other conversations beyond that. We did.
One question I have is, Who is “they”? And, why do we, as a community, continue to let them shroud us in darkness and negativity? Yes, it is important to remember the challenges and errors of the past lest we are bound to repeat them. Yet, it is also important to accept that “change” is afoot and to be willing to see the light, the light brought on by the tremendous, collaborative efforts of so many working to continue moving our community, this institution, in a positive direction.
Here are just a few of our institutional successes and triumphs since the last State-of-the-College address.
As many of you noticed when you arrived on campus, construction of Anne Arundel Hall is nearly complete (finally!). Faculty and staff have moved in, and classrooms and laboratories are outfitted with the latest technology and equipment. The facility is beautiful! I would like to thank Chip Jackson and his team for all of the hard work, long days, and commitment to seeing the project through to its fruition. A dedication ceremony will be held on campus on October 15th. I encourage you all to attend.
Let’s talk about Business and Finance, the backbone of our operations.
We have made significant strides towards ensuring that the college’s infrastructure is up-to-date and capable of supporting the institution’s strategic planning efforts. The college received substantial new funding on the order of $2.7 million to support IT infrastructure improvements. Over the summer, the Office of Information Technology worked tirelessly to enhance the infrastructure by installing new parts campus-wide. The new wireless access points will expand capacity and improve security. Plans are also underway to implement a new ERP system to streamline operations and improve efficiency.
In response to concerns voiced by some staff on campus, an Employee Resource Center was designed and opened in June in order to provide staff in Facilities with a computer laboratory, kitchen, and up-to-date common area in which they can store personal belongings and hold training sessions.
Additionally, the Faculty and Staff Housing initiative, a collaboration between Business and Finance and Student Affairs, was successfully implemented. This valuable benefit to the College’s employees was developed to enhance the housing stock for our faculty and staff and, very importantly, provide more affordable housing options for our newly hired faculty and staff as they transition to a new community.
Speaking of Student Affairs, as you know, diversity and inclusion are high on the college’s list of strategic priorities. Committee members on each of our five IDEs work groups have been busy actualizing our goals. The initial steps of the AAC&U Inclusive Excellence diversity assessment have been completed. This assessment process will continue this semester. Last year, we had A Time to Pause as a means to bring the campus together to discuss the issues that were challenging our community’s cohesiveness. Our promise to continue those conversations and our work towards a more inclusive community continues. Our most recent Community Conversations event was held on Tuesday, August 30. Students, faculty, and staff participated in these small-group, student-led conversations in record numbers to address the central question: how do we maintain community and preserve the principles of our democracy in the midst of the many divisive issues that exist for us as a nation and as global citizens? I wish to thank the members of the IDEs groups and the countless number of committed volunteers who continue to work on this. I especially want to acknowledge Sybol Anderson for her work in identifying and providing the framework upon which these conversations will build. Please note that the opportunity for additional community discussion around issues of diversity and inclusion will occur during the Q&A segment of the Kamau Bell event on September 15th in the ARC. Please mark your calendars for this Twain event that will provide satire and thoughtful discussion around issues of race.
It is a well-known fact that our students are some of the brightest and most committed to the community both locally and abroad. During the 2015-16 academic year, St. Mary’s students performed 7,264 hours of service to our campus (farm, Hawkthon), local community (Intervarsity, Chancellor’s point), and international organizations (Nicaragua). To further this culture of giving back, the SGA proposed and approved a bylaws change for the 2016-17 year that requires every SGA funded organization to perform at least one service project per semester.
Over the course of the last year or so, the division of Student Affairs has been undergoing a structural re-organization to better model the role that student affairs professionals should have in educating students for 21st century global citizenship. When you read the responsibility matrix associated with the strategic plan implementation, you will see Student Affairs is integrated throughout. In this day and age, Student Affairs isn’t just about student activities anymore. Congratulations to Dean Brown and the members of his leadership team who have embraced this opportunity to develop and implement programming that will help transform our students’ lives in very significant ways.
Institutional Advancement has had quite a triumphant year. As a part of the college’s strategic priorities, the unit is leading an integrated and collaborative effort to inspire philanthropic investment, nurture relationships with constituents, and assist in attracting high-quality and diverse students who are ready to lead in a global, knowledge-based economy.
Recently, Institutional Advancement achieved the $2.5 million Building Challenge in less time than many thought possible. This achievement marks the highest number of donors to a comprehensive campaign in the college’s history of more than 2,800. The single largest philanthropic gift in the College’s history of $2.2 million was secured with accompanying naming rights – the Jamie L. Roberts Stadium. Architects for the Jamie L. Roberts Stadium are being hired. We expect completion of the stadium complex, Part I of this $76M, 3-phase project, in 18 – 24 months.
