Welcome back to Hiram’s spring semester where the cold air is keeping us refreshed and moving quickly. I hope that sense of exhilaration is contagious such that all of you reading this will want to be a part of the momentous movement we are making at the College.
This letter reports on the immense progress our faculty, staff, and administrators have made in bringing the model of the New Liberal Arts to life. Let me summarize some of of highlights here.
Actualizing the Elements in the New Liberal Arts™
- All of Hiram’s majors, minors, and pathway programs have been organized into five interdisciplinary Schools. School Directors, delineated below, took office this January and are working closely with each other and with faculty in their home School.
- Faculty have formally approved the addition of the following new majors: Sport Management; International Studies; Art, Film, and Digital Design. Classes in Criminal Justice are now available, with the expectation that the major will be officially added this spring.
- Starting this fall, the First Year Experience will be modified to include a common-hour period where all freshmen gather to hear a guest speaker, watch a video, observe a debate, and more.
- Faculty are working diligently 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 very own James H. Barrow Biological Field Station located three miles from campus. Professor Jennifer Clark, Ph.D. has been appointed as the Director of Academic Programs for the Field Station. She is overseeing the design and implementation of academic programs, research opportunities, and co-curricular activities there. To guide her leadership, Professor Clark and faculty and staff affiliated with the Field Station are heavily involved in a strategic planning process this spring. That plan is aimed at helping us promote the unique opportunities associated with this 550-acre local field station.
Early in this process, we have developed this new mission statement that reflects the Field Station’s history and its activities today:
As one of the most ecologically diverse natural “classrooms” in the collegiate Midwest, Hiram College’s James H. Barrow Biological Field Station offers students, faculty, staff, and visitors a variety of educational, research-oriented, and inspirational programs that focus on conservation, environmental stewardship, and scientific discovery.
Embedded in this statement are five areas of concentration around which the Field Station has long revolved: 1) biodiversity conservation and environmental stewardship, 2) field-based scientific research, 3) education and community outreach, 4) animal conservation and husbandry, and 5) nature inspiration and creativity.
That planning process will continue over the next few months. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact Professor Clark at ClarkJM@hiram.edu.
At the same time, we are working to promote more heavily our Northwoods Field Station. This beautiful, rustic station is located in Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Part of the New Liberal Arts is to position both field stations as integral places for the “trekking” pieces of Tech and Trek™.
Undertaking a Comprehensive Master Planning Process
Being the highly “planful” (if this is not a word elsewhere, it is at Hiram) campus that we are, Hiram has also embarked on a comprehensive master planning process in late fall. To facilitate this process, we have contracted a Cleveland-based planning and architectural firm, DLR Group.
The master plan will help officials enhance and strengthen key buildings, green spaces, sections of the historic village, and the connections that tie them all together as part of Hiram College’s legacy. In doing so, the plan will help us design a conceptual roadmap to guide the future growth and development of the College. Members from the DLR Group hosted a first round of focus groups in November. It included over 90 faculty, staff, students, and village officials. DLR will be on campus several more times this spring. Like all processes here, this one is inclusive and transparent, so if you want to be involved in a focus group or conversation, please contact Phil Eaves at EavesPJ@hiram.edu. So far, early projects associated with the plan include:
- The first floor of the Library will continue to be transformed into the Hiram Learning and Technology Collaborative, a space that houses Tech and Trek and Hiram Connect (which includes Career and Academic Development, Study Away, and Student Research).
- 2018-19 residence hall renovations, including various bathroom modernization projects, new carpets, furniture upgrades, and other basic amenities in six halls around campus are almost complete. A whole new round is scheduled to begin in summer 2019.
- Many technology upgrades have been completed including enhancements at the James H. Barrow Biological Field Station. We can all use our mobile devices and other smart classroom teaching tools in most of the high-traffic places there.
- Our century homes will be outfitted with new technology upgrades in the near future. Gerstacker received several technology enhancements including the modernization of several classrooms and the installation of a digital signage system.
- Our IT staff worked diligently to complete a telephone crossover to a VOIP system, and we are now using phones that were designed in and for the 21st century!
News of the Fundraising and Alumni Relations Fronts
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 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 broke yet another fundraising record. Impressively, we logged in over $9.8M in cash, and this marks the third consecutive banner year. This fundraising success positions us very well for the targeted campaign called Vision 20/20 that we launched in the fall. 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.
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 forward, 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