And here we go…between the multiple changes in weather, the number of end-of-semester events, and the intensity and nature of the conversation students are having, we are clearly in the home stretch. I hope you have had the chance to experience a few of the nice weather days we’ve seen—fortunately, a fair number of which have fallen on the weekend—as we gear up for the final few weeks of the semester.
This time of year gives us a number of opportunities to celebrate as a campus community. Wednesday we enjoyed our Dominican Honors Convocation, recognizing student scholars and leaders. A few upcoming campus-wide events remain. You can find details on the College Calendar; perhaps the most prominent campus-wide events include:
• Faculty and Staff Recognition, at 4 p.m. on Monday, May 2 in Anderson Auditorium.
• Spring Commencement events
• Liturgy at 10:30am in St. Joseph Chapel
• Brunch immediately thereafter
• Commencement at 2:00pm at Monona Terrace
The final Board of Trustees meeting was held on April 21. This year, we implemented an educational session in advance of each meeting. At Thursday’s meeting, that session was led by the members of the Sinsinawa Dominican Corporate Board, who meet annually with our Board (and the governing bodies of all the institutions they sponsor). The primary areas of focus were on living the mission and Dominican values, and on changes to Sinsinawa leadership personnel (i.e. the leadership team that will replace the current one effective June 30) and organizational structure (with changes to the reserved powers of the corporate board).
The mission conversation was bookended by a student panel. Dr. Tony Chambers (Vice President for Student Development) facilitated a conversation among six undergraduate students of diverse interests, backgrounds, and academic pursuits. At the same meeting when the Board learned more about our mission and values conceptually, it was only appropriate to hear from students directly their expression of how those values are being conveyed through the educational experience at the College. (And, of course, how we can continue to improve.) A number of Trustees also attended a post-meeting reception, which included research presentations from Honors Program students—a unique opportunity for them to see students as scholars. I am grateful for the work of Shad Ryan Wenzlaff (Director for Student Research and Senior Lecturer, Art History) and Bonnie Sierlicki (Director Honors Program and Assistant Professor of Communication Studies) for their work to coordinate this reception.
Other items of Board business:
- The Board elected officers for the upcoming year. The Board Chair is a two-year term, while other officers are elected annually. Gary Schaefer (Regional President, Associated Bank) is concluding his second year of service as Chair, and will be succeeded by current Vice-Chair Londa Dewey (President, QTI Group). I appreciated Gary’s leadership and counsel, and I look forward to working with Londa to continue effectively engaging the Board as though partners and fiduciaries on behalf of the College.
- The Board appointed three members to begin three-year terms, effective July 1. Jim Gallegos (Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Alliant Energy), Becky Splitt (CEO, StudyBlue), and Francie Rowe (Department Chair & Associate Professor, Biological Sciences) will begin board service. The board also recognized outgoing Trustees Phil Blake (former publisher, Wisconsin State Journal), Jay Burnette (President & CEO, T. F. Hudgins, Inc.), Nicole Kime (Associate Professor, Biological Sciences), and Barb Dannhausen, O.P. I am excited to welcome these talented new members to our board, and am grateful for the service of those whose terms are coming to a close.
The Board also approved the operating budget I proposed for 2016-17. I appreciate the Planning & Budget Committee and the Cabinet for their diligence and advice, and am also grateful to all of the budget managers who generated the ideas that resulted in a budget that delivers on our promise to students and the community while maintaining financial responsibility in the short- and long-term. A combination of revenue increases, targeted expense reductions, and changes in underlying assumptions led to this resolution.
In light of the current academic year, when we found an enrollment and net revenue shortfall requiring immediate attention, I proposed to the Board a resolution that contains some latitude for me to make decisions as we learn more about our financial position for 2016-17. I know the salary pool is a topic of particular interest. I'd like to share the implications of the Board resolution on that pool.
- An increase of 1.5% to the current salary pool (not the average increase, but the entire amount available for salary increases), effective October 1.
- A commitment on my part (and that of the vice presidents and deans) to continue working to hone revenue and expense projections throughout the summer.
- Authority for me to implement a salary pool increase at a higher level (effective the same date) if that appears to be a step sustainable for 2016-17 and 2017-18 and maintains a sufficient margin against potential revenue shortfalls. In other words, if our revenue and expense picture is more favorable than what we anticipate at this moment, I will have the authority to execute a larger salary pool increase.
Over the Summer
The operating budget will not, of course, be the only work going on this summer. I’d like to foreshadow some work that I expect will progress over the summer:
- Strategy Development: I’ve asked unit leaders (directors, deans, VPs) and committee chairs to engage as they can around the strategic framework drafted by the Strategy Steering Committee. That work will be vetted by Planning & Budget Committee, and then utilized over the summer by the Cabinet to flesh out the next steps in greater detail. You can expect to learn more about that progress, and to participate in next steps, at August Seminar.
- Judicial Processes: You likely saw the email sent today from Dr. Tony Chambers, which includes a brief video, related to his work leading a task force in a review and revision of judicial processes. While I expect meaningful progress in this summer, it is critical that this work begins immediately, in time for any changes necessary to be implemented by the start of the academic year. Please plan to attend one of the Open Forums as your schedule allows.
- Federal Overtime laws: As I’ve shared in previous communications, the College is preparing for the possibility that the federal government will be changing regulations pertaining to overtime and exempt status. If implemented, this change may have an impact on staff who are currently exempt and whose salary lies below a certain level (in part, this is one of the pieces of information we do not yet know). Individuals who may be affected can expect to hear from their supervisors and Human Resources over the next few weeks as a first step in preparing in case this regulatory change comes to pass.
- Facilities work: The Regina Hall project will be completed over the summer, as will revisions to Dominican Hall living and common spaces (i.e. creation of a convenience store). In addition, some existing lab spaces in Sonderegger will be enhanced, as will the exterior of that building, with a new landscape design for the entrance that will improve both drainage and overall visual appeal.
- Signage: As a part of the Enrollment Management Transformation Fund plan implementation, the College is currently vetting vendors for assistance in improving exterior institutional signage. While it is likely that the development and full execution of the plan will take place in several phases over a number of years, it is also possible that basic improvements to existing signage may take place this summer.
Thank you for all you do to deliver on our Mission every day—especially at this time of year, when everyone feels the pressures associated with the end of the semester. I am grateful for your efforts to help our students successfully complete the semester and to either make their transition to life after Edgewood College (for those graduating) or to lay the groundwork for their return this summer or in the fall. Your work makes a difference!