The strong investment of our alumni in the $2.5M Challenge speaks to the impact this institution has had on its students as well as our alumni’s belief in our future. The alumni participation rate goal of 15% was a 3% rate jump over last year, setting an all-time record. The college has exceeded the alumni total giving goal of $226,000 by more than $120,000. The number of major gifts of $10,000 or more attained was the highest in the college’s history at 27.
What about Academic Affairs? In January of 2016, I announced that we had hired a new Provost and Dean of Faculty who would be joining the College on July 1. I also announced the results of the Middle States reaffirmation of accreditation report and what it meant for the College moving forward. Mike Wick, the newly named provost, understood exactly what it meant and did what I hoped he would do. He joined us early – April to be exact – and spent his first two months entirely focused on righting the ship. I am thankful for all that the acting provost did to keep the ship afloat while we searched for a new provost in the midst of all that was going on at the College. I cannot be more pleased than to have Mike Wick here. He has stepped in and done yeoman’s work in developing and implementing a sustainable system – in partnership with the appropriate stakeholders – that will assist us in communicating to the outside world on their terms, not ours, that we are just as good as we say we are.
In addition to that, Mike has restructured the provost’s office and is working to implement systems that are better aligned with appropriate and relevant 21st-century academic affairs operations and management in the context of shared governance that will help propel us to our rightful place as a model for a rigorous, dynamic, and relevant liberal educational experience.
In Enrollment Management, there has been some success in expanding our out-of-state footprint. In addition to the successful tours that were implemented as a collaborative initiative between Alumni Affairs, Admissions, and the president’s office, we have been working to establish significant collaborations that will increase the internationalization of our campus. Since January, we have established several international recruitment foundations with countries, most notably Aruba in June 2016. The agreement with Aruba was the first ever to be signed between St. Mary’s College and an entire nation. The first student from Aruba joined us this semester. However, we still have much work to do expanding our out-of-state footprint. Diversifying our student body is an essential component in sustaining our institution in the future.
So, what is the state of the College?
Let’s begin with enrollment. As you know, A Time for Rebirth, our strategic plan, includes goals of increasing diversity among the student population. Diversity at St. Mary’s College continues to grow and we are doing well with our student diversification targets in all sectors, except one – out-of-state students, which includes international students. The Fall 2016 cohort will have among the highest level of first-generation students (21%) and Pell grant recipients (23%) in recent history. Twenty-four percent of our new students identify as minority. Additionally, the incoming GPA has increased. This year’s academic un-weighted GPA average is 3.42, surpassing last year’s average of 3.33.
We are doing well with respect to diversifying our student body. Nonetheless, it should be clear to everyone that enrollment, in so far as bringing new students to the campus, is a challenge that we must solve. Although not official until the end of September, it is no secret that we were significantly able to meet our budget needs because our retention rates for returning students were higher than anticipated. Thank all of you for your work in ensuring that our students succeed here. We are all aware that the competition for the best and the brightest is fierce. We all also should know that the number of students in the geographic region from which we recruit most heavily is declining and not expected to rebound until 2020. Nevertheless, it is my position now, and has been since I became the president of this wonderful institution, that we should not be in the position where we are now – wondering whether we will have sufficient numbers of students to fill the seats and, ultimately, pay the bills. We are a PUBLIC LIBERAL ARTS HONORS COLLEGE! There is no better way to prepare for an ever-evolving world than liberal arts, and when you look at the new demographic, a PUBLIC institution provides the accessibility and opportunity for virtually EVERYONE to have this type of educational experience. And, as a community committed to what we have been called to do, I want you to know that I believe each and every one of us is responsible for making sure we recruit, attract and retain students who can thrive here and be happy and well beyond this place. Everyone has a part to play. Everyone’s role has been defined. I just need you to be willing to take part in helping to recruit students to partake in the St. Mary’s College experience.
The strategic plan also speaks to increasing diversity among faculty and staff. An analysis of the current data show that we have a lot more to do in the coming months and years to attain this goal. I am pleased that we have hired for Fall 2016 an accomplished group of faculty and staff and I look forward to their contributions to the campus and the positive impact each of them will have on our community.
Nonetheless, we must be more intentional about hiring faculty and staff that reflect the national demographic of the US population as a whole. After all, we are a PUBLIC institution that has as part of our mission, “diversity”, and that term includes racial and ethnic diversity. Not to make this a priority tests our commitment to our mission, our core values, and our ethos. I charge each and every one of you to do your part to help us reach our goals and to fulfill our mission.
This year, we will continue to have challenges 1) surrounding building revenue to support the academic enterprise and 2) making St. Mary’s College of Maryland an institution that not only talks the talk but also walks the walk with respect to being a community that is not only diverse but is also inclusive and equitable for all. Also, we must continue to assess what we do and critically determine whether we are providing programming worthy of an institution that proudly wears the honors college designation.
