Work In Progress - February 23, 2016

  • Monday, Apr 11, 2016

Board of Trustees Meeting

The first spring meeting of the Board of Trustees was held on Thursday, February 18. Key highlights from that meeting include:

  • Candidates for promotion and tenure, as recommended through Faculty Affairs to the Board’s Educational Policies Committee, were acted upon. The following seven faculty members are promoted from Assistant to Associate Professor (pre-tenure):
  • Dr. Brenda del Moral, Biological Sciences
  • Dr. Amie Dragoo, School of Business
  • Christopher Dunham, Department of Theatre Arts
  • Carrie Firman, Art
  • Dr. Jacob Griffin, Biological Sciences
  • Dr. Xiaodong Kuang, Communications Studies
  • Dr. Rachel Lancor, Chemistry, Geoscience, and Physics

In addition, Dr. Ashley Holland, Psychology Department, has been promoted to Associate Professor with full tenure, and Dr. Fazel Hayati, School of Business, has been promoted from tenured Associate Professor to Full Professor. Please join me in congratulating these faculty members.

  • The Board set tuition for 2016-17. Tuition will increase by about 3.7% for most populations (Adult Accelerated will increase 5%, informed by market studies that indicate we still offer relatively low price for our programs), with some slight variations based on rounding. This is the lowest rate of tuition increase since I’ve been here, reflecting our commitment to maintaining affordability (I expect we will remain in the lower third of private colleges in Wisconsin for tuition rate) and sensitivity to an environment that is paying acute attention to tuition increases.
  • Trustees participated in an educational session and then a work session around institutional finance. Michael Guns (our Vice President for Business and Finance) led a review of the College’s financial position and model, which led to discussion as part of our engagement session. We then asked the Trustees to work in small groups on a case study considering financial assumptions similar to those we’re dealing with right now. Their feedback will help to inform the assumptions that will underlie the budget I’ll bring forward for their approval in April.
  • The Board meeting was followed by a Community Scholars reception, as has been our annual practice in spring. One of the Scholars chose to highlight her concern for legislation under consideration at the state capital, which was particularly timely as the event fell on the same day as the Day without Latinos and Immigrants event in Madison. I can think of no better illustration of connecting learning, beliefs, and action in support of a more just and compassionate world!

Budget and strategy

The Planning & Budget Committee and the Cabinet have continued to advance our thinking around the 2016-17 operating budget. It is my responsibility to bring forward that budget to the Finance, Audit, and Investment Committee of the Board in early April, meaning the budget process for next year needs to conclude by around March 31 (though monitoring and modifications are always, as we learned this year, an ongoing part of the process). I am pleased with the progress we’ve made thus far.

Thanks to those of you who took time to participate in the strategy work session at College Assembly—the compiled set of notes can be found online.  The Strategy Steering Committee is using that information, along with the ideas you shared at January Seminar, to flesh out next steps in defining our vision and strategic framework. I’m encouraged by the themes that are beginning to emerge.

Someone commented to me recently that they were excited for our articulation of compelling, forward-looking vision for the future, the starting point for our strategy process. The underlying context suggested that such a vision would a) generate substantial resources and b) we wouldn’t therefore need to look at some of the questions around growth and efficiency that we’re currently dealing with.

I agree with the importance of such a vision—that excites me too!--and I believe that over time it will allow us to attract the resources needed to deliver on our promise today and tomorrow. At the same time, I’d like to offer one important observation: The strategy process is not meant to be additive. “More and bigger everything” is not compelling, strategic, or realistic. To become what we want to become, we will need to choose a finite number of commitments to pursue thoroughly (our strategic framework) and to direct our resources toward those commitments. The good news is that those commitments—which are starting to become clearer around student learning, inclusion, and reciprocal community impact—are not fundamentally new. I don’t foresee a complete transformation of what we do. I also do not view tomorrow as simply an extension of yesterday and today.

Annual Trustees Opportunities Fund

One of the new initiatives that Gary Klein (VP for Institutional Advancement) has begun is the Annual Trustees Opportunities Fund. This Fund gives Trustees the opportunity to make annual gifts that they can designate toward one of a number of college priorities—or to leave open for presidential determination. Over $70,000 was raised; $16,700.00 of that is designated for scholarships at the discretion of the Financial Aid Office.

The balance will be made available at my discretion; projects will be reviewed by the appropriate Deans/Directors and Vice Presidents before arriving at my desk for final consideration. Proposals developed in partnership across department lines are encouraged. This is not meant to fund ongoing operating expenses, but instead to create or utilize opportunities to advance timely initiatives.

While I will consider a variety of proposals under the auspices of “presidential determination,” I am seeking in particular proposals in the following areas:

  • Staff development—especially in the areas of inclusion, leadership, or engaged learning. This is meant to complement faculty development funds already designated.
  • Faculty and staff interactions with students involving enriching educational experiences (research, discussions, presentations, etc.)
  • Efforts to enhance student retention and persistence.

More specifics and the ‘request for funds’ form are available online. I will begin reviewing requests immediately, and expect to begin distribution as early as March 15.

Student for a Day/President for a Day

On Wednesday, March 2 I’ll be trading roles for a day with Zander Yeiser, who “won” (we’ll see if he feels that way at the end of the day!) a raffle to be President for the day….which means I take on his schedule for the same day. Zander will be meeting with the Vice Presidents, attending Downtown Rotary (which will be made simpler by the fact that he’ll be parking in my spot), and may even have a decision or two to make before he and I share notes at the end of the day. Meanwhile, I’ll be spending some hours working in TAC (where Zander is a work-study) and attending Computer Science and Painting classes. I suspect it will be a learning experience for both of us!