Hiram College

Dear faculty and staff colleagues,

The future of teaching and learning is here at Hiram.

Many of you have engaged in recent discussions of how mobile technology could enhance the educational experience at Hiram College. Some of you have joined us on site visits across the country where we saw how other institutions were using mobile technology and its requisite pedagogy. As we listened to the successes and challenges experienced at those places, we began to shape our own ideas about how we might design and implement such a program here.

Following our four campus visits, we held panel discussions, small group conversations, and college-wide meetings to share what we learned, to listen to your ideas, and to answer your questions. All of this was a deliberate part of creating a transparent and inclusive fact-finding and discovery process from which we could move forward if we found a donor to help us bring these ideas to fruition.

After this thorough fact-finding and discovery process, I am thrilled to tell you that we have just received the largest single gift ever given to Hiram College (please see the following link to a press release that went out moments ago). Trustee Dean Scarborough ’77 and his wife Janice Bini are making a $2.1 million gift to fund the entire first phase of our mobile technology initiative! This transformational gift positions Hiram as the first 4-year college or university in Ohio to fully adopt a college-wide 1:1 strategy. As part of this strategy, starting this fall, we will issue an iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, and keyboard bundle to each of our full-time Traditional College students and those faculty and staff we are able to support as early adopters in the pilot program.

Being the first is good, but being the first and the best is better. 

Therefore, with you, the Senior Cabinet and I wish to truly stand apart from other liberal arts colleges (even the small number that have already embraced technological innovation). Together, many of us have pondered just how we could shape an initiative that maximizes the benefit to Hiram. As such, we aim to design and implement our 1:1 program as a both/and strategy. To fulfill this goal, we expect to use 21st-century technology to fortify–not replace or diminish—the face-to-face learning and community building that have always marked a Hiram education.

Both to facilitate and symbolize our movement in that particular direction, we have decided to call our program Tech and Trek. The name just fits what we hope to achieve at Hiram. After all, the Hiram experience is a wonderful journey of exploration and inquiry. We have come to believe that students will use tech devices as a vital part of the many exciting treks they take. Whether they are roaming through Hiram Village, hiking the trails at the Field Station, traipsing through the streams and marshes collecting research samples, or embarking on the study-abroad trips you lead that have visited 36 countries, a mobile device can help students capture and connect the ideas, feelings, images, and questions that will change their lives. It is what we have committed to help our students do in Hiram Connect. 

As faculty and staff of the College, you are the ones who pave this educational path, guiding students on their journeys to be creative, adaptable, and productive thinkers and doers. Whether you are instructing from the classroom or laboratory, leading a study-abroad trip, advising a campus organization, or visiting students during an internship or service project, you have likely asked students to formulate their questions, responses, and reflections using the interdisciplinary lenses polished in Hiram courses and activities. Those lenses are a vital component in the “learning toolbox” from which Hiram students draw.

Today, the metaphorical toolbox became a material one, given that members of our community will be receiving state-of-the-art technology tools starting this fall.

You have heard me say, particularly in recent months, that incremental changes will not be fast or strong enough to position Hiram for a sustainable future. It has never been more clear to me—and to many of you, I am sure—that we must be bold in our forward movement. I believe our Tech and Trek program will be a bold initiative that helps us address many key challenges: recruiting and retaining students, establishing a unique brand presence, and communicating our value-added proposition.

But I honestly believe it will do even more than that. If we utilize the technology to enhance the experiences and outcomes we have started talking about, then I believe we will stand apart from all other campuses that have adopted the technology. In this sense, we will add to our history of firsts–first Weekend College in Ohio, first biomedical humanities undergraduate degree in the nation. I believe we can achieve what others who have implemented a 1:1 program have not yet attained. 

One of the visible pieces that seems to be missing at most of the places that are ahead of us in implementation is the creation and charting of clear student learning outcomes. If we can help fill the void in this crucial area, we will make an unprecedented contribution to 21st-century collegiate teaching and learning. 

I can’t imagine a better faculty and staff to teach today’s students to critically and creatively use their mobile devices and to assess their learning across various dimensions. I have every confidence that you will help them use their new devices as learning tools that further hone the academic, interpersonal, and reflective skills they have long developed here. I also look forward to seeing how the administrative offices across campus utilize this technology for increased efficiency and a move towards offices less reliant on paper products. Additionally, I hope that many of us will publish and present on the “Hiram Way” of using mobile technology.

In addition to providing the mobile devices, Phase One funding will allow Hiram to upgrade its wireless infrastructure. It will also refurbish at least 15 classrooms, and it will ensure that Wi-Fi is accessible on greenspaces across campus. Phase One will also enable us to train early adopters and hire a second instructional designer to provide the support we will need for a Fall 2017 rollout. Further information on the early adopters group of faculty and staff is forthcoming.

Like many things we do at Hiram, this program is ambitious. But thanks to the incredible generosity of Dean and Janice, we have substantial resources to facilitate the implementation…and to do it “right.” Their gift is a clear signal that they understand how many of us love Hiram College and what it does in the lives of our students. Thankfully, they share these sentiments.

Please join me in thanking Dean and Janice for believing in Hiram. Their extraordinary gift is a strong indication of their confidence in us. That confidence is shared by many others on the Board who have also contributed their time, expertise, and financial resources. May our future be as strong as all of our benefactors’ faith in our endeavors.

Your grateful president,

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Lori Varlotta