Faculty Meeting of November 9, 2012
Posted on November 9, 2012
President Ronald A. Crutcher called the faculty meeting to order at 2:00 pm on Friday, November 9, 2012 in Hindle Auditorium in the Science Center.
President Crutcher began his remarks by announcing the names of those who will receive honorary degrees at Commencement in May--Patricia Flaherty ’83, Senior Project Manager for the Mission Hill Neighborhood Housing Services, a community-based nonprofit housing and economic development organization located in Boston; Diane Leshefsky Troderman ’63, a philanthropist who has held numerous leadership roles in the Jewish community on local, national and international levels; and this year’s Commencement speaker, Judge Nancy Gertner, former U.S. federal judge for the District Court of Massachusetts appointed in 1994 by President Bill Clinton. Judge Gertner is a graduate of Barnard College, Columbia University and Yale University and is currently on the faculty at Harvard Law School. The Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees reviews the list of names in September.
The President invited the faculty to nominate candidates to receive an honorary degree or to give the Commencement address in future years by sending their names to him.
The President reminded the faculty that Wheaton is ranked tenth among the top liberal arts colleges whose students receive Fulbright scholarships. This is the eighth year in a row that Wheaton has been ranked in the top ten. Professor Russell Williams prepared an analysis based on the total number of Fulbright applicants at the school versus the total number of awards. The result of that analysis indicated that Wheaton is actually ranked number four when the number of applications is considered. Professor Kathy Morgan thanked Dean Alex Trayford and the faculty members who worked with the students and wrote recommendation letters contributing to the College’s success in receiving these awards.
President Crutcher called on Vice President for Finance and Administration Brian Douglas to present information on the endowment in addition to the information presented at the last faculty meeting. Referring to the question posed by Professor Tommasina Gabriele at the last faculty meeting concerning the impact of the Capital Campaign on the endowment, Mr. Douglas said that to date, $18,600,000 in gifts and pledges has been received and invested in the endowment from the Capital Campaign; another $15,400,000 in outstanding pledges will be received, amounting to a net of $34,000,000 from the Capital Campaign to be put toward the endowment. With another twenty months to go in the Capital Campaign, the numbers could improve. Mr. Douglas went on to speak about the private investments in the College’s endowment. He said that the College has an unusually high percentage of its endowment in private investments compared to peer institutions. He reminded the faculty that it is not easy to move away from these types of investments. Our investment advisors (LVW) have reviewed the private investments with a number of firms who specialize in buying and selling these. As a result of that process, they confirmed that if these investments were sold, the College would have to take a 25% to 30% loss instead of a normally anticipated loss of 15% to 20%. However, LVW found that these same investments would help the performance of the endowment over the next three years and have a good chance of returning earnings to the endowment. Mr. Douglas explained that, given these findings, the Investment Committee decided that this was not the right time to divest from the private investments.
The President noted that the plan during the Capital Campaign was to raise $44,000,000 for scholarships. To date, $32,000,000 has been raised however; 61% of that amount is in deferred gifts. He went on to share a portion of the PowerPoint presentation given to the Board of Trustees in October. He noted that the Board of Trustees unanimously endorsed the new Strategic Initiatives for the College. The President reminded the faculty of the three primary goals established last year in the Focus Plan; namely, to return the College to financial equilibrium, to add value to a Wheaton degree and to create a platform from which to achieve these priorities. He said that even though there were positive results from the Focus Plan last year, there are still pressures on higher education institutions, particularly liberal arts colleges. The President and the Vice Presidents spent the summer working with research associates from Harvard and the College’s econometrics consultant investigating approximately twenty strategies to identify dynamic strategies that would position Wheaton well and lead to the College becoming a stronger, more vibrant institution. He spoke about how these strategic initiatives were evaluated and the reasons for choosing the final ones.
- Whether they brought new revenues to the College.
- Whether they added value to the Wheaton degree.
- Whether they diversified the College’s offerings.
The main initiatives chosen:
- Add a new major that would complement the traditional Liberal Arts majors (the Business major).
- Target a larger and more globally diverse student body (the Admissions staff is currently recruiting in foreign countries, particularly China).
- Expand the academic enterprise to serve graduate students (niche areas).
- Utilize the campus facilities year round with a broader age profile on campus.
There were four secondary strategies:
- Online and blended learning.
- Expanded internships.
- Three-year degrees.
- Community music school.
Each one of the four secondary strategies has a Vice President overseeing the timelines, strategies, resources, etc. The President will oversee the community music school. He addressed the reasons for making these changes now. The cost of college tuitions has risen far higher and faster than family incomes; families are looking for real value when looking at colleges. President Crutcher said that the initiatives that the College is taking “represent the inspired evolution of the liberal arts while remaining distinctively Wheaton.” He said that in ten years, Wheaton will remain a liberal arts college but with other offerings. The liberal arts core will persist. These initiatives will provide Wheaton with the strength to respond to emerging issues. They build on the College’s strengths as a liberal arts college. He went on to say that all of the strategies have been thoughtfully researched; they were tested with Wheaton “friends” and with a consulting firm for their feedback; these consultants affirmed that the College would move in a strong direction by implementing these initiatives.
President Crutcher spoke about the plans to utilize the campus facilities year round. The College has been in conversation with the EXPLO program, a thirty-year-old science exploration program for intellectually curious students ages nine through seventeen. Currently, these programs take place at three different locations (including Wellesley College and Yale University), and they were looking for a new location for their nine through twelve-year-old students. Starting in 2014, they will be at Wheaton. The students come from forty different states, fifty different countries and they are all full-pay students. He commended Kristen Turcotte for her work with the directors of EXPLO. Provost Eisenmann spoke about the EXPLO program. She explained that the program considers the interests that students have; those interests are incorporated into courses that are a mix of both challenge and fun. Graduate students and college students generally teach the courses. The Provost went on to say that the director of EXPLO is interested in any “engagement” that our faculty would like to have. She explained that faculty participation is optional but faculty members may be interested in participating in some capacity from serving on one of their committees to helping to put a curriculum together by serving as a “content expert”.
The President noted that the financial gains from these new initiatives wouldn’t be fully realized for a couple of years. Some modest investments will have to be made to implement these strategies. He emphasized the fact that there will not be further cuts in personnel. The President outlined the overall benefits of the strategies—they build on our strengths, they help the College to maintain its market position, they will lead to a more desirable and more vibrant Wheaton and a more sustainable financial institution. He went on to speak about the next steps. He said that the implementation of these strategies is critical; “it has to be fast but not hasty, it has to be creative and nimble but with attention to people and detail and we have to be committed to achieving the outcomes.” There needs to be a new planning process for Wheaton. The current strategic plan will conclude in 2014. Over time, the President will be consulting with the Faculty and Staff Planning and Priorities Committees, the Advisory Committee, the Provost’s Advisory Committee and the Staff Council to develop a process for the next plan. The President emphasized that these strategic initiatives will help the College for the next five years to achieve a stable plateau, although they don’t address major issues relating to the College’s operations. The biggest issue that the College faces is the cost of higher education. He said that many colleges are keeping tuition flat but Wheaton is not currently in a position to hold back tuition increases. The President ended his remarks by stating that the outcome of the discussions with the Board of Trustees was positive.
The minutes from the October 5th faculty meeting were approved as circulated.
Provost Eisenmann began her remarks by announcing recent faculty publications. Professor of English Sam Coale’s new book is entitled Quirks of the Quantum; Postmodernism and Contemporary American Fiction; Associate Professor of History Yuen-Gen Liang is the co-editor of the special issue of the Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies and the co-author of the introduction entitled “A Forgotten Empire: the Spanish-North African Borderlands”; Professor of Geology Geoffrey Collins, together with colleagues, has published an article in the Journal of Geophysical Research entitled “Influence of temperature, composition, and grain size on the tensile failure of water ice: Implications for erosion on Titan”; an article by Assistant Professor of English Talitha Espiritu entitled “Native subjects on display: reviving the colonial exposition of Marcos’ Philippines” was published in Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture. In addition to the faculty publications, the Provost announced that Assistant Professor of Education Scott Gelber received an award from the History of Education Society to recognize and reward the most outstanding scholarly work in the field of the history of higher education in the United States produced by a junior scholar in the immediate prior two years. He was awarded the prize for his book entitled The University and the People: Envisioning American Higher Education in an era of Populist Protest.
Discussion regarding the strategic initiatives followed. Professor Mark LeBlanc asked which Vice Presidents were assigned to oversee the three secondary strategies and the timeline for implementation that will involve the faculty. Provost Eisenmann and Director of Career Services Lisa Gavigan will oversee the expanded internships, Brian Douglas will take the lead on the online and blended learning by considering work that Associate Provost Relihan has done on this strategy to date, and Gail Berson and Director of Communications Mike Graca will oversee the three-year degree option. The Provost pointed out that because these three strategies are secondary, they are not an immediate priority. She said that the plans for a three-year degree would not change any aspect of the curriculum; only the language will be made clearer to make it more obvious to students, as more students are expressing interest. The College website already features a guide for how a student can obtain a Wheaton degree in six or seven semesters. The Provost said that she is open to suggestions on the best ways to integrate previous work with new ideas on both the internships and the online blended learning initiatives. Professor Shumway asked why the three-year plan is advantageous. Provost Eisenmann responded. She said that the three-year plan is advantageous only if it brings in more students at the start. But if we don’t offer a three-year program, we risk losing students to other schools that offer the option. Professor Nancy Evans asked how students finish their degrees in three years. The Provost explained that it is a combination of advanced placement credits, international baccalaureate credits, taking overloads during the semester, or summer school credits from other institutions. The Provost cautioned that successful completion early requires effective advising; students have to be strong and be able to carry an overload of courses. Professor Evans also noted that the major has to be factored in, especially during the sophomore and junior year.
