Davis & Elkins Self Study Summary
The Executive Summary to the Self Study Report to the Higher Learning Conmission as part of Davis & Elkin College's 10-year re-accreditation process.
Davis & Elkins College Self-Study 2010: Executive Summary Introduction Chapter One of the D&E 2010 Self Study This Executive Summary of Davis & Elkins College’s 2010 Self-Study—prepared in advance of a November, 2010 accreditation visit from the Higher Learning Commission’s North Central Association of Colleges and Schools—represents a focused distillation of that document’s 189 pages. This introduction, and the concluding observations at the end of this document, offer some context for the story that is related within the self-study itself. Readers interested in the most succinct synopsis may wish to turn directly to the criteria headings (below). Each criterion of accreditation is stated, followed by a brief summary of the evidence that D&E has offered to NCA in the self-study to illustrate that it is meeting that criterion. The Challenges of the New Millennium at Davis & Elkins The first decade of the new millennium was a challenging one for Davis & Elkins College. Stagnant enrollments, coupled with similar results in contributions in support of current operations, created a situation in which expenses gradually, but continually, began to outpace revenues. This situation culminated in the dramatic restructuring of the D&E workforce in 2007 and 2008. D&E’s Recent History of Accreditation Davis & Elkins has been a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools since 1946. Ten-year accreditations were earned in 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990 and 2000. The 1990 accreditation came without strings attached. Matters changed with the 2000 accreditation visit when the NCA team mandated two monitoring reports, one on enrollment growth and the elimination of an operating deficit and a second report on the implementation of an assessment program. These recommendations were not merely suggestions; they came with a penalty if they were not heeded. The two monitoring reports were well received by the NCA. No focus visits were deemed necessary, and D&E seemed positioned to forge ahead. Positive changes in the College’s culture of assessment were evident institution-wide. As the decade wore on, however, it grew increasingly apparent that the issues of enrollment and finances would continue to plague the College. Put simply, unforeseen expenses exceeded available revenues. Attempts to balance the Introduction 1 budget between 2000 and 2008 were regularly thwarted by the ‘discovery’ of heretofore hidden costs. One year, for example, it was discovered that maintenance expenses had been kept out of the operating budget. These challenges were only compounded by a continued stagnation and decline in enrollment. Not that the college did not enjoy successes – it received regularly high ranking by U.S. News and World Report, ranking among the top 25 “Comprehensive liberal arts colleges in the South.” The College renovated Benedum Hall and renamed it the Madden Student Center. William Robbins, an alumnus (’56), Debbie Madden and members of the Board of Trustees, helped fund this project. Mr. Robbins also funded the refurbishing of the Chapel that bears his parents’ names. But perhaps the most impressive achievement was the longawaited completion of a new athletic center named for long-time trustee and benefactor James McDonnell. Moreover the faculty, despite dwindling resources, lived up to the 2000 NCA description as “long distance runners who seem in fit condition to meet the challenges for the next critical years.” The Achilles Heel: Declining Enrollment The majority of the College’s challenges during the first decade of the twentyfirst century could be linked directly (or indirectly) to declining enrollments. Despite administrative assurances prior to the 2000 accreditation team visit to recruit and sustain a student body of 800 to 850 students, Davis & Elkins would not come close to fulfilling that goal for most of the decade. In the years 19992007 the number of new, full-time students either declined or remained stagnant. The greatest recruiting success occurred in the fall of 2004 when 142 freshmen and 65 transfer students arrived on campus. By 2005 these numbers had decreased to 109 freshmen and 73 transfers. There were slight increases in 2006 and 2007. A disproportionate number of these incoming students were enrolled in the two year nursing program. By commencement 2009 only a little more than half of the 108 graduates had earned either a four year Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree. Although this imbalance did not yet constitute a trend, it did pose a potential challenge to the College’s identity. While a strong Nursing program was an asset to the College, it was imperative that the traditional function of the College be bolstered. This made more vigorous enrollment management imperative. For the 2007-2008 academic year, the number of full-time equivalent students stood at 593. By 2008-2009 this number had shrunk to 536. Challenges on the retention front contributed to the College’s shrinking student body as well. As a result of declining enrollments, faculty student ratios drifted into an unhealthy range. Faculty positions, when vacated, were not filled. The Faculty declined from 54 in 2000 to 40 by 2009. Programs such as art, philosophy, education, and criminology either had reduced personnel or none at all. Introduction 2 Earlier in the decade the faculty had sensed that not all was well in the area of enrollment management. In April 2004, a resolution on leadership in the office of Enrollment Management was introduced by the Admissions and Academic Standing Committee to the College’s Faculty Assembly, where it passed unanimously. The resolution called for a “national search” for a new enrollment officer. This plea went unheeded, however, and an “in-house” selection received the appointment, minus