Dear students, faculty, staff, and friends,
Welcome to the Spring 2020 semester when cold air and bursts of sunshine invigorate our minds and our bodies. We enter this semester propelled by 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
Earlier this academic year, the 2019 edition of Washington Monthly’s College Guide and Rankings 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.
As part of this academic year, students began or continued their studies in several new majors, including: art and design, international studies, sport management, theater and performing arts, and crime, law, and justice.
In August, we also rolled out an enhanced First Year Experience. 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 Utilization of 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 over the summer, and the early fruits of our collective labor are already coming to fruition. For instance, we have completed the upgrades 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 updated equipment in these spaces to enhance student research and learning.
We’ve also given a much-needed facelift to the Pendleton House, which now bears new insulation and siding, rebuilt front and back porches, and new windows. Thankfully, the roof was replaced in time before the brunt of winter.
And with generous donor gifts and a legislative appropriation from the State of Ohio, construction is currently underway 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 and major renovations to the first floor of Hinsdale Hall as it officially becomes the home of the Scarborough School of Business & Communication.
Breaking Records (Again) in Fundraising
Members of the leadership team and I have continued to receive hundreds of notes, calls, and comments of support regarding Hiram’s bold plan for the future. As I travel the country explaining the New Liberal Arts, alumni near and far ask questions, engage in thoughtful conversations, and almost unanimously express strong support for the changes we are making.
Last year, our alumni, along with the Board of Trustees and friends of the College, were more generous than ever. When we closed the fiscal books in June 2019, 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: bringing in $10.2M in cash last year. We are working hard to match or beat that all-time record this year!
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 within 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 94% of our 2019 graduates are employed or continuing their education. Of those graduates now in the workforce, 95% are employed full-time and 92% are in their field of choice. For those who are continuing their education, nearly 28% are pursuing a professional degree (MD, DVM, DPT).
Preparing for our HLC Visit
Hiram College’s accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission, will be visiting campus on March 2-3, 2020 as part of our re-accreditation process. Over the last many months, teams of faculty, staff, and administrators drafted the self-study report to HLC and added hundreds of “corroborating evidence documents.” I personally invite faculty, staff, and students to attend the HLC open forums in March. You may get details from Professor Ellen Walker, Hiram College’s accreditation liaison.
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