State of the College – Spring Semester 2017
January 17, 2017
“A bonis ad meliora”
Good afternoon. Welcome to the start of the Spring 2017 semester! I trust that you have returned from the holiday rested, rejuvenated, and ready to tackle another term. Over the holiday break, I thought of our community at St. Mary’s College of Maryland often.
I reflected on the memory of Joanne Klein, professor of theater, film, and media studies, who passed in October. Joanne, who joined St. Mary’s College in 1989, used her expertise in performance to inspire a new generation of creative minds with a commitment to cultural pluralism. She exemplified the forward-thinking, service-oriented, and talented professional who embodies the values of our institution. Her presence will be missed. Let us take a moment to remember Joanne and what she meant to our community.
In looking back on our past, acknowledging the significance of our present, and being hopeful of our promising future, I was reminded of the many conversations I have had with faculty, staff, and students.
In November at a Meet and Greet event in Philadelphia for St. Mary’s College alumni and prospective students, I delivered a presentation “unity is strength,” in which I discussed our commitment to each other, to our College, and to the world to make good even better. This commitment challenges us to continue to raise our bar because mediocrity is not an option. Our many accomplishments are testaments to our ability to succeed in spite of challenges. We have much to celebrate but we celebrate with the humility required of a public institution.
The College’s strategic planning implementation team – affectionately known as SPIT Fire – has been hard at work actualizing the goals and initiatives set forth in our three-year strategic plan “A Time for Rebirth.” I would like to thank each and every member of SPIT Fire for their service.
The strategic plan addresses five goals that are instrumental for positioning the College as a premier institution of higher education in the future. During our time together this afternoon, I will report on our progress implementing the strategic plan.
The Committee is in the process of developing a simplified tracking tool – see the sample on the screen. Within the next week or so, you will be able to go to the strategic planning webpage and access the tracking tool. This tool will enable members of the campus community to get an at-a-glance update on progress towards goals and objectives. Thank you, SPIT Fire, for being the collegial task masters required for this work and a HUGE thumbs up to Ross Conover for developing the tracking tool.
So let’s talk progress, beginning with Goal 1:
Attract intellectually ambitious students who thrive in and respect a diverse, collaborative learning community.
Recruiting, attracting, and enrolling students is a team effort that requires knowledgeable, experienced, and energetic leadership. As you know, the College is in the process of filling critical positions within Enrollment Management. In October, David Boisvert joined the College as Interim Vice President for Enrollment Management while we conduct a nationwide search to permanently fill the position. Since his start, David and the enrollment team have been working to ensure that we hit our target enrollments. The Enrollment team and the members of the Integrated Marketing team have been working also to enhance the website and other advertising modes for improved website navigation and brand consistency.
Now, let’s talk enrollment data. Although preliminary, the data indicate that applications are trending upward. Now, the real work begins since we need to admit students in a timely manner and ensure that they make deposits.
As you are aware, there are several key positions within Enrollment that we are working to fill. Within the next two weeks, the search committee and I will be engaged in airport interviews of the semi-finalists for the position of VP for Enrollment. In terms of additional enrollment staff, the search to fill the Director of Financial Aid position is currently underway. The current director, Nadine Hutton, is retiring at the end of this month. We thank her for her dedication and years of service to the College. Karissa Myers has been named Assistant Director of Financial Aid, effective December 2016. We are pleased to welcome her to this role. Her enthusiasm, commitment, and knowledge base will help ensure that we do our best to minimize the stress associated with cost of attendance of our most needy students. The Director of Admissions search will begin after the hire of a new VP.
Let’s move to Goal 2 of the strategic plan:
Engage students in a rigorous, experiential, flexible, innovative academic environment that capitalizes on our unique geographical location.
Since the last State of the College, we have made great progress towards establishing a bona fide assessment system to evaluate and continue to improve student learning. In just a few short months, we have made tremendous progress in addressing the concerns of the Middle States Commission.
I want to thank Mike Wick for taking this bull by the horns, the members of the Assessment Implementation Team, and every faculty and staff member who has rolled up their sleeves and got the work done. This has been a community effort to move the needle and help us to institutionalize systems that will endure regardless of who the leadership is or who the faculty members are. This is the new status quo.
I would like to note that the call for a documented, systemic approach to the assessment of student learning does not mean that assessment was not occurring here on campus. Many faculty members were already participating in assessment within their respective departments. The new assessment system, however, streamlines our efforts, ensuring that we are reporting our data in an organized manner. As a result, the College is better positioned to cultivate the framework necessary for equipping our students with the skills they need for college and beyond.
