On her second day on the job, Hiram College President Lori Varlotta sent the following note to students, faculty, staff and friends:
Greetings from your new president! I hope this message finds you well and ready to enjoy the Fourth of July holiday. I can see from the flyers distributed last week that the campus and the village know how to put on a good party.
Before we get into celebration mode, however, I thought I would continue President Chema’s tradition in sending an electronic update to the community. My thought is to send an update every other week, so let’s see
if that makes good sense.
Like all of you, I have been quite busy these past several months. As you probably know, I have been lucky enough to visit campus three times since my appointment was announced in February. Each visit was an illuminating and productive one, and I can now say that I feel rather oriented to Hiram. Don’t get me wrong: I have much to learn, but like the incoming freshman who has done a campus visit or two, stayed overnight and attended orientation, I am getting a feel for the place and a sense of belonging. It feels good. I had the chance to share some of these thoughts with the College Relations staff earlier this week, and you can read the whole interview here: http://www.hiram.edu/about/president/q-a
I have been meeting with, listening to and trying to learn from faculty, staff, students, administrators, alumni and friends. I suspect I have met more than two hundred folks already. Though the conversations vary somewhat from group to group, two overlapping themes and suggestions surfaced again and again. Briefly stated, they included:
- Creating and maintaining a strategic enrollment plan (one that includes the traditional undergraduate college, the Weekend College and community college partnerships).
- Identifying and securing external funds via grants; gifts; and business, corporate and agency supports.
Both of these ideas seemed like good ones upon which to focus our attention, so the cabinet and I have done exactly that. Since April, we have:
- Identified several enrollment-related initiatives we believe will show an impressive and early return on investment. We’ve shared these initiatives with the Board of Trustees, who as a group, have backed the programs and personally, pledged financial support.
- Hired Jamie Hobba as the interim vice president of enrollment, to lead the admission and financial aid areas following Jim Abbuhl’s departure. Jamie is working diligently with his colleagues in both offices to convert as many qualified applicants to enrollees as possible.
- Begun drafting concept papers on how Hiram can increase enrollment, especially degree completions programs, at some of our community college partner sites
- Written a proposal to solicit support for renovating the Hayden Auditorium.
- Written a second proposal called “Hiram Connect” that aims to integrate academic advising, career services and experiential education to ensure that all students complete an internship, service learning or research project before they graduate. We know it is vitally important for students to translate classroom theory to practical, hands-on activities, and Hiram Connect will be the key mechanism for facilitating that translation. I will be sharing more about this initiative and others in my next email.
- Submitted a major grant proposal called “First in the World” to the Department of Education. The grant is aimed at generating business partnerships and funds to support a cohort model of experiential learning, community building and career pathways. Several faculty, staff, administrators and trustees played an active role in readying this proposal for submission.
I believe these pursuits are aligned with much of what I have been hearing, reading and seeing, and I will be happy to discuss them in greater detail when we have our first town hall meeting in early fall. All students, faculty and staff will be welcome at this meeting, where I will answer questions and discuss emerging priorities.
In closing, please do know that due to commitments that were made long before I received my Hiram appointment, I am spending most of early July working remotely. Thanks to modern technology and the patience and expertise of Frank Ventura, the distance is not a problem, as I am tightly tethered to campus.
I look forward to seeing you all soon. Have a great weekend,
Dr. Lori Varlotta, President, Hiram College