As you know from last week’s announcement, our Board has formally approved plans to guide our long-term future, especially the decade following our Fiftieth Anniversary (2008-2018). For further detail, please consult the press release posted on our website.
As reported at the Campus Meeting in January, the Board discussed the planning documents in December and provided feedback. Subsequently, the Board’s Long Range Planning, Facilities, and Finance Committees completed a final review, with each unanimously recommending approval. At Thursday’s meeting, the full Board enthusiastically approved the plans.
Regarding the strategic plan, the Board had only two requests, both related to the Educational Quality priority: that the faculty evaluation system be immediately clarified and strengthened and that graduate education be emphasized and highlighted in the marketing strategy to enhance Alvernia’s reputation. Regarding the master plan, trustees approved the plan to guide the next 20-25 years and the framework for the Foundation Phase (2007-08) and Phase I (2008-13), recognizing that a few issues—like pedestrian and vehicular access between central and lower campus—will be resolved by June.
The Board also devoted its major plenary session to Alvernia’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign. “Comprehensive” refers both to the purpose and source of funding: it involves support for annual operations, facility and program priorities, and the endowment; it covers funds donated to the annual fund, cash contributions made over the next six years, and long-term, deferred gifts received in bequests or through other means.
Selection of a campaign theme, recruitment of volunteer leadership, and determination of specific priorities will be finalized by early summer. Campaign projects will flow directly from the strategic plan. As you may recall, Alvernia is one of two organizations approved for the Berks County Business Campaign in 2007-2008. That effort will be launched in November and will focus on the initial renovations of Francis Hall and the new entry and approach to campus.
The Board’s March meeting is also the traditional time for final decisions on tenure and promotion cases (reported below) and on employee compensation for the coming year.
The Board approved the administration’s recommendation of a 4% salary increase, with no change in the cost (or coverage) of health benefits. This was consistent with the recommendations of the Faculty Salary and Benefits Committee, which had suggested 3.5% to 4%, while endorsing a study of “faculty salary equity” and of “healthcare benefits, costs, and coverage options.”
The Board also received a progress report on “university status.” Trustees emphasized that this is a key goal of the new strategic plan and reaffirmed support for a thorough and timely feasibility analysis. Trustees applauded progress to date, coordinated by Provost Shirley Williams, and the additional upcoming discussions involving alumni and the broader Alvernia community. A further report is due in May, with a final report in June.
Finally, the Board took time to recognize and thank three special groups:
The new Marketing and Communications Team. (I have already received over a dozen messages from fellow presidents and alumni praising the recent magazine.)
The SPC and the Advisory Group for the Campus Master Plan. At the special reception hosted by the Board, Chair Jim Boscov praised the inclusive and collegial process that characterized the entire planning process. He also conveyed the appreciation and praise of the entire Board to those who contributed so significantly to the success of our planning efforts. Let me hear an Amen!
As you may recall, the Campus Master Plan divides into three phases: Foundation Phase (2007-08); Phase I (2008-13), Phase II (2013-18), with the remaining work far more tentative and stretching over as much as an additional fifteen to twenty years. (Imagine the challenges for any of us trying to project our lives out twenty, even ten, years in the future!) Such a plan is dynamic not static. It will change over time. Better ideas and new opportunities will emerge.
This mindset and a timeline of sequential phases make sense to me as an overall approach. We have ambitious plans. We do well to divide the work into stages and not attempt to do everything simultaneously. We also must continue to be prudent financially and not make the common mistake of other institutions of spending beyond our means.
Yet there is momentum for notable improvements, and no shortage of exciting projects. Between April 1 and June 15, led by the Vice Presidents, we will draft an overall implementation plan focused on the initial two phases (2007-2008 and 2008-2013). It will be refined over the summer. In the late summer, annual and multi-year goals will then be identified, discussed, established, and accomplished!
We have made great strides—rather quickly—with marketing, fundraising, and financial planning initiatives that support the new vision and plan. We need similar progress in other areas, such as with enrollment and academic planning. We also need a system through which the Alvernia community as well as the administration and the Board monitor and evaluate our progress. To be successful, our plans must be plans owned by the campus—and indeed the entire Alvernia—community.
Faculty members have too few times in their career when their achievements are publicly celebrated by colleagues and students. So tenure and promotion decisions are important events.
Four members of our faculty have been awarded tenure by the Board of Trustees, based on recommendations from faculty and administrative colleagues and my own strong endorsement: Jodi Radosh, Nathan Thomas, Tufan Tiglioglu, and Eva Weicker. Jodi, Nathan, and Tufan also applied for and received promotion to Associate Professor. Diverse in background and professional interests, these individuals share a passion for student learning, a strong ethic of service, and a commitment to demonstrated scholarly and creative accomplishment.
I am also pleased to announce that Beth Berret and Kevin Godfrey have been promoted to Associate Professor. Both are valued members of their departments and our faculty.
Please join me in congratulating these colleagues and anticipating with them the next stage of their career and contributions. A reception will be held later this spring.
Based on the recommendations of the Development and Research Committee and Provost Williams, Donna Yarri (Fall) and Richard Stichler (Spring) have been approved for sabbaticals next year. Both are working on books: Donna, on “Religion and Morality in the Work of Woody Allen”; Richard, on “The Ethics of Aristotle and Confucius: A Comparative Study.”
An important event will occur on Monday, April 30, as we launch Alvernia’s two new interdisciplinary Centers with a distinguished set of panelists addressing “Executive Ethics.” Panelists include Anne Stevens, new CEO of Carpenter and former COO of Ford Motor Company, and Thomas Beeman, CEO of Lancaster General Hospital.
The entrance of Alvernia into a prestigious new athletic conference, the MAC, is a cause for celebration and appreciation. Our coaches and athletic administrators are responsible for setting the expectations for our student athletes. Clearly, the invitation from the MAC is a tribute to the reputation established by John McCloskey and the staff and coaches of our Athletic and Recreation program.
Such an occasion is an equally important time for balanced perspective on intercollegiate athletics. Much as many of us enjoy the adventures of the Big East, the Big Ten, and other “bigtime” conferences, we are fortunate to be part of the student-athlete culture of Division III. Competition is equally intense, and championships are still the goal. We have expected to win in the PAC, and our future expectations are equally high.
But our students’ education and their growth as young men and women are paramount. With the rarest of exceptions, these student-athletes will, as the popular ad says, be going pro not as athletes but as teachers, health care or social service professionals, business people, lawyers, or in some other walk of life. The senior captains of the 2007 PAC Championship Men’s Basketball team, Garret Etsel and Ryan Finger, led us throughout a wild, wonderful, fun-filled season. They are also soon-to-be graduates who will do us proud.
Graduation does approach, in a few all-too-brief weeks. Best wishes to all for a great finish to what has already been a fine semester at Alvernia!
Cheers, Tom Flynn