President Michael S. Roth
- Preliminary Reflections On Planning (September 2009)
- I. Introduction
- II. Values and culture
- III. Mission [community draft]
- IV. Context and challenges
- V. Overarching goals
- VI. Specific objectives and strategies
- VII. Benchmarks and peer institutions
- VIII. Conclusion: Wesleyan in 2020
- Submit a public comment
Preliminary Reflections On Planning (September 2009)
Education should be directed with reference to two objects-the good of the individual, and the good of the world.
-Wesleyan President Willbur Fisk, Inaugural address, September 21, 1831
I have organized these reflections in eight sections. The Introduction provides my sense of the immediate historical background of strategic planning at Wesleyan. Values and Culture offers brief descriptions of the university as a locus of teaching, research and citizenship. Mission is simply the current draft of the brief mission statement that has already been responded to by faculty, staff and students over the past several months. Context and Challenges describes four aspects of our environment that present obstacles to fulfilling our mission. Overarching Goals presents three major targets for our planning, and Specific Objectives and Strategies offers a series of specific steps we can take to reach our targets. I have put a few examples under Benchmarks and Peer Institutions for evaluating our progress in these areas, and this will have to be developed as part of a planning document. Finally, I briefly add a few words by way of a Conclusion on how Wesleyan might look in 2020 if we successfully pursue the goals and strategies herein.
During the period when Victor Butterfield was president of Wesleyan University (1943-1967), higher education in the United States went through a dramatic transformation. The modern research university came into its own as a center for scientific and cultural innovation, and undergraduate education became for the first time a realistic possibility for men and women from all sectors of society. The best schools in the country took on the dual task of specialized instruction based in advanced research and general education based in the traditions of the liberal arts. During this period Butterfield guided Wesleyan to a distinctive model of higher learning: liberal arts education based in advanced research and open to students regardless of their ability to pay. Wesleyan was at the forefront of interdisciplinary programs that defied departmental boundaries in the service of cultivating a passion for lifelong learning, and it created support for research that allowed its faculty to contribute to advancing their chosen fields. Sophisticated experimentation in the sciences and in the arts was meant to be a catalyst for new thinking and experimental pedagogical practices, and it was. A commitment to access for groups previously excluded from higher education was meant to disrupt the “finishing school” atmosphere pervading many undergraduate programs, and it did. These developments were wedded to the ethico-political commitment to the “good of the world” enunciated by Wesleyan’s first president, Wilbur Fisk. Wesleyan University became known as a leader of progressive liberal arts education in the United States, attracting distinguished scientists, artists and scholars who saw their role as educators as a key part of their professional lives. Wesleyan also attracted a diverse community of students eager to learn from faculty who boldly pursued research and artistic practice and from fellow students who were committed to extending the lessons of that work beyond the borders of the campus.
During the tumultuous years of the late 1960s and 1970s, Wesleyan was often at the forefront of efforts to open higher education to new fields of study and to students from previously under-represented groups. President Colin Campbell worked closely with students, faculty, staff and alumni to ensure that Wesleyan would carve out a distinctive niche as an inclusive institution dedicated to advanced research and strong mentoring. The university’s programs and facilities expanded during this period, and new interdisciplinary centers were developed. The Center for African American Studies, which grew out of the African American Institute (founded in 1969), was established in 1974. The Center for the Arts, home of the university’s visual and performance arts departments and performance series, was designed by prominent architects Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo and opened in the fall of 1973. By the mid 1970s, however, it was clear that strong fiscal discipline would be needed to prevent the university from spending its way into bankruptcy. Campbell and his successor, William Chace, introduced a series of difficult budget cuts along with plans for fundraising. Interdisciplinary work continued to thrive despite the budget difficulties. The Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies was established in 1987. The Center for the Americas, which combines American studies and Latin American studies, was planned in the 1990s and inaugurated in 1998.
In the late 1990s President Douglas Bennet led a strategic planning process to ensure that Wesleyan would confidently pursue its commitment to liberal arts education into the 21st Century. As part of that process, the university affirmed the following:
The task of liberal education, as we see it today, is to instill a capacity for critical and creative thinking that can address unfamiliar and changing circumstances, to engender a moral sensibility that can weigh consequence beyond self, and to establish an enduring love of learning for its own sake that will enable graduates to refresh their education throughout their lives.
The plan adopted in 1998 and modified in 2005 identified ten “essential capabilities” Wesleyan intended to foster in its students: Writing; Speaking; Interpretation; Quantitative Reasoning; Logical Reasoning; Designing, Creating, and Realizing; Ethical Reasoning; Intercultural Literacy; Information Literacy; and Effective Citizenship. In addition to a major field of concentration and an expectation of breadth, students have been expected to complete courses to enhance these capabilities.
The Strategic Plans of 1998 and 2005 also emphasized creating a community that developed diversity as an academic asset in the context of a campus infrastructure that supported learning in and outside the classroom. Moreover, those plans articulated the development of partnerships between the university and the public sphere (starting with the city of Middletown) meant to foster the ability to “weigh consequence beyond self” and to develop the attributes of effective citizenship. Wesleyan graduates test their education in the world, and they are encouraged to re-fresh that education by using alma mater as a resource for life-long learning.
As we organize our thinking and our resources in preparing for the next ten years, we are guided by many of the main themes embraced by previous generations of Wesleyan students, faculty, alumni and administrators. We are more committed than ever to Butterfield’s vision of a university in which professors are expected to advance their fields through research, publication and performance, and in which teaching regularly stimulates this productivity. We are also committed to maintaining a robust financial aid program that ensures that talented students will be able to afford a Wesleyan education. We believe that all students benefit from being part of a learning community that includes members from different geographical regions and different socio-economic, racial and ethnic groups, who approach the world from a variety of perspectives. We are committed to maintaining a beautiful and productive campus that is a stimulating home for students while they pursue their degrees and a cherished locus of learning after they have graduated. We are committed to providing the infrastructure for a learning community that extends from classroom to library, from residence hall to athletic field.
II. Values and culture
As a learning community
Wesleyan educates students to become independent thinkers capable of continuing to learn and translating that learning into effective work at the highest level. The education on campus is characterized by combinations of freedom and productivity, experimentation and evaluation, and exuberance and responsibility. This stimulates students to discover what they love to do and get better at it. Wesleyan creates an environment in which students can strive for excellence through hard work that is joyful and satisfying. Alumni of the institution continue to draw on their learning experiences for the rest of their lives and remain devoted to the institution.
As a center for research and creative practice
Wesleyan attracts faculty and students who find enormous value in independent research, scholarship and creative practice. Professors find stimulation in the classroom to advance their various professional fields, which in turn invigorates teaching and curriculum development. The university’s small graduate programs in the sciences and music facilitate collaborative research. Undergraduates are given opportunities for advanced independent work through which they increase their intellectual capacities and discover aspects of themselves and the world that will remain meaningful to them long after graduation. Members of the Wesleyan community address scholarly issues of import to their respective fields and regularly produce work that goes beyond academic realms to have a positive impact on public life.
As an institutional citizen and leader in education
Wesleyan inspires faculty, staff and students to play active roles as neighbors and citizens. The university contributes economically and culturally to Middletown, and it instills in its graduates a sense of civic possibility and purpose. Wesleyan alumni create opportunities to integrate service into their professional and personal lives and generously support the educational enterprise on campus. The university supports the continued evolution of a liberal arts education and makes a case for its importance in the public sphere. Members of the Wesleyan community regularly go on to distinguished careers in public service, and the university provides support for disseminating scholarship that can have positive public impact.
III. Mission [community draft]
Wesleyan University is dedicated to providing an education in the liberal arts that is characterized by boldness, rigor, and practical idealism. At Wesleyan, distinguished scholar-teachers work closely with students, taking advantage of fluidity among disciplines to explore the world with a variety of tools. The university seeks to build a diverse, energetic community of students, faculty, and staff who think critically and creatively and who value independence of mind and generosity of spirit.
IV. Context and challenges
In recent years urban schools have become more attractive to many students seeking a strong education and the active cultural life a large city can provide. On the other hand, very rural schools, often quite isolated, continue to attract students eager to “get away” from the environment that they had been used to. As a small city in central Connecticut, Middletown offers neither isolated rural life nor big city charms. The challenge for Wesleyan is to show the many positive aspects of the Connecticut River Valley and of Middletown, while emphasizing access to cultural opportunities from beyond the immediate vicinity.
Relevance of liberal arts education
Only a modest 4% of American high school graduates pursue their undergraduate education at a liberal arts college, and the disciplines most closely associated with these institutions have seen a significant decline in their enrollments over the last decade or more. Obviously, many very talented and accomplished high school seniors do not consider a liberal arts education as they chart their future professional and personal paths. Making the case for the vitality and relevance of a liberal arts education is an important challenge in this context.
Competition and prestige
For decades, Wesleyan has been regarded as one of the top group of elite liberal arts institutions focused on undergraduate education. Over the last twenty years, the US News and World Report rankings have had an important impact on the public’s sense of “the best” colleges in America. Wesleyan’s ranking has generally slipped, from 6th in the late 1980s to 13th in 2009.
These rankings reflect a more fundamental shift in Wesleyan’s capacity to compete with other schools for faculty, students, and public recognition. While Wesleyan was the wealthiest school in relation to the number of students in the late 1960s and early 1970s, today the university does not have the ability to sustain the levels of spending per student that one finds at some of our peer institutions. This has an immediate negative impact on the rankings. As American education has focused on endowment as a measure of education capacity, Wesleyan has seen its competitive standing erode. Prestige plays an important role in student choice, and reclaiming a leadership role is an important challenge in this context.
There are at least two sorts of economic pressures that will affect all planning for the next five years. The first is long-term habits of spending and saving; the second is the result of the recent economic crisis. After spending a higher percentage of endowment returns than its peers, there followed a long period of failing to put significant amounts of money into the endowment. By the mid 1990s, Wesleyan lagged dramatically behind other schools in endowment per student, and began to raise more money annually and to borrow significantly to support its programs. The successful fundraising campaign in the first decade of this century proved that alumni would offer generous support, but most of the money raised was quickly spent. In recent years, Wesleyan finds itself with one-third of the economic capacity (measured by endowment per student, net of debt) of the average school in our peer group, and one-tenth the capacity of the group’s economic leader. Wesleyan has the challenge to break from this tradition of spending and invest more fundraising dollars for long-term use.
The second economic pressure results from the recent economic downtown, which will make philanthropy more difficult and tuition more challenging for many families. Significant tuition increases to support its programs may prove difficult, and so Wesleyan has the challenge of reducing spending without compromising the quality of the educational experience.
V. Overarching goals
- To energize Wesleyan’s distinctive educational experience by encouraging a spirit of experimentation and freedom with an expectation that work will be created at the highest level.Context:
- The university selects students on the basis of merit not wealth
- The university hires and retains faculty who are effective teachers and regularly contribute to the advancement of their respective fields
- The university develops a curriculum based in the freedom to develop an educational itinerary that fosters focused independent work, breadth of learning and the enhancement of essential capabilities within a framework of strong advising
- The university has developed graduate programs in the sciences and music that facilitate research by faculty and students at all levels
- The university cultivates a campus culture—including athletics, the arts, and co-curricular programs—conducive to adventurous learning and effective civic engagement
- To work within a sustainable economic model to ensure that Wesleyan will be able to offer a quality education for generations to come.Context:
- The university relies on a mix of tuition, endowment support and annual fundraising to fund its operations
- The university recruits first-year students without regard to their ability to pay, devoting almost 20% of its operating budget to financial aid
- The university maintains competitive compensation for faculty and staff in relation to a “peer group” of highly-selective institutions
- The university supports the research activities of its faculty and students
- The university maintains a campus in Middletown CT appropriate to curricular and co-curricular needs
- To broaden and deepen the recognition of the quality of a Wesleyan education.Context:
- The university disseminates the work of its faculty and students
- The university maintains ongoing communications with alumni and student families
- The university is known for attracting students with intelligence, integrity, and a desire to make a positive difference in the world
- The university is recognized as a locus of path-breaking scholarship and creative practice
- The university is recognized for articulating the importance of the liberal arts in contemporary contexts
VI. Specific objectives and strategies
The following are the key specific objectives and strategies Wesleyan will put in place to assure progress on the three overarching goals.
Goal 1: To energize Wesleyan’s distinctive educational experience
- Objective: Develop university-wide curriculum that exploits programmatic and interdisciplinary strengths.Strategies:
- Develop vibrant first-year program and meaningful capstone experiences for all students
- Develop a program to enhance creativity and innovation across the university
- Develop civic engagement opportunities across the university
- Enhance work in Environmental Studies through a College of the Environment
- Enhance the global, international reach of the curriculum
- Invest in technology to support and inspire academic innovation
- Enhance assessment mechanisms to regularly monitor student learning
- Objective: Improve faculty’s capacity for mentoring students and for producing research.Strategies:
- Improve course access and ability to work closely with faculty
- Enhance support for faculty research and increase opportunities for collaborative faculty-student research
- Develop opportunities for more faculty participation in co-curricular programs and advising
- Objective: Enhance co-curricular programs to support the personal and academic learning environment.Strategies:
- Promote excellence beyond the classroom—from athletics to the arts
- Support an ethos of service and social engagement with the development of citizenship skills
- Develop internships across a wide variety of fields that support learning and professional opportunities
- Objective: Increase selectivity so as to choose students who can most benefit from and contribute to Wesleyan.Strategies:
- Increase the size and enhance the quality and diversity of the applicant pool, including geographical diversity
- Employ nuanced selection criteria to ensure that all Wesleyan students have the talent and desire to get the most out of their time on campus
- Raise endowment funds to support research and co-curricular opportunities for students
Goal 2: To develop a sustainable economic model
- Objective: Increase the size of the endowment while restraining the growth of the annual budget.Strategies:
- Increase the percentage of annual fundraising that is invested in the endowment
- Complete a successful fundraising campaign
- Maintain the annual spending draw on endowment between 4.5% and 5.5%
- Objective: Maintain current “need blind” admissions policy while raising endowment support.Strategies:
- Raise significant endowment support for financial aid by 2015
- Control financial aid costs for transfers and international students
- Develop revenue streams tied to new programs (e.g., Wesleyan Summer Program)
- Objective: Increase resources for attracting and retaining faculty who are productive scholars, first-rate teachers and contributors to campus community.Strategies:
- Maintain competitive salaries within peer group
- Support faculty research and its dissemination
- Enhance the conditions for faculty involvement on campus beyond their teaching and advising duties
- Objective: Maintain resources for attracting and retaining talented, hard-working and dedicated staff.Strategies:
- Maintain competitive salaries within peer group
- Support personal and professional staff development
- Enhance conditions for staff involvement in campus community
- Objective: To maintain the integrity of campus buildings and grounds while developing appropriate resources for renewal.Strategies:
- Enhance science facilities
- Maintain historic structures
- Replace run-down “wood-frame” housing with suitable residences on a regular basis
Goal 3: Enhance the recognition of the quality of a Wesleyan education
- Objective: Make research of faculty and students more widely knownStrategies:
- Support scholarly publication efforts
- Develop audiences for this work in professional networks
- Objective: Develop opportunities for the discussion of Wesleyan’s strengths in geographic areas in which we are currently not well known.Strategies:
- Coordinate efforts among Admissions, UR and the Communications departments
- Expand international applicant pool
- Develop partnerships with appropriate liberal arts schools (Little Three?)
- Objective: Enhance lifelong alumni engagement through relevant communication and ongoing faculty ties.Strategies:
- Develop robust digital networks for continued social interaction and ongoing learning
- Create exciting opportunities to return to campus for special events
- Deepen lifelong ties of mutual support between alumni and alma mater
VII. Benchmarks and peer institutions
Wesleyan regularly compares its performance with liberal arts colleges and small universities. From admissions statistics to graduation rates, from salaries to financial aid packages, Wesleyan uses comparative data to set specific goals and to assess its competitive position.
Goal 1: Distinctive educational experience
- Departmental Reviews
- Faculty-Student Ratio
- % of classes under 20 students, etc.
- # of internships
- curricular reform
Goal 2: Sustainable business model
- Fundraising Campaign
- % of Financial Aid Supported by Endowment
- Cost containment measures
Goal 3: Expand recognition
- Media placements
- Applications and inquiries
VIII. Conclusion: Wesleyan in 2020
This planning document has articulated some broad themes to guide planning in the next five to ten years. Although there will surely be unexpected opportunities and challenges during this period, if the university is successful in following the strategies laid out here Wesleyan will build on its best traditions to be more widely recognized as an international leader in progressive liberal arts education.
In the next five years the Wesleyan community should become more mindful and supportive of the distinctive elements of the educational experience it offers to a highly motivated and talented student body. Over the next decade this work will bring more positive attention, applications and financial support to the university. Students enrolled will benefit from a curriculum largely determined by faculty interests, and which provides curricular and co-curricular opportunities for integrated learning and community building. The hallmarks of creativity and civic engagement will be anchored in our academic and co-curricular programs, and community building will extend from the campus to bonds with alumni reinforced by continuing education programs. Within the next ten years, the student body will have become more geographically diverse within the United States, and with more than 12% coming from outside the country. The university’s interdisciplinary programs will become more robust, and there will be a College of the Environment added to them. The virtuous circle of research and teaching will continue to allow the Wesleyan faculty to offer a transformative experience to their students while they advance their own fields.
By 2020 we will double the number of scholarships supported by the endowment. As fundraising continues to grow, each year a greater percentage of dollars raised will be invested in the future of the institution. Improvement in course access and in the percentage of classes offered capped at 15 will be achieved, and new spending for non-academic initiatives will be restrained. Research by faculty and students will be supported and disseminated by a university increasingly known for its contributions to the sciences, scholarship in the humanities and social sciences, creative practice and our public life.
In 2020 Wesleyan will continue to fulfill the mission laid down by Wilbur Fisk in the 19th century, and re-energized in the 1950s and 1960s: to teach students to think critically and creatively, and to develop the independence of mind and generosity of spirit that will enhance their lives and contribute to the common good.
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33 thoughts on “Preliminary Reflections On Planning”
Rather than inrease internationalization, strive for diversity among the student body. The urban poor at Wesleyan is severely under-represented. Outreach programs must exist to provide the poor with mentors and tutors in order to prepare them for a Wesleyan Education.
Second, restore Wesleyan’s Educational Studies Program. One of the best ways to increase public knowledge of the outstanding education offered by Wesleyan is to send alumni into the teaching ranks. In this economy there is widespread unemployment, but a dire need for highly qualified public educators. Please consider.
Thank you for the opportunity to contribute a thought.
When the idea of a College of the Environment was proposed, my first thought was that the Wesleyan community needs to model sustainability not just study it.
I highly recommend the book “Cradle to Cradle” by architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungard. There are literally thousands of ways Wes could be made more green. Wes students could begin living a sustainable life in college and take that forward with them when they graduate. I guess I’m trying to say we need the practice, not just the theory. Make Wes a model for sustainable practice even as we pursue the science.
Internships and study abroad opportunities are an integral part in preparing students for the world of work and life beyond Wesleyan. Many colleges around the US are now incorporating internship and/or study abroad components into their graduation requirements; I would urge Wesleyan to consider this as well. I understand that this would impact curriculum, professor and administrative allotment, and how financial aid works for study abroad; however, the benefits of a better prepared student body can result in additional student opportunities and potentially increased alumni contributions.
I also believe that through improved professor advising students will more thoroughly understand their goals and life opportunities. Too often students are graduating from college with no true idea of what jobs or opportunities are available to them. In order to change this, a true relationship must be developed between the student and advisor to help explore each student’s interests and opportunities. Professor training and support is imperative in this process.
Thank you for the opportunity to share some of my thoughts. I appreciate your positive outlook.
I think Wesleyan could involve its alumni more effectively by communicating what they are accomplishing. As a minor example, I have published several books over the years, but I don’t receive a regular email questionnaire asking about this. I could probably beat down the door of the alumni magazine, but that goes beyond the limits of my wish for recognition. If I received a frequent questionnaire saying, “Any stories, any accomplishments, anything relevant to Wesleyan,” it would be easy to give a quick affirmative reply.
There are presumably many other kinds of contributions made by alumni that would be easy to feature in very brief (say, one-paragraph) items in the alumni magazine. There are also likely to be many interesting situations that could be very brieflly described. At my university, for example, I have been department chair twice, and in one of my terms the dean of social sciences was another Wes alumnus from around my time in Middletown. Although I didn’t know him when we were at Wesleyan (we chose different majors), I think it made it easier to work with him on various projects and goals because our histories (and hence educational values) were similar. I assume that every time you feature an alumni story, the subject of the story becomes more likely to contribute to the university. You can’t pull most people in by treating them as anonymous. You have to give them their “15 minutes” of attention every once in a while. And I think that might be surprisingly easy to do.
Upon visiting the campus two summers ago while my daughter was looking at colleges, I was very concerned about the state of disrepair of many university owned buildings and some other campus landscape features.
Though the 2020 initiative is an academic one, I hope that the university has considered its deferred maintenance burden while setting the goals listed in the document. It is a given that the cost of exterior repair increases with each passing year as materials continue to deteriorate. I’m assuming that there is a structural problem where the annual facilities maintenance budget cannot keep up with the annual demand.
If another capital campaign is undertaken, will any of the funding go towards the endowment of existing buildings on campus? If new structures have been planned, will they be fully endowed?
Finally, the physical look of the campus is an important issue when assessing how Wesleyan stacks up to other schools in the eyes of prospective students.
I am grateful for your efforts in trying to elevate Wesleyan’s offerings and allowing alumni to offer observations. Here’s the first thing that occurred to me in reading through the draft.
It seems readily apparent to me that what the world needs now, more than anything else, is consciousness, an awakening to the true nature of reality. Many of us aren’t even aware of the universal consciousness and energy that sustain all of existence. All other life forms trust in, and surrender to, this benevolent intelligence, the ground of being, this sea of awareness that sustains all that is. But not mankind. We function as if we are apart from this sea of awareness and the resulting non-alignment manifests as suffering and pain – wars, widespread planetary abuse, and so on. It’s a bit like a fish denying the water in which it swims and depends on for its very life. Is it any wonder that the result is suffering and pain? Just look at what unconsciousness has wrought in the world we have made?
I suggest that incorporating a compelling program that fosters a deep understanding, an internalization, of what it means to be conscious, perhaps through the proposed College of Environment, would serve to help place Wesleyan at the forefront of liberal arts universities again.
It is very appropriate that your introduction starts with Vic Butterfrield, an immense contributor to undergraduate liberal arts education. Unfortunately, Wesleyan has since gone astray. A single Master of Arts Program has escalated into far too many Ph.D. programs and pressures for more. These graduate programs detract from Wesleyan’s traditional focus on the undergraduate, and may well account for the precipitous drops in Wesleyan’s ranking as an undergraduate liberal arts institutution in recent years. I would vigorously encourage your examination of ALL graduate programs in this
context. Today’s undergraduates at Wesleyan simply do not get the undivided attention of faculty who also work with graduate students and postdocs. I believe that were President Butterfield alive today, he would join me in requesting an evaluation of the impact of the graduate programs on the liberal arts education of undergraduates. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on your road map. I have other thoughts, but they dwarf relative to my primary concern as to how Wesleyan has lost its way.
I loved the language in the Values section about a learning community — and the references to joy and exhuberance. Might some reference to passion, love, or joy be snuck into the mission? It does seem so central to the University’s essence.
Have you considered recasting your goals (stated as actions) into outcome goals, where the phrase is turned into a full sentence, with the target (the entity in which you seek the change in attitude, knowledge, behavior, condition, or status) becomes the subject of the sentence and the rest is descriptive of the change? This would produce much more specific goals that are actually accomplishable (and success could be measured). Your targets are buried in the statements below the goal…as part of the activities…I can explain what I mean if you are interested…(I work with organizations on this sort of thing.)
I think the goals outlined are very admirable, with the College of Environmental Studies and the improvement of the first year experience two that immediately strike me. One thing that I think needs great improvement, and fits in with the globalization/internationalization efforts, is the foreign language program. Facility with languages other than English is now seen as essential, and Chinese is being taught in pubic grade schools. But this is an area where Wesleyan does not match its quality in other areas, and should be a focus for the next 10 years.
In these interesting times, creative thinking, and thinking outside of the proverbial box, will provide the tools for reshaping the present and having a future to live into. Financial freedom is something that is becoming more elusive with every passing day and creating choices, that were more easily made in the past, become difficult inside of our deliberations and considerations. I believe the university has to look at different options in marketing itself with new and innovative initiatives.
I have studied the successful thoughts of the likes of Donald Trump and Robert Kawasaki and it looks like incorporating networking and education could be a consideration. My wife recently started an online nursing program that will allow her to attain her RN degree after two years of more “normal” training for her LPN degree. She can earn $100 if she refers others to the program and if she enrolls six her tuition is paid up by the company. Wesleyan should look into these avenues where people can be marketed into planning for the long run and part of the benefits of the programs can be saving on tuition.
I market for an online retailer and I receive $100 everytime I enroll someone into the fold. As members, we get deep discounts on factory direct items, automobiles and countless other products. I also provide 25% discounts to my patients in my medical practice that are members of my group. Wesleyan can be part of something like this and offer discounts on tuition for members. Wesleyan can also earn income by having its own referral sources enroll and the more enrollees then a series of bonus programs are triggered. I know of a number of individuals and corporations that are earning six and seven figure incomes because of the momentum that builds by expanding the membership. I like the program because there is nothing that I have to sell other than enrolling people into my marketing company.
1. It is unfortunate that graduates of liberal arts colleges have little or no appreciation of engineering and engineers. I’m not suggesting creating an engineering department. Rather there should be ways that Wesleyan students could be exposed to how engineers think and to the variety of engineering disciplines. There is nothing in this plan that addresses that situation.
2. It is fashionable now in higher education to increase the number of foreign students. However, that means less emphasis on finding deserving and qualified domestic students. Wesleyan–and the country–would be better served by expanding its efforts to recruit, in particular, first generation domestic students.
Dear Dr. Roth,
Your vision for the university is exactly what we hoped for when we encouraged our daughter to consider Wesleyan University. To our great delight, she decided that it was the school best suited to her, applied for early admission and was accepted in the class of 2012.
She felt challenged by her coursework as a freshman, participated in several community activities and was anxious to return to school this fall.
I would encourage you to take a non-nostalgic look at her dorm, however. She has been placed in Butts Hall. To be fair, I saw it during the time when students were moving out for the summer. The creaking doors, spartan bathroom facilities, ancient and distant laundry rooms and common rooms without kitchens were evidence of a fearsomely aged building. Francesca is sanguine and happy about her life in the Butts, I do not think she will be in any way dissuaded or harmed by living there, but I must admit I’m relieved that she was placed there her sophomore year, when she will spend half the year overseas.
Just a thought as you consider how Wesleyan stacks up compared to other schools,
P.S. I can not adequately thank you for the wonderful emails during the period after last year’s student shooting. Your emphasis on grieving for the student’s family and friends was so on the mark, and so comforting for all of us.
Firstly, I would like to applaud the new strategic direction. In particular, I believe that the new focus on Internationalism is positive on several fronts:
a) Socio- Culturally – As an International student who studied in Wesleyan in the 90s I felt that the overwhelming American presence on campus made for limited debate and understanding of the problems faced by the rest of the world. I believe that the contribution made by the International students on campus is important given that globalization and interaction with foreign nationals will continue to be an everyday reality for Wes graduates.
b) Financially – One important point to note is the fact that International students are less dependant on financial aid than American students. Hence, a new effort to boost International student admission would be an added bonus for the school as it would help contribute towards financial sustainability.
Secondly, I would like to contribute one somewhat controversial idea. I believe Wes graduates would benefit thoroughly by the addition of courses meant to prepare them to work in the modern world. While traditionally this would mean writing, analysis, and critical-thinking intensive courses, increasingly this would also mean providing courses which emphasizes teamwork, project management, presentation skills, entrepreneurship and risk taking. I believe that these are some of the key skills for success of Wes graduates looking for careers in the public, private and social sectors.
Goal 2, objective 5: Go green!
Dear President Roth,
This draft summary of your work this summer could not come at a better time. Let this be a signal to the world that now is the moment not merely to assess damage, but, to move forward. Wesleyan has always been blessed by tremendous reserves in human capital and today is no different than in times past. I agree with your priorities; naturally, I could list a few dozen things that could use additional attention and money. But, as a bare-bones “wish-list” for the next ten years, I find nothing more compelling than securing need-blind admissions by growing the endowment. My sense is that, if we keep our eyes focused on that goal, we will be surprised by what else falls into place along the way. I applaud your efforts, and those of our esteemed faculty.
Ron Medley, `73
I was delighted to see that developing a means to foster lifetime learninig was included in the objectives. No doubt you are aware that a number of our peer institutions, either singly or in cooperation with others currently offer online courses to alumni(ae). What a great way to maintain post-graduation involvement and support. I hope this objective gets implemented sooner rather than later.
Dick Irwin ’56
Thank you so much for the opportunity to comment. The statement is exciting and moving and I’m looking forward to helping in whatever way I can.
I agree with Mr. Mathews about reinstating Educational Studies. This is also in keeping with Suryo Soekarno’s comment about adding just a few more offerings that might prepare our grads for the workplace (although I understand that Soekarno meant it in more general, cross-curricular ways.)
Thank you so much for providing a forum for dialogue in these early stages of your plan. The creation of a College of the Environment is not only strategic and timely, but crucial – as our economy moves into uncharted “green” territory. Wesleyan can become well-equipped to produce leaders in this arena. I also am happy to hear that Wesleyan is broadening categories of “diversity” to encompass geography or regional difference in the application process. As a small-town Floridian, I can certainly attest to the surprising cultural distances we find domestically. That being said, it is also profoundly important that we continue to reach out to potential international students.
As for Goal 1, “distinctive educational experience,” please consider the impact on visitors when told that Williams has two programs in which freshmen are likely to participate. The first program is one in which courses are taught by professors from two different departments, e.g., one from the economics department and one for the political science department. At least for this parent it was absolutely fascinating to imagine the perspective that a student must get in one course from that dual perspective. The second program is one in which there are two students and one teacher. Again, it was fascinating to imagine the intense experience that my 1st year child might get from that type of seminar. Of course Williams has the endowment to put resources into those types of programs. However, Williams’ ratings as first or second each year among small colleges may be influenced by those types of “distinctive educational experiences.” Best regards.
I think you could have a huge impact in recruiting students, fundraising and building the Wes reputation if there were a powerful effort to build a job networking capacity drawing on the alumni for summer internships and for graduating seniors. Wes has creative alumni already in the workforce who can support intelligent, creative students with advice on networked job searches. If alumni either have internships/jobs in their organizations or can refer the students to their colleagues in their own professional networks who can help these students find work, it could become a distinctive, practical, feature of the Wes experience. There would be side benefits. Involved alumni who get to know individual students personally would, in my opinion, be more likely to also respond to fundraising appeals — older people like helping younger people they get to know. They might feel a more direct, intimate relationship to the university as a result. I also think that this demonstrates to the students that their predecessors have “made it” in whatever profession they’ve chosen, even if it is an “offbeat” one. This fosters and can ingrain the creativity you want to create. (You would need to educate students in carrying out networked job searches — a la “What Color is your Parachute – if you took the approach I’m suggesting.)
I really appluad the initiative with the release of this planning document. I was, however, a little disappointed to see that nowhere on your list of Goals and Objectives is the mention of ‘Promoting Religious Understanding’. I think this is a critical step in creating a tolerant campus environment and it adequately addresses the challenges of the 21st century. It also provides students with a foundational framework for learning from the diverse backgrounds that they represent.
I think our Office of Religious Life is comprised of some amazing leaders (many of whom I had the privelege to learn from) and I would love for the university to invest more time and money into their development.
The deficiency of endowment funds at Wesleyan is serious, and it will take several years of successful fundraising to correct this. With a continuing heavy cost burden from financial aid and a broad curriculum, significant budget pressures can be expected. Sadly, operating costs cannot be subsidized for long by high endowment transfers before endangering the future of the institution. Tuition increases above already high levels cannot be counted on to fill the gap. Expense containment has to be the mantra for some time.
Four broad policy goals remain critical for me in assessing how Wesleyan moves forward:
++ Wesleyan remains committed to providing a liberal arts education, as outlined in Mission (community draft);
++ Students are admitted on the basis of merit, not wealth;
++ The university hires and retains faculty who are effective teachers as well as scholars in their disciplines;
++ Broaden the global reach of the curriculum.
Challenges relating fo these concepts are many. Here are a few:
The financial aid portion of the budget is enormous, but I would be loath to place any arbitrary limit on merit-based aid. However, I have concerns about significantly expanding the number of international students, IF they would fall under the merit-based financial aid policy. I am assuming that after-tax income levels either for high-tax Europe of emerging nation families are lower than in the United States, so that the per-student financial aid cost for new international students could be higher than domestic. As a basic matter, though, I feel more comfortable in maintaining the present emphasis on domestic aid and not reducing it in favor of international – though I recognize that more international students would broaden campus diversity.
Curriculum review must be an ongoing exercise. Because of Wesleyan’s relatively small size, and cost pressures, we cannot afford to maintain a boutique array of courses no matter how obscure the material of how low the interest level may be. As newer global courses are added to reflect emerging educational needs, it is appropriate to make sure that the remainder of the curriculum still serves broad student demands. Perhaps shared courses with nearby colleges might alleviate some pressures, but Middletown’s somewhat remote location and transportation issues might limit this approach.
Let me be a voice for many of the great traditions in education that Wesleyan has stood for. Do we need to reinvent the wheel every 10 years? Has Wesleyan not been incredibly successful in selecting and preparing a unique group of individuals to live and act in the world? Let’s keep doing what we have done so well for 178 years.
The thoughts about once more tweaking the freshman curriculum are very tired. Can we not launch our freshmen directly into the intro classes in a variety of disciplines, ideally with some of the most dynamic, experienced professors at the helm?
The lack of guidance in finding meaningful internships is also worrisome, and I would support much improvement in this area.
Is there some way to restore the small, intimate nature of the campus when it was half the size it is now, especially in promoting close relationships between students and professor/mentors? This too seems to have sadly diminished. Are there still places on campus where both students and professors congregate? I’m not sure Usdan is such a great success in that regard.
I would echo the comments of many of my colleagues regarded a dubious interest in increasing international students and the sad state of disrepair of many campus buildings. Criticism aside, I applaud the effort to recommit to our most deeply held ideals.
The endowment, the fundraising, the prestige issues are all serious and demand grownup leadership, which we fortunately now have. And we also have a big card to play that is not only natural to us, but perfectly timed for this stage in history. It’s the card of juxaposition: the double major in physics and film studies, the linebacker who becomes a heart surgeon, Mayor Hickenlooper’s bizarre personal resume, the original spirit behind the College of Letters and Social Studies, the maintaining of graduate programs in Science at a small liberal arts college. Innovation happens where different fields come together,and that has always been something Wesleyan did big time. So it is no accident when Matt Weiner’s Mad Men seems so unusual and fresh to the Emmys, or Belichick’s approach to football seems unlike any other. It’s the fresh take that time and again has come from the kind of people who are attracted to Wesleyan and from the experience and relationships they have there. We need to protect and burnish that interdisciplinary heritage even more than ever, and claim that “brand” in every channel through the actions and thoughts of the people of Wesleyan, on campus and off.
First, I want to thank all those who have taken the time to respond to my preliminary reflections. Whether you agreed with them or not, you’ve shown that you care about the future of Wesleyan, and in that regard we are very much on the same page. You’ve suggested ways in which Wesleyan could better respond to the needs of the country, from teacher training to our plans for a College of the Environment. You’ve suggested too how we might better prepare students to meet their own needs after graduation: be it more internship opportunities, courses emphasizing teamwork and entrepreneurship, or involving alumni more in job networking. And you’ve asked that we bring alumni into the fold by learning more about their achievements and offering them life-long learning opportunities. All this makes sense to me, and we are currently working on projects in several of these areas. Your thoughts on mentoring and the ingenuity that results from intense interdisciplinary (or multidisciplinary) learning experiences are music to my ears, and I can tell you that issues with the first year curriculum are very much on our minds. And I’m listening too to your criticisms: from the request for more precision in my language and more urgency in my tone to the less than ideal condition of some of our facilities, from objections to decisions I’ve made to reports of where we could have done better in our communications with alumni. I note that there is room for disagreement about internationalization and the image Wesleyan presents to the world. Ideas for increasing revenue are, of course, always welcome. I’ll finish with a quote from one response: “Wesleyan has always been blessed by tremendous reserves in human capital.” I will continue to count on those reserves – including all of you — as we move forward.
I observe, without being overly surprised by it, that NONE of the objectives of Goal 2 (sustainable economic model) is focused on spending less or better. ALL are focused on spending more or same. Lip service is duly paid to “economic pressures” in the context (that should guide action) and this having been done, promptly waved aside. I suggest to add objectives related to reduced administrative staff ratios, new and different operating models (outsourcing, offshoring), gradual reduction of unsustainable benefits packages or outsize salaries for comparable skillset in the non-academic or public sector, stability or reduction of overall tuition fees (in a context of deflation or flat prices and earnings, why would we plan for increase in operating expenses), and generally speaking, a longer term strategy to respond to economic downturns than stop investment until the rosy days return.
This major initiative has passed and been forgotten about by most of the Wesleyan community with barely a yawn. Despite having been sent to over 40,000 alumni, 3,000 students and 300 faculty, it generated a meager 25 responses, and since the last was over a week ago, it seems that may be the end of them. In contrast, when President Bennett began the process before the campaign, it drew an enormous flowering of ideas, excitement, and support from all corners of the community.
The difference is that President Bennett started by asking members of the Wesleyan community for their thoughts. These brief suggestions were then culled by a committee and developed into short working papers, and the best of those were carefully developed by stakeholders into actionable plans. Even if others were not involved, at least they could respect the process. In your case, you plonked these ideas down on the Wesleyan community from the start, and although they will require tremendous efforts on the part of faculty especially, they have not yet been involved in any serious manner (other than the College of the Environment) in generating them. Are you expecting to go this alone? Are you expecting to state a bunch of ideas you yourself think are great in the hopes the faculty and alumni (who will have to support them financially) are going to rise up and jump to it? Good luck with that!
As many of the respondents above have mentioned, you ideas are very, VERY expensive, and Wesleyan is running a very large deficit that you are well aware is only going to get larger under current models. Some of your suggestions, especially with regard to increasing the number of foreign students, may simply not be feasible given the university’s financial state.
I think you are going to discover that the manner in which you have gone about things is not going to generate the support from the Wesleyan community stakeholders needed to enact them in any meaningful way, and here is what you might consider doing.
First, the faculty are currently trying to figure out how to balance the university budget deficit. Give them a year to do so. This is a very trying process. It is emotionally draining, very time consuming, and they need to reach consensus on it. Also, a year from now will give us a better sense of where the financial world is moving.
Then, issue a call for papers and follow the model your predecessor did. (a) You may discover much to your dismay that some of your ideas are not all the well supported by other stakeholders, and while you might not want to learn that, the simple reality is that ideas that are not widely supported will not be enacted meaningfully anyhow. (b) Second, and very importantly, if you started by asking stakeholders for their thoughts, they will take ownership of what results, and the ensuing agenda will become *Wesleyan’s* agenda. Right now it’s just *your* agenda, and even if you are the president, if it isn’t supported by the faculty, alumni and students, it isn’t going to go anywhere.
Noting I have written is to say your ideas are bad. Rather, at the moment, they’re *you* ideas and no one else’s, and unless you pay attention to the process, you may quite well find yourself extremely disappointed with what results.
Dear President Roth:
I am sending you today an e-mail titled “2020” in which I suggest dreamily that you consider a new affiliation for our alma mater, escaping the “peer group” in which we are losing prestige––Amherst, Williams, Middlebury, Bowdoin, Hamilton, also Swarthmore, Haverford, Oberlin, not to mention Union, Colby, Tufts and Bates, and certainly the college with the most beautiful campus and most magnificent new sports facility––Kenyon (where my older son went). Think Patriot League. (Each institution also within a day’s drive of Middletown) I think we could beat Georgetown this year by a field goal.
Horace “Pete” Deacon
1) Thirty odd classes from a variety of departments; a third will be in one department and that is your major. This is administratively convenient for the University and faculty but I am not sure it is best for the students. Don’t have another idea but it seems wrong. How is crowdsourcing changing higher education?
2) Wesleyan arbitrarily distinguishes between academic and technical subjects probably enforced by the faculty via departmental structure. Big problem. The point of view and the topics of classes now compared to twenty years ago is not as different as it should be.
3) Freshman should come in early August and have one month basic training: unit cohesion, overview of all major fields and analytical styles, introspection on goals, study skills (especially writing), and how Wesleyan communicates.
4) lots more non-Americans
5) lots more red staters
Dear President Roth,
Thank you for your video presentation and draft of your thoughts/plans/wishes for Wesleyan. Also, congratulations on being elected as President, not exactly an easy task in these days of economic difficulties for most if not all members of the community.
The comment I wish to add has to do with the ability to raise money for specific or general purposes. It seems that Wesleyan is good at supporting the desire of wealthy alumni who wish to give money for building buildings. Wesleyan is not alone in this but new buildings are a part of the infrastructure. Considering the success in this area, perhaps those alumni who are interested in this form of giving could be encouraged to broaden their outlook, if possible, toward giving in general, especially toward Wesleyan’s more immediate needs.
I am pleased to see Wesleyan continue its commitment to graduate education. There is no question as to the purpose of the University is undergraduate education. However in my years at Wes, I found that the MS. and PhD. students were an integral and important part of the distinctive nature of the intellectual life of the school. Many think of graduate programs as a distraction of purpose, but in my experience they invigorated learning at the highest levels. This is why Amherst and Williams both have made provisions for graduate student interaction with their faculty at other large research institutions. Particularly in the sciences, these students are the repository for specific experimental and theoretical knowledge. They are responsible for challenges to the orthodoxy of faculty and serve to drive everyone to new questions and new modes of thinking. A small but excellent program of graduate education can be both financially responsible and distinguishing of the University community.
Goal 2, Objective 5 could be enhanced to promote an environmentally sustainable campus including: green buildings, sustainable landscapes, sustainable building operations, recycling, energy conservation, alternative energy sources.