Goal 3 of the strategic plan is to:
Attract and retain a diverse staff and faculty who achieve excellence across the liberal arts.
Since the last State of the College, several key hires have been made. These individuals help to shape the student experience and enhance the impact of our community. Our strategic plan includes a focus on inclusive diversity. The College seeks to ensure that, where possible, new hires are reflective of the world in which we serve.
I am pleased to announce that Dr. Kortet Mensah joined St. Mary’s College on November 28 as the associate vice president of inclusive diversity and equity. In this inaugural role, Kortet will collaborate with every stakeholder group in all aspects of inclusive diversity. She brings over 19 years of experience in this work. Her expertise will be invaluable in moving us to embodying the St. Mary’s Way.
Additionally, Annette (Annie) Angueira joined the College in December as the associate vice president of facilities. Annie brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her role. We, especially Chip, are very happy to have her here during this time of College growth and revitalization
Other hires in Business and Finance include two new caretakers – Sherry Hawkins and Leroy White. The new employees will help to address the staffing shortage in housekeeping.
The strategic plan calls for providing competitive salaries for our employees. Last semester, the College developed distinct policies for faculty and staff for merit pay increases and for salary increases to address market forces. The methodology for awarding increases was developed through consultation with the ad hoc Compensation Committee comprised of faculty and staff. Thanks to the Committee for its work to bring the plan to fruition.
Let’s discuss Goal 4 of the strategic plan:
Graduate prepared, responsible, and thoughtful global citizens and leaders.
The College seeks to provide students with a comprehensive worldview to see the world beyond the lens of their academic major. We want to expose our students to our partners in the community – including our network of alumni – to facilitate stronger collaboration towards our goals and prepare students for 21st century global citizenship.
For instance, the Micro-Internship continues to grow. The Program, managed by Student Affairs, has increased the number of student participants from 29 to 60; the number of sites from 26 to 37; and the variety of site offerings to include organizations such as the Office of the Attorney General, National Portrait Gallery, John’s Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, and Anne Arundel Medical Center.
Additionally, the Career Development Center has partnered with academic departments to send students to the Patuxent River Naval Air Station as part of the base’s Intern for a Day program. They will also pilot an employer site visit program this semester, which will enable 12 students to visit JP Morgan Chase for an afternoon of training, networking, and mock interviews.
With their focus on global citizenry and leadership, our students continue to make a positive impact both within the community and in the world. Just a few examples:
For the 20th year, the Introduction to Sign Language class visited Greenview Knolls Elementary School to teach fingerspelling to all 5th graders.
Nicolette Coluzzi, a chemistry major, Professor Randy Larsen, and external collaborator Antonino Costentino were recently published in the International Journal of Conservation Science. Their research contains a collection of spectra of over 50 historic paints useful for art conservators to identify the types of pigments found in artwork.
Student leader Taylor Engdahl attended the Scripps Research Institute’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow Program and evaluated the effect of a specific group of inhibitors on a variety of cancers. Taylor won third place in the poster session and received funding to present her research at the American Chemical Society conference this semester.
Julian Erville ’17, a double math and English major with a minor in international languages and cultures, represented the College during the final round of the Jiangsu Cup, a Chinese speech contest open to undergraduate and graduate students in the Greater Washington Metropolitan area,
Arvind Srinivasan ’17 is interning abroad this semester in Scotland at a physics lab at the University of Strathclyde.
The final goal, #5, of the strategic plan is to:
Create and maintain state of the art, modern facilities, systems, and infrastructure.
As we work to ensure the highest quality educational experience possible, we must continue to build an infrastructure that supports the education enterprise.
Eduroam, a part of our new wireless upgrade, allows members of the campus community to access secure wireless across the globe at member institutions with the use of SMCM account credentials. Thank you to the Office of Information Technology for seeing this upgrade through to fruition.
During the dedication ceremony for Anne Arundel Hall, we announced the naming of the Gail Harmon Courtyard, honoring the Board of Trustee member’s thoughtful leadership, visionary philanthropy, and committed service to the College.
In order to reduce our carbon footprint, more than 140 external fixtures were upgraded with LED technology outside of the ARC. The new environmentally conscious fixtures help to improve campus safety.
How many of you have seen the newly renovated “White House”? Our staff did a wonderful job to convert the structure into a place that anyone would be happy to work in. Both Kortet’s and Michael Dunn’s offices are housed within the newly renovated building. A proposal has been submitted to rename the structure so that it reflects the purpose of the offices located there. If approved, the structure will be renamed the Lucille Clifton House.
