The hustle and bustle of the fall semester is upon us. New and continuing students have made their way back to campus to begin another academic year. Like all of you, I can feel their energy and enthusiasm. After three decades of academic leadership, I have learned that if we tap our students as one of our primary energy sources, it will fuel our forward movement throughout the year ahead.
We begin this academic year with great anticipation. Many of us have spent the summer thinking through The New Liberal Arts that Hiram College will prototype. And, as the 2018-19 academic year commences, we are moving into implementation mode. Already, faculty and administrators have made great strides in bringing the model of The New Liberal Arts to life as you can read in the summary of highlights below.
Progress in Actualizing “The New Liberal Arts™”
- The new School structure has been finalized. As discussed for several months now, each of our majors, minors, and pathway programs will be a part of one of five interdisciplinary Schools. The School structure opens itself to naming opportunities, and I am thrilled to tell you that the School of Business & Communication bears the name of our lead donor and Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Dean Scarborough ‘77. See the graphic below for the names of the Schools and how majors and minors are clustered.
- Several faculty groups have worked this summer to design the curriculum for new or recently configured majors. These summer work groups will bring their curricular designs to appropriate faculty and administrative entities for final approval this fall. Along these lines, we are proud to announce new programs in Sport Management, International Studies, and Criminal Justice. And we are also pleased to share that we have reconfigured significantly our offering in the arts. Faculty groups are putting final touches on the new Art and Digital Design program and a new music and theater program.
- Additions and modifications to other academic programs were also set in place during the summer of 2018. Changes and enhancements to the programs and facilities at both the James H. Barrow and the Northwoods Field Stations top this list. A notable enhancement in this area is the appointment of Professor Jennifer Clark, Ph.D. as co-director (along with Jim Metzinger) of the Barrow Field Station and director of the Northwoods Field Station. Professor Clark has been charged with overseeing the design and implementation of academic programs, research opportunities, and co-curricular activities at both sites. Professor Clark, Jim Metzinger, and others will work together to formulate a Field Station Strategic Plan that helps us promote the unique academic, research, social, and recreational opportunities associated with these wonderful natural assets. One of the goals of the New Liberal Arts is to use both Field Stations as integral places for the “trekking” pieces of Tech and Trek™.
Physical and Technological Upgrades
If you take even a short walk around campus, you will see any number of signs that say “Philanthropy at Work.” These are visual reminders of the many improvement projects made possible through private donor gifts, state or other agency grants, or philanthropic foundation awards. Thanks to these extramural funds, our physical plant colleagues and many others are plowing (sometimes literally) through all kinds of exciting projects. Key ones include these:
- 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).
- Residence hall renovations are well underway, including various bathroom modernization projects, new carpets, furniture upgrades, and other basic amenities in six halls around campus.
- Technology upgrades continue on campus. The technology project at the James H. Barrow Field Station is right on track and soon all of us will be able to use our mobile devices and other resources in most of the high-traffic places there. Our century homes are also getting tech upgrades in the near future. Gerstacker received several technology enhancements including the modernization of several classrooms and the installation of a digital signage system.
- A telephone crossover to a VOIP system will take place in mid-September.
News of the Fundraising and Alumni Relations Fronts
Over the past few months, we have received hundreds of notes, calls, and comments about 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. Their support was seen again at Alumni Weekend when nearly 1,000 alums visited their alma mater over the course of the weekend, and a record number of them showed up for the coffee chat with the College President and Chairman of the Board on Saturday morning.
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. We are immensely grateful that so many of our donors have earmarked their gifts for pieces and parts of the academic redesign and numerous others have made gifts for operating support. Our fundraising success positions us very well for launching a boutique campaign we call 20/20 Vision where we expect to bring in $20M in cash and $20M in pledges by fiscal year-end 2020.
There is a reason we have continued to make such remarkable strides: 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