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Work in Progress - September 8

  • Tuesday, Sep 8, 2015

I hope you enjoyed the Labor Day Weekend—it was one of the few summer weekends that actually felt like summer! If your home is anything like mine, it will be nice to get fully back into the routine of the academic year. (And if your home is a lot like mine, you’ll empathize with the challenge of getting a high school freshman daughter moving at an earlier hour!).

Start of the Academic Year

The spirit and engagement at August Seminar were terrific! A lot of work goes into that, and I’d like to extend my thanks to the staff in the Academic Dean’s Office who coordinate so much of that work and to the faculty, staff, and administrators who prepared and delivered such a compelling agenda. As a follow up to the Tuesday morning session, I’ve published on the College Assembly page the raw notes from the conversation about community, which you may recall highlighted both how you might describe our community today and how you hope we are described in 2027. I think that will be interesting material to consider as we develop the next round of institutional strategy beginning this semester.

Similarly, move-in and orientation for new students went exceptionally well once again this year. As always, our student-athletes were there to warmly greet students and families, and they were invaluable in transporting belongings into these students’ new homes. Our grounds looked great, our facilities staff was present in full force, the technology folks made sure audio worked well, the student development staff had students well prepared for serving as orientation leaders and resident assistants, and Edgewood College gear was flying out of the boxes at the outdoor "bookstore." Many people played important roles in the open to the year going smoothly, and I am grateful to each of you for your work.

Fall Enrollment and Finance

I don’t remember the exact phrase I used during the question and answer part of Seminar, but I do recall making the observation that things aren’t always sunshine and roses (or something like that).

During the past ten days, our fall enrollment picture took a turn for the worse. At August Seminar, I foreshadowed—and Christine Benedict shared in greater detail—that we were likely to fall slightly short of our net tuition revenue target. It has become increasingly clear that we will be more than slightly short. A few key points based on what I know today (and I will be prepared with more updates at the September 14 College Assembly meeting):

  • I am not offering more specific details yet because the amount of variance continues to change as we get new information.
  • This does not precipitate a crisis for the current year. We have the capacity to absorb much of this projected revenue shortfall, though we will need to make some adjustments to the 2015-16 operating budget. (Some of those adjustments may flow naturally from enrollment at lower levels than expected.)
  • I expect to execute a salary pool increase. The size of that increase may be closer to an inflationary adjustment than in the original budget, where we created a pool for increases well above inflation as part of our strategy to attract and retain high quality faculty and staff.
  • As we translate the current financial and enrollment situation into assumptions for building the 2016-17 operating budget, we will have a great deal of work to do both to reconcile that budget and to lay the strategic and financial foundation for the next few years. In that way, we are like many of our sister institutions—both independent and public—who have faced (and continue to face) similar challenges.
  • One significant milestone is the September 17 Board of Trustees meeting, when I will gather their input on this situation.

I spent much of last week on this topic, and I anticipate spending a great deal of time over the next few weeks working through the implications. I have consulted thus far with the President’s Council, the Cabinet, leadership of Faculty and Staff Associations (respectively), the Planning & Budget Committee, and both the Executive Committee and Finance & Audit Committee of the Board of Trustees. Each of these groups has been brought up to speed on what I know and has advised me about next steps, and that process will continue. I have been grateful for their thoughtful responses and the recognition that this short-term situation provides the opportunity for accelerating our work to build an even stronger Edgewood College—a sentiment I share completely.

I will keep you posted regarding next steps as they become clearer, and look forward to answering your questions at College Assembly on September 14.

Quick Hits

Since football season has started, that seemed like as good a title as any for some miscellaneous topics:

  • Our Board of Trustees is beginning the practice of educational sessions before each board meeting. Before their first meeting on September 17, they will hear from Dr. James Daniel, a consultant in institutional advancement who will be sharing with them some trends in philanthropy. During the subsequent board meeting, trustees will be asked to weigh in on the steps necessary to build greater philanthropic support for the College, a topic I shared as a high priority during Seminar. Their feedback will inform development of a long-range plan to build this important part of our financial future, and I anticipate beginning implementation of that plan during this academic year.
  • You recently received a “call for proposals” from Maggie Hopkins, O.P., who communicated about the opportunity to share some of our best practices at the biennial Dominican Colloquium. That event will be held at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI from June 9-12, 2016. Please consider sharing your expertise with our colleagues at other Dominican colleges nationwide.
  • Many folks have noticed the largely-completed track and field project at Edgewood High School. That project will allow the high school to hold more of their practices on campus...and helps beautify the entrance to our campus. Director of Athletics Al Brisack and I have been in conversations with our counterparts at the high school about the possibilities for use by the College, recognizing that the primary use will be for the high school and that hours of use are limited by the lack of lights. We will continue to explore options moving forward.

I look forward to providing updates and answering questions about these topics and others at our first College Assembly meeting, which will be held in the Washburn Heritage room on September 14. Until then, know that I am grateful for all you do to deliver on our promise to help students connect learning, beliefs, and actions!