As I reflect on the challenges we face in moving forward, I am so pleased that there are individuals in our midst who, in addition to the ones I’ve already acknowledged, continue to push St. Mary’s College of Maryland to reach its potential as a place that recruits, attracts, and retains an exceptional student body, faculty, and staff who believe in the power and potential of this place. Thus, at this time, I’d like to recognize:
- Kyle Bishop, executive director of the wellness center, published an article – “The relationship between retention and college counseling for high-risk students” – in the Journal of College Counseling.
- Bill Ward, Director of Sailing, was named the 2016 winner of the Sail1Design Coach of the Year, presented by Henri-Lloyd.
- Lori Brasko, public safety officer, has been selected by the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA) to receive the 2016 IACLEA Award for Valor.
- Russell Rhine, associate professor of economics, has been selected to work for Congress during the fall semester. He will be a senior economist with the United States Congress Joint Economic Committee, a bipartisan bicameral committee. Rhine will conduct economic analysis and make policy recommendations to legislators in both houses of Congress.
- Wesley P. Jordan, professor of neurosciences and psychology, received the Homer L. Dodge Award for Outstanding Service.
- Diana Boros, assistant professor of political science, received the Norton T. Dodge Award for Scholarly and Creative Achievement by a Junior Faculty Member.
- Barrett Emerick, assistant professor of philosophy, received the Homer L. Dodge Award for Excellence in Teaching by a Junior Faculty Member.
- Sybol Anderson, associate professor of philosophy, received the Andy Kozak Faculty Contribution to Student Life Award.
- José Ballesteros, professor of international languages and cultures, is the recipient of the Steven Muller Distinguished Professorship in the Arts.
I wish to acknowledge some of the faculty and staff who have worked to advance the academic enterprise through garnering external support.
- Sandy Ganzell, Professor of Mathematics and Casey Douglas, Associate Professor of Mathematics, were awarded an NSF grant to support undergraduate research at the College.
- Troy Townsend, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, who, in collaboration with the Southern Maryland start-up company SolarTech, Inc., received a Maryland Industrial Partnership grant to develop a proof-of-concept process of printing efficient and stable solar modules using a materials printer. This research has the potential to result in new technology that is more cost-effective than traditional electricity.
- Jingqi Fu, Professor of Chinese, is the recipient of a grant from the Endangered Language Documentation Programme, University of London. Her work focuses on documenting Lemo, an ethnic minority dialect of Bai, spoken in China. The objective of her work is to preserve the endangered language.
- Julia King, Professor of Anthropology, who will collaborate with the Calvert County Historic Preservation Commission on a project funded by the National Park Service to document seven historically significant Piscataway landscapes in Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s, and St. Mary’s counties.
Excellence in good deeds and works is not limited to our faculty and staff. Our students, too, are making a positive impact on the world. For example:
- I acknowledge en masse all of our student-athletes that achieved accolades both on and off the court/the field as scholar athletes.
- Rebecca Webster received an award from the Council for Maryland Archaeology to attend the Middle Atlantic Archaeological Conference where she presented her research on Anglo-Native American interaction in the Potomac River valley.
- Anna Passaniti presented her SMP research, conducted at the Turkana Basin Institute in Kenya, on topical diseases at the annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology.
- “Pride Bound,” a film by Maria Duke received the Audience Award for Best Short Fiction Film at the Southern Maryland Film Festival.
- Claire Kostelnik and Hannah Starnes presented their research findings on a potential new fast-acting antidepressant drug at the Eastern Psychological Association meeting.
- Scott Lee, a Spanish-Chinese double major, received a Huayu Enrichment Scholarship. He is now pursuing his studies in Taiwan.
Lastly, I want to tell you a short story of a very recent graduate who has been truly impacted by his St. Mary’s College experience and who is now reaching back to lift up those with backgrounds and experiences similar to his.
I am sure many of you recognize the face of Heber Diaz. Heber’s parents came from El Salvador to DC to raise their family. Heber joined St. Mary’s from Bell Multicultural High School, majored in economics, and became a campus leader through his participation in the DeSousa Brent Scholars program. Heber completed the MAT in May. He is now a history teacher back at Bell Multicultural High School, where he is working with young students with a similar background as he has. These students learn English, overcome poverty, and build secure economic futures by working hard. St. Mary’s College helped Heber realize his potential. I have no doubt he will do great things because of that.
Today, I began my remarks addressing the darkness perpetuated by those who do not believe in us in the here and now. I hope you can see that there is light and that that brightness grows in intensity each and every semester. This place is a place we can be proud of. This place is a place where we have not yet reached our full potential BUT reach it we will because this is a place like none other that is rare and beautiful and on the cusp of realizing a potential that we never before allowed ourselves to imagine. I invite you all to seek out the light; shy away from the darkness.
I want to conclude with a short film that was specially created to thank those who donated to the $2.5 million Building Challenge and to encourage them to keep the momentum going. It was borne out of the work of our team in Institutional Advancement and brought to fruition and produced by an alumnus who believes in our future. I want to end with this because I believe it will help you all sustain the light that is St. Mary’s College of Maryland.