Dear students, faculty, staff, and friends,
Welcome to the 2019-20 academic year where the late summer light and the soon-to-be fall hues generate a natural energy that fuels the semester’s start. This year should be an exciting one thanks to the boosts we have experienced recently. Let me summarize a few examples in this letter.
Earning a Top Ranking on the Washington Monthly 2019 College Guide
The 2019 edition of Washington Monthly’s College Guide and Rankings has listed Hiram College as number four in the country among colleges and universities that award bachelor’s degrees almost exclusively. Rankings consist of three equally weighted portions: social mobility, research, and promoting public service. To be considered a top-ranked institution, colleges must be excellent across all measures rather than excelling in just one.
Actualizing the Elements in the New Liberal Arts™
As you can see below, all majors, minors, and pathway programs are organized into Hiram’s five interdisciplinary Schools, each with its own Director.
Starting this year, students can begin or continue their studies in several new majors, including: Art and Design, International Studies, Sport Management, Theater and Performing Arts, and Crime, Law, and Justice.
Also, we are rolling out an enhanced First Year Experience this year. It ensures that all students build and maintain an electronic portfolio; complete a signature assignment; and gather each week with the entire freshmen class to hear a guest speaker, watch a video, or observe a debate during a new common-hour activity. In addition to those academic changes, faculty are continuing their work to revamp the core curriculum so that courses are tied together via the exploration of urgent challenges.
Better Utilizing the James H. Barrow and Northwoods Field Stations
One of the most important features of the New Liberal Arts is its emphasis on high-impact, experiential activities. Arguably, there are few better places to participate in such activities than our 550-acre James H. Barrow Biological Field Station located three miles from campus. Professor Jennifer Clark and her fellow team of faculty, staff, and students are coordinating an impressive array of programs at the nearby Barrow Field Station and at the remote Northwoods Field Station located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. If you are interested in getting involved with either field station, please contact Professor Clark at ClarkJM@hiram.edu.
The master planning process in which many campus constituents participated wrapped up in July, and the early fruits of our collective labor are already coming to fruition. For instance, we have just put final touches on two classrooms and four labs in Colton-Turner, transforming these spaces into collaborative learning environments. In addition to new desks, seating, whiteboards, and carpeting, we’ve upgraded equipment in these spaces to enhance student research and learning.
We’re also giving a much-needed facelift to the Pendleton House, which is in the process of getting new insulation and siding, rebuilt front and back porches, and new windows. We have scheduled a roof replacement later this fall.
And, with generous donor gifts and a legislative appropriation from the State of Ohio, construction will be underway this fall to redesign the first floor of the library. As part of this redesign, the library will include new office space for the Career Center and the Office of Learning Technologies, as well as collaborative study spaces for our students and the Hiram community.
Over the next few months, you will see even more changes happening across campus, including new campus wayfinding, improvements to the swimming pool, and renovations to the first floor of Hinsdale Hall as it becomes the home for the Scarborough School of Business & Communication.
Breaking Records (Again) in Fundraising
Over the past year, we have received hundreds of notes, calls, and comments of support regarding Hiram’s bold plan for the future. As I traveled the country last year introducing the New Liberal Arts, alumni near and far asked questions, engaged in thoughtful conversations, and almost unanimously expressed strong support for the changes we are making.
Our alumni, along with the Board of Trustees and friends of the College, were as generous—actually more generous than ever—last year. When we closed the fiscal books this summer, the numbers confirmed that we set our fourth consecutive fundraising record. For the first time in the College’s 169-year history, we hit the double-digit million-dollar mark for cash gifts received. We brought in $10.2M in cash last year. This success positions us to hit the goals included in our targeted Vision 20/20 campaign that we launched just under a year ago. As the names suggests, the campaign is meant to guide our short-term efforts to bring in $20M in cash and $20M in pledges by fiscal year-end 2020.
Acknowledging the Success of our Graduates
The Career Center recently concluded the compilation and analysis of the data it collects for the First Destination Survey. This survey is sent to graduates six months after their degrees are conferred so that we know where they are and what they are doing from a career perspective. I was delighted to learn the survey shows that 95% of our 2018 graduates are employed or continuing their education. Of those graduates now in the workforce, 87% are employed full-time and 91% are in their field of choice. For those who are continuing their education, nearly 10% are pursuing a professional degree (MD, DVM, DPT) while 9% are pursuing PhDs.
Preparing for our HLC Visit
Hiram College’s accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission, will be visiting campus in early March 2020 as part of our re-accreditation process. Many of us in the faculty and on the staff began preparations for this visit two years ago. For some time now, we have been drafting preliminary reports to HLC and reporting data related to new initiatives, academic programs, and other changes implemented in the ten years since HLC’s last visit. I invite all faculty and staff reading this to stay involved as we host feedback sessions on our emerging reports, write and circulate newsletters, and gather other ideas we can use as we put the final touches on the materials we will send to the HLC later this fall.
There are countless reasons we have continued to make such remarkable strides. One of the main reasons is that momentum is on our side. I have every reason to believe it will continue to propel us onward, but we can assure that it does so by having each and every one of us commit to being a part of this powerful and positive thrust forward. I promise to do my part, and I am sure all of you will do yours.
Lori E. Varlotta