Opening Assembly 2017
August 18, 2017
I could easily start and finish my remarks today with a simple and true statement: we are off to a swimmingly good start this year. If I was short winded, I could leave it at that. But what fun would that be?
As we hunker down for our Higher Learning Commission visit, we must increasingly corroborate our statements with verifiable data. So I plan to do that right now. Statement: boy, we are doing a fantastic job of positioning Hiram for a strong future. Introduction of verifiable data: how fantastic? Let me count the ways.
One. Department of Education
- Last week, I received a letter from the Department of Education that told us the composite score they calculated as part of their financial monitoring is now 2.5. This is an outstanding score to have achieved, and it puts us in very good standing with the Department of Education.
Two. Grants…Big Grants
- In June, we were informed by the Ohio Department of Higher Education that our application for a sizable mentoring and scholarship grant (~$680K) had been awarded in full! Huge kudos to Jenna Cariglio-Dorris (Director of Institutional Grants and Senior Writer) for being lead author on that proposal.
- Yesterday, I was informed by Brad Goodner (Professor of Biology) that his National Science Foundation Grant, just short of $500K, has been awarded.
- Presently, we are waiting for final approval from the US Department of State for yet another $500K grant submitted by Denny Taylor (Professor of Biology). Keep your fingers crossed for that one, too.
Three. Infrastructure and Technology Improvements
Ask Frank Ventura (Director of Computing Services) and his staff how they spent their summer vacation, and here is what you will hear verbatim:
- We upgraded Hiram’s network by adding 485 wireless access points. We now have a total of 690.
- We installed 57 outdoor wireless access points along the main walking corridors.
- We doubled Hiram’s internet bandwidth from 500 megabytes to 1,000 megabytes, and at the same time created redundancy to help minimize down time.
- We upgraded 30 classrooms with digital technology and added an Apple TV with clear sharp displays in each one.
- We purchased 1,001 iPad Pros and now are in the process of distributing them to students, faculty, and staff.
- All of this is thanks to the $2.1M gift from Trustee Dean Scarborough ’77 and his wife, Janice Bini. Please come out on Sunday, August 27, to join the festivities that celebrate the launch. On that day, you can personally thank these generous donors who are traveling to campus. The main events are taking place from 1:00 to 5:00 pm, and I would appreciate seeing as many of you there as possible.
Four. Buildings, Grounds, and Greens
- We did it…we pieced enough gifts and grants together to repair the Library roof, siding, and most windows in the building. Work is scheduled to begin September 11th.
- Others changes to the first floor of the Library are also underway, as this is the new home to the Tech and Trek Center. Please walk over and check it out.
- Thankfully, we have slowly but surely replaced or upgraded multiple heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units across campus in:
- Integrative Exercise Science Lab in the Coleman Center and meeting rooms
- Booth Lounge
- East Hall
- Library Archives
- Health Center
- We re-acquired Henry Hall and will again use it to house traditional college students.
- We are currently in the midst of updating five main lounges in the residence halls with new furniture, flooring, painting, lighting, Apple TVs, and screens.
- Over the course of the fall semester, we will be updating 12 more residence hall lounges with new furniture, carpet, and lighting. All of this is thanks to a gift by a Terrier twosome: Larry and Joyce DeYoung (‘69/’69).
- We also received a nice gift from a local couple that will give a facelift to the Garfield Robbins Zimmerman House.
- We have two new innkeepers for the Hiram Inn, Ed and Jenny Backos, who expect to open the much improved facility at the end of August.
- We are starting Phase II of Hayden Auditorium with state-appropriated dollars. Soon, we will have new windows, carpeting, drapes, stage curtain, and floor skirt…and new lighting to illuminate all of it!
- We received yet another gift to fuel the trek portion of Tech and Trek. That gift will allow us to install 13 charging stations throughout campus and water-filling stations in residence halls. We are also exploring a bike share program. Gifts will also allow us to buy all kinds of cool outdoor stuff like tents and kayaks for students (and maybe the rest of us) to rent for a nominal fee.
- Speaking of outdoor activities, we brought in more than enough money to refurbish the tennis courts. They are looking spectacular out there behind the Dining Hall.
Five. We Have Completed and Posted the Strategic Plan
- I hope every person here gets on the faculty and staff portal to read it. This is probably the 83rd or so iteration of the plan. So, as much as I value clear and error-free writing, could I possibly ask that if anyone sees a comma splice, passive voice, or an ambiguous pronoun, he/she just tucks it away at this point?
Let me end by speaking about the Strategic Plan.
- It is as operational as it is strategic.
- At this moment in history, being tactical, operational, and including metrics to measure progress is strategic.
- The plan starts to position Hiram as the New Liberal Arts.
What does it mean to be the New Liberal Arts? Somebody asked me just the other day if I conceived the New Liberal Arts as being the same as Tech and Trek. My answer was “absolutely not…the latter is a necessary, but not a sufficient component of The New Liberal Arts.”
When I think about The New Liberal Arts, I think about:
- The Who
- The What
- The Where
- The How, and
- The Why
All but the last have changed significantly.
The Who of yesteryear was male students of decent means who wished to study matters of the mind. The Who of today is a richly diverse student body who wishes to study classic and contemporary fields of study.
Hiram, for example, attracts a higher percentage of underrepresented students than many of the state universities in Ohio that have long been fashioned as the “great equalizers” of a democratic community. Hiram is a place where social mobility is fueled; we must celebrate our work in this area!
The What of yesteryear: philosophy, theology, classical languages, literature, history, and the like. Professors routinely prioritized abstract thinking and hypothetical conjecturing over concrete and applied problem solving. Many of the colonial colleges served as preparatory training for religious leaders.
Today, Accounting, Business, and Finance are three of our largest majors. Nursing is not far behind. But we have by no means abandoned our liberal arts core. Hiram’s version of the New Liberal Arts means we can prepare accountants, financial consultants, nurses, and teachers who are not only technically and clinically competent, but well-rounded, well-read, and cultured as well. Hiram graduates in these fields go far beyond the practitioner role; they become the leaders of those fields.
The Where of liberal arts colleges is also changing dramatically, and once again, an argument can be made that Hiram is leading the pack. For decades, professors at liberal arts colleges taught from their ivory towers that still stand on the well-endowed and well-preserved residential campuses.
Today’s Where, especially at Hiram, looks very different. The teaching and learning at Hiram occurs in all types of places. Some of our learning takes place at Hiram’s largest and most spectacular classroom: the James H. Barrow Field Station. Hiram students also learn in places like the Redwood Forests of Oregon, the north woods of Michigan, organic farms in Mendocino County, Bhutan, New Zealand, the Galápagos Islands, and other corners of the world.
The Where of Hiram has also been greatly expanded by our community college partner programs. As I mentioned a few moments ago, we now have more than 120 students earning a Hiram diploma from the classrooms of Lakeland, Lorain, and Tri-C community colleges.
The How of the Liberal Arts has also changed over time. And again, I would argue Hiram College is ahead of others in this domain as well. For years now, Hiram faculty have taught in flipped classrooms. The days of “sage on the stage” left Hiram long ago, and our version of the Socratic Method has students debating and interacting in a web of conversations, not just in a linear one between professor and student.
Since last year, the How of Hiram has also included blended courses. All of the courses we teach on the Professional and Graduate Studies side are blended. This means course content is delivered via a combination of online class sessions and face-to-face classroom sessions.
This fall, the How of Hiram will be continue to be expanded as we use technology to further improve and update the delivery modes for course content.
Happily, for most of us in the room, why we do what we do hasn’t changed much at all.
- We educate for freedom;
- We educate for justice;
- We educate to thrive, not just survive;
- We educate to change…maybe, in today’s reality, to mend the world.
What a time it is to be at a Liberal Arts College…a New Liberal Arts College.
What a great time it is to be at Hiram College!