Professor John Miller said that given that there seems to be a great deal of discussion about our rising discount rate. This would suggest that net tuition revenue isn’t increasing very quickly; he asked if it makes sense to publish those numbers to demonstrate that once you get past the sticker price, net tuition, in fact, is not rising. Mr. Douglas responded. He said that indeed the most important question is net tuition revenue and not the total tuition value. The calculations for the current five-year plan show an increase in net tuition revenue partly driven by the inflationary increases in the tuition rate and increases in the number of students with the ability to pay. He said that Professor Miller is correct by suggesting that we hold the net tuition rate constant by increasing the amount of aid. The suggestion to reverse this trend does not seem to be the way to go for the College in the next five years, but it is a subject for ongoing conversations. President Crutcher noted that as Wheaton attracts more full paying students, it may be possible to hold the overall tuition value constant.
Professor Darlene Boroviak asked if the graduate course in Education advertised recently is the first step in offering graduate degrees. Professor Mary Lee Griffin, Chair of the Education Department, explained that the state of Massachusetts has been told by the Department of Justice that they are not addressing the needs of teachers of English language learners so new regulations are being put in place and from 2014 onward our Education majors will not only need an endorsement from the College that they have successfully completed the three programs for teaching elementary, intermediate and secondary education, but they will now need a second endorsement from the College that they have successfully completed a graduate level course in teaching English language learners. Originally, the department thought that they would offer an experimental course as a 298 and then it would go to the Educational Policy Committee next year for their approval; but now every K through 12 teacher in the state of Massachusetts is going to have to have this endorsement in order to continue to retain their license to teach. In order to be fair to students graduating in 2013, the department decided to bump the course up to the graduate level. She assured the faculty that the department had checked with the Committee on Educational Policy and had their approval.
Professor MaryBeth Tierney-Tello, Chair of the Committee on Faculty Scholarship and Promotion, presented new and improved guidelines for applying for Faculty Summer Research Awards in the hopes of generating a wide and deep pool of applications for summer research funding. She pointed out the changes to the guidelines and noted that the funding provided by the Mellon Foundation grant has two more years, expiring in 2014. The Committee would like to encourage as many people as possible to apply for these grants. Professor Tommasina Gabriele asked about the number of grants available and if the Committee on Faculty Scholarship had tracked whether or not the number of awards given out over the last five years has gone up or down. Professor Tierney-Tello noted that the number of awards available is determined by the funding available, especially endowment. Last year there were 31 awards available. Provost Eisenmann stated that because revenues from endowment funds were decreasing in the last few years, she submitted a grant proposal to the Mellon Foundation to support faculty and faculty/student research, which was successful.
Provost Eisenmann reminded the faculty that at the end of the last academic year, Wheaton was one of nine liberal arts institutions in Massachusetts and New York invited by the American Association of Colleges and Universities, through their LEAP program, to be part of a two and a half-year grant from the Teagle Foundation called “Faculty Leadership for Integrative Learning: Principles and Practices.” The Provost explained that the idea is to work specifically with liberal arts colleges to see what efforts are focused on integrative learning. Teams of three (two faculty members and one administrator) from each school will work together to develop a set of principles and practices that work well on the campuses to “create or strengthen faculty leadership and oversight of integrative liberal learning”. Faculty members of Wheaton’s team are Professors Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus and Kathy Morgan. Provost Eisenmann will serve as the academic administrator. Professors Brumberg-Kraus and Morgan spoke about the project and about the workshop that they attended at Clark University on October 22nd. They spoke about how integrative learning includes various pieces of the current curriculum; however, work is required towards better articulating to our students and to those outside of Wheaton what our goals and successes are. The Provost outlined the next steps to be taken. A meeting will be scheduled to ascertain faculty members’ interest in participating in the project. The team will be reaching out to faculty for their input. They see this project as an opportunity to share information with the other colleges and to learn from them in return. Professors Brumberg-Kraus and Morgan noted that this project is a faculty project. The faculty will define the principle and practices of the integrated learning project.
Professor Tommasina Gabriele asked about the specific charge to the Business Major sub-committee. Professor Chris Kalberg, Chair of the Committee on Committees and Agenda responded that they are charged with developing a proposal for formulating the business major. Professor Gabriele also asked if the new major will be in place in time for recruiting faculty members this spring and if the search committee members will be drawn from the Business Major sub-committee. Professor Kalberg said it would depend on how quickly the major is approved by the Educational Policy Committee. President Crutcher said that he hopes that Gail Berson will be able to advertise the offering of a business major in her recruiting efforts as soon as possible. He did say that he expects that courses for the business major will be in place as soon as the fall of 2014.
Professor Dolita Cathcart reminded the faculty of the party for faculty being held at the Trattoria Della Nonna following the faculty meeting.
Dean Lee Williams announced that the women’s soccer team would be hosting the first round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday, November 10th. She urged faculty to attend.
The meeting was adjourned at 3:35 pm.
Lynda S. Marcoccia
Senior Executive Assistant to the Provost
Secretary to the Faculty.