any search, national or otherwise. Financial Challenges If the faculty was, perhaps, prescient on the enrollment management front, few—if any—foresaw the looming problems on the financial front. Up until 2008 the Faculty had continued to receive salary increases and adjunct instructors were regularly retained. In May 2007, however, after several years of significant institutional operating losses, mounting external debt, and a serious cash shortage requiring material borrowing from the College’s long-term investments, changes were deemed imperative. President G. Thomas Mann and the Board of Trustees determined that the ongoing deterioration of the College’s financial position had to be arrested. A Financial Oversight Committee—comprised of Board Members, senior administrators, and staff—was charged with developing a “Corrective Action Plan.” The consulting firm of E.M. Wickwire and Associates, LLC helped to evaluate Davis & Elkins’s financial and operational structure. A multi-year operating budget plan and a cost-benefit analysis of academic programs were developed. Department Chairs were informed of these developments in July 2007 and directed not to hire any additional part-time faculty. This plan was in place for fifteen months and enjoyed some success. By the end of fiscal year 2008, the College had reversed a 2007 operating deficit of twomillion dollars to an operating surplus of $20,000, while improving its operating revenues by 5.9% over the previous year. The College also reduced its operating expenses by approximately $1.1 million, a 7.0% reduction. In addition, the accounts payable and accrued liabilities were brought more nearly into line. The Smith Era In the midst of this crisis, G.T. “Buck” Smith was asked by the Board to come out of retirement and take the reins as 13th President of Davis & Elkins College. He had served previously as Vice President of The College of Wooster (OH) (196277), and President of Chapman University (CA) (1977-88) and Bethany College (WV) (2004-2008). With this wealth of experience as well as a reputation for decisive action, President Smith quickly launched two major initiatives: recruitment and retention. Introduction 3 He brought with him a proven associate, Kevin Wilson—an enrollment expert and a former successful basketball coach and corporate recruiter—who assumed the position of Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer in March 2008, three months ahead of the new president. When Wilson arrived he found a dire situation. In nearly every enrollment management category—inquiries, applications and deposits—the College was running behind projections. Within weeks, Wilson took a nearly disastrous situation and made it respectable. By fall 2008, the incoming class at Davis & Elkins was up 4% from the previous year. President Smith also took other measures to bolster recruitment and to improve the quality of students. He increased the discount rate to make the college more affordable and competitive. In 2000, the NCA team had pointed out that D&E’s tuition discount rate—which then stood at 26%—was “a very conservative rate for private, liberal arts colleges”. By 2008 the overall discount rate had increased modestly to 27.7%, a minimal improvement since the NCA visit. Smith corrected this trend, initially boosting the discount rate to 37.03%. The discount rate has risen even higher since, a result, primarily, of the Highlands Scholars program. One other key incentive in attracting prospective students has been the Highlands Scholars program which invites academically qualified (i.e. with a high school GPA of 2.5 or better) graduating high school students from Randolph County and its six contiguous counties to attend D&E for tuition not much greater than that charged by state universities. For 2009-10, he also froze tuition for all students. Through these and other actions President Smith reinforced D&E’s commitment to serve West Virginia and the region, and underscored his conviction that no deserving student be denied a quality education due to a lack of funds. This spirit of service was recognized and widely applauded in the regional press and throughout the community. It also represented a dramatic shift in the College’s orientation. No longer would the College be resigned to attempting to sustain a quality educational program upon a perennially shrinking resource base. D&E had embraced a commitment to growth. This commitment would require the College to continue its enrollment increases, to become more ambitious in its advancement efforts, to upgrade its facilities, and to enhance its academic offerings. Under the Smith Administration, recruiting targets are considerably more ambitious than they were in previous years, and these targets have—thus far— been eclipsed. An incoming class of 285 (representing an increase of 38.3% from the previous year) was initially projected for fall 2009. The final figure for fall 2009 proved to be 310. For 2010-2011 the figure being projected is 315. As of this writing, the 315 figure appears likely to be met if not exceeded with acceptances, deposits, and enrollments outpacing those from 2009. (See Figure 1.1) Introduction 4 Of particular importance is the increase in quality accompanying this enrollment growth. In 2008, 42% of entering freshmen had a high school GPA of 3.0 or higher. In 2009, that figure rose to 63% even while the number of new students increased by 50.5%. Figure 1.1 Davis & Elkins Enrollment Trends 20002010 This unprecedented recruiting success stems from a positive, personalized, and relentless approach to recruiting inaugurated by Kevin Wilson. Students are able to apply to D&E online or onsite at College Fairs. Once a student applies, he or she receives immediate follow-up in the form of e-mails and/or phone calls. Students are encouraged to visit the campus at any time convenient for them. President Smith attempts to meet with every prospective student and his or her family who visit campus to impress upon them the communal and personal nature of Davis & Elkins. The facultyâ€™s role in the recruiting process has expanded as well. Faculty expect that they will be called upon to participate in faculty panels on various Saturday visitation days throughout the fall and spring semesters. They have also grown accustomed to periodic calls from Kara Fisher, Manager of Enrollment Programs and Events, asking them to meet with students and their families visiting campus during the week. Once students have deposited they are quickly connected with faculty members to register for classes. President Smith has taken similarly impressive strides in the areas of advancement and financial management. In 2008 the College committed itself to the New Dawn Challenge in an effort to raise $6.75 million over a three-year period. The New Dawn Challenge was made by three anonymous donors in October of that year. These donors challenged the College to raise $4.5 million over the course of three years and Introduction 5 agreed to match half of the money raised with an additional 2.25 million dollars. Two thirds of the matching funds are unrestricted and thus can assist the College in its day-to-day operations as it works to rebuild its enrollment. The New Dawn Challenge exceeded the $4.5 million goal on June 23, 2010, a full year ahead of schedule. In March, 2010 D&E received a challenge from philanthropist Doris Buffett. The older sister of famed investor, Warren Buffett, pledged to match every dollar raised by the College in support of its Highlands Scholars program up to a total of $300,000. In June, 2010 President Smith announced that the College had met the goal in less than half the six-month matching period. President Smith and Ms. Doris Buffett at the D&E Gershwin Gala The Smith Administration, following the actions initiated by President Mann, has taken multiple steps to “modernize” the College’s finances. These steps include: • • • Centralizing financial control functions including purchasing, programmatic cost analysis, and compensation management. Undertaking an analysis and revision of processes for budgeting, financial planning, and setting operational benchmarks. Developing a five-year financial operating plan which includes provisions for repayment of all outside debt as well as borrowings from the endowment. The New Dawn Challenge (see Figure 1.2), together with enhanced financial discipline (see Figure 1.3), represent a comprehensive effort to get the College out of its previous deficit position and become a positive, fiscally-sound operation. We are not there yet, but we are well on our way to enabling the Introduction 6 College to meet its challenges and embrace its opportunities to carry out its mission. Figure 1.2 Gifts for Current Operations Figure 1.3 Net Operating Revenue A Closing Word The history of Davis & Elkins College has rarely been one of smooth, unimpeded sailing. The first decade of the Twenty-First Century was a uniquely challenging one for the institution. Nevertheless, with its focus on strengthening institutional fundamentalsâ€”recruitment, financial management, and advancementâ€”we now have a sound and promising foundation on which to build. The challenge the College must meet in the centuryâ€™s second decade is to sustain this positive momentum and carry it into the future. Introduction 7 Criterion I: Mission and Integrity Chapter Two of the D&E 2010 Self Study The organization operates with integrity to ensure the fulfillment of its mission through structures and processes that involve the board, administration, faculty, staff, and students. Evaluating Davis & Elkins with respect to Criterion I: Strengths and Challenges • • • • • • The revision of D&E’s core mission documents occurred in an appropriate fashion. The process took place over the course of approximately a year, incorporated key constituencies, and proved both energizing and engaging. D&E’s revised mission succeeds in synthesizing the College’s professional and liberal arts responsibilities and speaks strongly to both the College’s history and its future. There is evidence that the College’s revised mission documents are helping to focus both energy and intentions (the mission of the College’s preprofessional program of general education and the mission of the Office of Institutional Effectiveness both take their lead from the newly revised institutional mission). Academic programs have, likewise, articulated mission statements that align with the College’s mission. There is strong evidence that understanding of, and support for, D&E’s mission pervade the College. The degree to which multiple constituencies voiced understanding of, and support for, D&E’s mission was one of the hallmarks of the self-study survey. The mission’s significance is also in evidence in a wide variety of College documents. There is evidence that the College succeeds in recognizing, celebrating, and working with diversity in both its “local” and in its more traditional forms. D&E’s TRIO programs, the Augusta Heritage Center, and the Naylor Learning Center speak strongly to D&E’s recognition of “local” diversity while D&E’s general education diversity requirement, the Phipps Lectureship, and activities and opportunities sponsored by D&E’s Center for Ethics, Spirituality, and Global Awareness illustrate the College’s commitment to cultivating an awareness and appreciation of more conventional forms of diversity. Aspects of D&E’s collective governance are currently in flux and, while this demonstrates that D&E is willing and able to evaluate its structures and processes, and to strengthen them as needed, this restructuring also appears—potentially—to have generated a measure of uncertainty among various College constituencies. Thus, constituencies regularly expressed satisfaction with, and trust in; specific governing bodies (e.g. Faculty Assembly or the Board of Trustees). At the same time, when asked to respond to other statements such as “I am satisfied with my opportunities to participate in key institutional decisions, such as those concerned with Criterion I|Mission and Integrity 8 long-term planning, budget, missions, and goals” or “faculty have a fair and equitable role in governing, planning, budgeting and policy-making bodies” the results were more ambiguous. Because D&E has not utilized a survey like this on a consistent basis, it is difficult to determine what—precisely— these more fragmented responses mean. It will be interesting to issue a similar survey at some point in the future to begin developing a normative baseline by which to judge these sorts of responses. One particular challenge that has emerged in the course of the D&E’s self-study is the pressing need to update the College’s faculty and personnel handbooks. These handbooks have been added to repeatedly over the years but they have not been entirely updated. This is a task that the College will attend to after some other more immediate initiatives (i.e. the completion of the self-study, the launch of a new program of general education) are either completed or capable of sustaining themselves. Students displaying Mission Statement Criterion I|Mission and Integrity 9 Criterion II: Preparing for the Future Chapter Three of the D&E 2010 Self Study The organization’s allocation of resources and its processes for evaluation and planning demonstrate its capacity to fulfill its mission, improve the quality of its education, and respond to future challenges and opportunities. Evaluating Davis & Elkins with respect to Criterion II: Strengths and Challenges • • • • • • • • • • • The past decade has been a challenging one for Davis & Elkins College. Stagnant and declining enrollments led to a shrinking resource base….a dynamic that threatened to pull the College into a downward spiral from which there may have been no recovery. During this period many within the College community developed a skeptical attitude toward the enterprise of strategic planning, an enterprise that appeared largely impotent when it came to molding a positive future for D&E. In challenge, however, lies opportunity, and Davis & Elkins has utilized its moment of crisis to remake the College in critical ways in areas specifically related to the College’s ability to prepare for the future. The College restructured its workforce. In the process D&E managed to eliminate several non-critical positions. As the College has rebuilt its workforce it has done so in a more flexible fashion which will enable it to more easily and efficiently reallocate human resources in response to shifting student demands. For example, D&E has instituted term appointments as an option for faculty, similarly adding to its staffing flexibility. D&E has taken considerable strides in the modernization of its finances. D&E has made considerable strides in its Office of Enrollment Management. The fall 2009 class was the largest entering class in more than 60 years and projections for 2010 are running ahead of 2009. Under President Smith’s leadership, D&E has succeeded in raising funds far more successfully than it has in the past. With talented and decisive new leadership in technology, D&E has taken significant strides in upgrading its technological capabilities. Recognizing the need for a central entity to collect, analyze, and share institutional data, the College created the Office of Institutional Effectiveness. The strides that D&E has taken on these fronts have, ultimately, been in support of student learning. Davis & Elkins has made significant progress in some areas in utilizing data for implementing improvements. The Writing Center, Retention Team, Career Management Center, Counseling and Wellness Center, and Academic Support Services offered by the Naylor Learning Center all represent assessment and evaluation-driven responses to student needs. It is hoped that, with the debut of D&E’s new program of general education in the fall Criterion II - Preparing for the Future 10 • • • of 2010, D&E will position itself to be able to make assessment-driven, curriculum-wide changes and adjustments to its general education program. Providing support for assessment and evaluation has—at times in D&E’s past—been difficult due to the College’s financial challenges. The Smith administration is committed to ensuring that the assessment/evaluation process will have the resources it needs to succeed. Three new (part time) positions have been created this year in support of assessment and evaluation: Assessment Coordinator, Director of OIE, and an Administrative Assistant for OIE. Money has been made available for faculty and administrators to attend national conferences; purchase training materials; and purchase standardized tests such as SSI, C-BASE, NSSE, and CIRP for the coming year. The College has not systematically evaluated non-academic units prior to the start of the self-study process. OIE will further this process in the coming year so that the College will begin to gather data to implement continuous improvement in non-academic areas of the College. The central challenge for D&E—as it moves forward—will be to overcome hard earned skepticism among many members of the College community toward the practice of strategic planning. Institutionalizing a strategic planning process should help D&E sustain the positive momentum generated over the course of the past two years. The recent creation of the Committee on the Future (i.e., the strategic planning committee) suggests that initial steps are being taken in this reg Chief Technology Officer, Matt Tarbett, demonstrates the capabilities of a new smart classroom. Criterion II - Preparing for the Future 11 Criterion III: Student Learning and Effective Teaching Chapter Four of the D&E 2010 Self Study The organization provides evidence of student learning and teaching effectiveness that demonstrates it is fulfilling its educational mission. Evaluating Davis & Elkins with respect to Criterion III: Strengths and Challenges • • • • • • • • