State of the College Speech by President Rokke
Alumni Reunion Luncheon, 5/31/03


INTRODUCTION

Thanks Jan. Good afternoon to all of you and welcome back.

Let me first congratulate Bill Bauman, this year’s Medallion of Merit recipient. We’ll hear more about Bill’s considerable contributions to our college in a few minutes. Suffice it to say at this point that Bill has played a central role in promoting theater, music and art at Moravian College for some 33 years.

On a more somber note, I should also like to pay respects to Captain Chris Seifert, Class of 1997. Chris truly was one of our own – the husband of Terri Flowers, Class of l997, the son of Thomas and Helen Seifert (Helen was a graduate of the Class of l969), and the father of four-month old Benjamin Seifert.

I’m told by his Army colleagues that Captain Seifert was a role model for the profession of arms. He died while serving his country in Iraq on March 23, 2003.

CURRENT SITUATION

In my remarks today, I would like to do two things: first, briefly review our current situation as we complete one academic year and move toward another; and second, set forth the broad outlines of our strategic plan for the next several years. Together, they might be called a “state of the college” presentation.

For those of you who prefer simply to get the bottom line, I’m delighted to assert that the “state of Moravian College” is very good indeed. Let me give you some rationale for my optimistic assessment.

Once again during this academic year, we have had a full house. Indeed, with 1,436 traditional undergraduate students living and studying with us, we enjoyed our largest enrollment in history. Similarly, our 500 non-traditional and post-graduate students kept the continuing studies program humming.

I should also say that those 373 freshmen students comprising our “bumper class” of 2006 – whom I described to you last year – turned out to be every bit as good as their high entry qualifications suggested.

Our Vice President for Enrollment, Bernie Story, tells me that next year’s freshmen also walk on water. We reached our enrollment target on May 5th, the earliest ever, and we expect at least 375 to enroll this fall. You’ll be pleased to hear that something like 86% of them ranked in the top 2/5 of their high school classes; 35% were in the top 10%; and their average SAT score was on the order of 1125.

With qualifications like this, it’s little wonder that Moravian graduates continue to excel. This year, for example, Miss Kiley Guyton, a daughter of Moravian alums Karen and Odell Guyton, will pursue a Ph.D. Degree via a full scholarship at the University of New Mexico or study in Latin America as an alternate Fulbright Scholar. This, incidentally, would be Moravian College’s fifth Fulbright in as many years.

At the same time, Bill Trub, also in the Class of 2003, will journey to Great Britain, where he’ll join a handful of American students selected for graduate study at the University of Cardiff in Wales. On the Science side of the academic house, we have at least four physics majors accepted into Ph.D. programs at prestigious institutions – three of them with full scholarships. Four Chemistry majors have been accepted into Ph.D. or medical school programs – three of them with full scholarships.

And so the story goes with Moravian College graduates – continuing your legacy of excellence.

Moravian’s athletic programs are prospering in a similar fashion. This year, our men’s and women’s basketball teams, as well as our football, baseball and women’s softball teams were invited to post-season games. For the third straight year, our women’s softball team won the conference championship and, along with our women’s cross country team, was nationally ranked. Just two days ago, we learned that our softball team was ranked ninth in the nation in the final NCAA Division III poll. This truly is impressive – Moravian athletics is on a roll.

I like to think of Moravian as a “mind, body, and spirit experience.” If our graduates are to make a real difference in this world, they must be individuals of high character. With three active chaplains – one Moravian, one Catholic and one Jewish – the spiritual dimension of student life is sound. In a similar vein, our Student Affairs folks have been crafting leadership development programs that are capturing the fancy of large numbers of students. Over the past year, for example, the Al Williams Leadership program has attracted some 11 speakers and involved more than 200 students.

Finally, I need to brag just a little about Moravian’s faculty. You alums know better than I that our professors do splendid jobs as teachers. The magic that takes place in the classroom is key to the Moravian experience for our students. You may not be aware of the research and publication accomplishments by these professors.

In the past few years, for example, we have had books written or edited by Professors Dunn in Psychology, Dutlinger in Music, Jung in Political Science, Keim in History, Smolansky in Sociology, and von Allmen in Economics. Other books have been written by Emeritus Professor Larson in Music and by Dean Skalnik of the Academic Affairs Office. Professor von Allmen’s textbook, incidentally – on the economics of athletics – is selling very well and now has been published in Chinese.

Strategic Plan

Let me now shift my focus to the future.

At this event last year, I described an ongoing planning effort headed by Dr. John Reynolds of our Political Science Department. John’s committee crafted a Moravian College Strategic Plan for 2003-2008 which set forth our vision, shared values, goals and strategies. This plan was submitted to trustees last October; they were pleased with the scope and direction of the plan and asked the senior staff to prepare implementation proposals. These proposals, in turn, were the basis for discussion at a special trustee offsite meeting held just two months ago.

Obviously, we hoped that the trustees would formally adopt the strategic plan and our implementation proposals. From a broader perspective, however, our objective was to ensure that the trustees were on the same track as us with regard to the future course of Moravian College.

We also asked for help from the trustees on priorities. Included in our proposals were a large number of separate programs. And while we had done our best to keep these proposals within a reasonable cost curve, we simply could not know with precision what resources would be available over the next several years. Accordingly, we set out to leave the offsite with a spectrum of programs, in priority order, from which we could draw as resources become more determinate.

Finally, we asked the trustees for money. More specifically, I pointed out that the net cost over the next three years for the proposals we offered, excluding infrastructure, would be about $800 thousand. As I reminded the trustees, there are no free lunches.

Prestige

Against this background, then, please allow me to highlight, in the form of three “baskets,” the major features of our specific proposals to the trustees.