Increasing revenue to the College from public and private sources is a key activity essential to our long-term sustainability and viability. We are focused on acquiring financial support from all avenues.
As you may know, the College is one of only two independent, public institutions of higher education in the State. We have a unique funding formula that has served the College well for 25 years. Over the summer, we set into motion efforts to tweak our funding formula so that we are better able to continue meeting our mission as the state’s liberal arts honors college. Within the past few months, we have met with more than 30 State of Maryland elected and appointed officials to discuss the initiative that will provide added financial stability for the College. Legislation has been drafted and, if all goes well, by the end of the current legislative session, we will have an updated funding formula to support our efforts commencing in FY19.
The College experienced its second consecutive record breaking Giving Tuesday, the social media day of philanthropy, on November 29th. At the end of 24 hours, 651 donors contributed $152,231, more than $100,000 over the goal and more than $86,000 over last year’s total.
We are appreciative of the efforts of all who gave, those who presented challenge grants, and give a special shout-out to Don Stabile, Associate Dean of Academic Services, who pledged a substantial dollar-for-dollar match.
Fundraising during Giving Tuesday was focused on four key areas: scholarships, student success, academic enrichment, and the St. Mary’s Fund. Thank You, Institutional Advancement, for the exceptional results!
Here are a few of the faculty who have worked to advance the academic enterprise through garnering external support:
Kirsten Deane-Coe, assistant professor of biology, received an award from National Science Foundation (NSF) Dimensions of Biodiversity Program. She will be working with collaborators to investigate the drivers of diversity in an ecologically important clade of dryland mosses.
Amanda Deerfield, assistant professor of economics, one of our new faculty members, received an award from the Charles Koch Foundation in support of her research titled “Uber-Regulation? Ridesharing Legislation and State Corruption Scores.”
Erin De Pree, associate professor of physics, received an award from the Jonathan F. Reichert Foundation to build a small radio telescope that will be used for research purposes.
So, what is the state of the College? As you can see, we have made significant progress in making good even better.
We continue to create an environment that fosters inclusive diversity and increased awareness of the College. Some of the programming events we have sponsored since the last State of the College is reflective of this initiative, including:
- Keti Koti Table Foundation’s “Breaking Bread – Breaking Chains”
- Community Conversations
- Kamau Bell
- John Callahan
Events like these enable our community to engage civilly in dialogue about tough, but relevant issues.
We have many individuals in our community who continue to push St. Mary’s College 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. I would like to recognize just a few of these individuals:
Jennifer Cognard-Black’s anthology “From Curlers to Chainsaws: Women and their Machines” was awarded the Independent Publisher Book Awards Goal Prize for Anthologies.
Geoffrey Bowers, assistant professor of chemistry, received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy to research the role natural solid surfaces play in our energy infrastructure. His research will enhance the College’s museum studies program.
Artwork by Sue Johnson, professor of art, was selected for inclusion in a three-year exhibition at the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia, and for a show at the Bellevue Art Museum in Seattle, WA.
Don Stabile, associate dean of academic services, published a book “The Political Economy of a Living Wage: Progressives, the New Deal, and Social Justice.”
Congratulations to you all on your scholarly and creative successes.
Increasing the visibility of the College, in a positive manner, is important and will enhance our ability to attract and recruit high quality individuals to join our community. Thus, we all have a part to play in this endeavor – locally and nationally. In addition to the various keynotes I’ve given in the last several months and panels I’ve sat on to discuss financing higher education and addressing issues associated with diversity efforts, I’ve been named to several additional advisory boards that will assist in raising the profile of the College. The most significant boards include the Climate Leadership Network, the science advisory board of the Higher Education Resource Service, and the Board of Directors of the AAC&U, the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History.
As we begin a new year and the start of the spring 2017 semester, you can see why we at St. Mary’s College of Maryland have something to celebrate. You – our faculty, staff, and students – are dedicated to our community and willing to do what it takes to ensure that we are thriving. St. Mary’s College has a rich history of making good even better – from our origins as a female seminary to our present standing as a role model of excellence. And, in the days ahead, we will continue along this trajectory. The thing with success and making good even better is that the journey never ends. Just like we can look back and see how far we’ve come since the last State of the College, I am confident that we have it in us to push even further, work even harder, and make even more of a difference now and in the future.
Thank you for all that you do in support of St. Mary’s College of Maryland. I hope we all have a great semester.