Presidential Update

March 1, 2020

Last week, the Westminster Board of Trustees met to hear updates about the campus, discuss board development and governance, and attend the groundbreaking ceremony for Gillmor Hall. Thank you to everyone who organized and participated in that event. The highlights came from our students, including the impassioned remarks of our ASW President, Maggie Regier:

“...the arts are pure magic. They tell stories in a way that is unlike any other experience. A single note on the piano can evoke an entire array of emotion. The arts also allow us to escape: to put our phones away, breathe, and get lost in the music… taking time to recenter and relax so we can live longer, healthier lives.”

Students at Gillmor Hall Groundbreaking Ceremony

Breaking ground for Gillmor Hall

Students perfoming a song at the Gillmor Hall groundbreaking ceremony

Our trustees and donors were inspired by the event and student performances. They were also encouraged by the numerous efforts underway to move Westminster forward on a sustainable path of excellence. I shared with the trustees much of the information from our campus budget and strategy sessions last month, as well as many of the changes across campus, including:

  • Increased services and initiatives around student wellness
  • Collaborative efforts to enhance the transfer student experience
  • Coordination of graduate program marketing and promotion
  • Greater attention to professional development and integration of disability in our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts
  • Increasingly successful fundraising, annual giving, and alumni programming
  • More robust recruiting efforts
  • Collaboration across financial services, enrollment management, academic affairs, institutional research, financial aid, and others to build integrated budget models for the future

Above all, from the staff and cabinet activities to the faculty presentations informed by new data, trustees left impressed by the level of collaboration and collective energy that increasingly characterizes our efforts. They, like the rest of us, are keenly aware of our challenges, but also buoyed by our shared trajectory and future potential.

I also shared information about the work of the strategic positioning group (co-chaired by Debbie Tahmassebi and Richard Badenhausen, and including Christie Fox, Kellie Gerbers, Jennifer Harrison, Julie Honey, Erica Johnson, Matt Kruback, Julian Mendez, Karnell McConnell-Black, Lance Newman, and Traci Siriprathane) and possible directions for our next strategic plan. Their recommendations identify the existing strengths of Westminster, particularly as they provide opportunities to attract prospective undergraduate students. In addition to amplifying and elevating signature features, the workgroup affirmed core, sustaining values of Westminster, which includes the synergy of liberal arts with graduate and professional education as ideal preparation for successfully navigating and positively impacting a diverse and changing world. The foundational knowledge, values, and skills of liberal learning, including critical thinking, communication, creativity, collaboration, and global responsibility, guide all academic programs.

The group worked under the assumption that some priorities and programs of Westminster College would be sustained into the future, regardless of whether they were specifically referenced in a strategic positioning or planning document. We remain committed to student recruitment, persistence, and graduation; to building a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community; to high impact practices in student success; to community-focused learning; to faculty excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service; and to competitive participation in NCAA Division II athletics. The campus will continue to be small enough for students to make full use of the support and resources available across campus, while also functioning as a comprehensive university, with undergraduate and graduate students across the Schools of Business, Nursing and Health Sciences, Education, Arts and Sciences, and the Honors College.

Next week, in the March 3 sessions for the campus community (9–10 a.m. and 3:30–4:30 p.m., HWAC Special Events Room), we’ll briefly review the assumptions underlying and progress made in our last strategic plan and discuss a framework for moving forward. In the meantime, know that the education we provide and the achievements of our students and faculty continue to prove the value of what we do. Thank you for being “all in” at Westminster.

Beth Dobkin