Basket one was entitled “Prestige”; it emerged quite naturally from the vision put forward by the Strategic Planning Committee, and I quote:

“Moravian College aspires to be recognized among the nation’s top 100 liberal arts baccalaureate institutions, known for effectively engaging students in their intellectual, personal, and physical development. “With this in mind, we envision a College of enhanced prestige… that thrives on collaborative effort and shared responsibility… that pursues excellence in its academic programs… that anticipates growing enrollments while attracting a diverse and talented student body…and that embraces a campus culture to nurture the transformation of students in their college years, in a manner consistent with our shared values.”

In short, our vision set forth two major questions relevant for the offsite: “What does it mean to be a college of increased prestige?” and “How do we get there from here?”

The trustees spent lots of time discussing the notion of “increased prestige” during their two-day offsite session. They related it to the importance of upholding traditional core values as well as to how we are regarded by the higher education establishment and other constituencies such as potential students and their parents. Needless to say, we all agreed that our commitment to core values comes first – it’s the challenge that never stops.

These values, as articulated most recently by the Strategic Planning Committee, are scholarship, engagement of students and faculty, global perspective, personal accountability, citizenship, diversity, character, personal well-being, and continuous learning. They are touchstones that have been mined and polished at Moravian College for more than 250 years. In essence, they celebrate the thinking of Comenius. For him and for us, Moravian College is first and foremost about mind, body and spirit. Maintaining a proper balance among these three factors produces what our Chairman likes to call “a small national treasure.”

During its meeting in October, however, the Board of Trustees had authorized – indeed challenged – us to go beyond this balancing task. They told us to look at how we might improve the way we are perceived by external constituencies, including prospective students and parents.

And so it was that we offered proposals for how Moravian might improve its prestige by putting more emphasis on the perceptive dimension of how we are viewed relative to other private liberal arts and sciences institutions. Not only did we acknowledge that there are payoffs in being recognized by publications such as the Princeton Review or more recently, in being invited to join the prestigious Annapolis Group. We went a step further by explicitly setting forth a series of goals that focused on expanding the opportunities for this institution’s favorable recognition by external constituencies.

Those goals included measures to move from Tier III to Tier II in the annual ranking of national liberal arts colleges, using relevant criteria set forth by U.S. News and World Report. Our Vice President for Planning and Research, Dr. Ann Stehney, explained to the trustees, incidentally, that of the 217 colleges in our category, we rank number 127…only 14 below the cutoff for tier two – and within range of the top 100. She also laid out our relative positions within each of the seven criteria used by U.S. News and World Report for evaluation purposes.

Thereafter, the Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Curt Keim – with help from Bev Kochard, our Vice President for Student Affairs, and Paul Moyer, our Director of Athletics – set forth specific recommendations for improving the quality of our natural science, music, leadership development and athletics programs.

In short, our proposals associated with increased prestige reflected a balance between form and substance.

Continuing and Graduate Studies

The second basket of proposals that we offered focused on our Continuing Studies Program.

Trustees had prodded us to make this program more effective at virtually every trustees meeting for many years. In the last analysis, however, our efforts had failed to produce substantial improvements in either flexibility or profit. We had, in short, been unable to offer the kinds of programs that meet adult needs in a timely manner.

Dr. Ann Stehney led the discussion on the continuing studies “basket.” The proposals that she advanced reflected a thrust for excellence complementary to the prestige orientation of our traditional undergraduate program efforts. Citing some very real differences between typical continuing studies and traditional students, Ann called for greater autonomy in the governance of our continuing studies programs. In a nutshell, this would involve creation of an institute to replace the current CSG governing structure, thereby separating its curricular and pedagogical decisions from the properly conservative bias of our traditional undergraduate program.

Incidentally, this is most certainly not an effort to create what I would call a “Moravian light” academic experience. The proposals put forward by Ann are intended to provide even higher levels of educational excellence for a constituency quite different from our traditional students. They also are designed to improve our agility and ability to compete in a marketplace where some 17 different educational institutions are offering continuing studies programs.

Student Body Size and Quality

Our third and final basket of proposals, presented by our Vice President for Administration, Dennis Domchek, concerned the question of student body size and quality.

Following its deliberations last year, the strategic planning committee recommended that we plan for an increased student body size of some 1600 traditional students. Given trends over the past few years, this was certainly not unrealistic. The real challenge, however, emerged when we put the quest for prestige into our equation.

Needless to say, the rapidity with which we could reach 1600 students depended in substantial measure on the qualitative demands we place on incoming students as well as other derivatives of Moravian values. The senior staff took the position that in our growth program, the quality dimension must take precedence over quantity.

Dennis’s proposals to the trustees reflected student quality standards that we associate with a prestigious institution located in Tier 2 of the U.S. News and World Report ranking structure. His proposals also reflected our desire to fix the imbalance that has crept into our distribution of students among the social sciences, the humanities and the natural sciences and carried forward our traditional diversity goals. Finally, Dennis reviewed infrastructure requirements – student housing in particular – that we face in moving to 1600 students.

CONCLUSION

In summary, we placed before the trustees a series of implementation proposals designed to move Moravian College forward across the board. In no way did the trustees give us a “bye.” Quite the contrary, they engaged in what can only be characterized as lively discussions of virtually every proposal.

In the last analysis, however, the trustees approved unanimously the strategic plan and the implementing proposals. It is now our roadmap for the next five years.

When I spoke to you last year, I suggested that Moravian College was ready to face some truly challenging issues involving possible changes to our institutional culture. Such changes would be transformational – they are more profound than the incremental, bricks-and-mortar improvements that we have achieved over the past few years.

Indeed, I believe that the three “baskets” of proposals I have described today can, when implemented, yield improvements sufficient to move us – as the title of Jim Collins best-selling book suggests – from “Good to Great.”

Thank you very much.

 

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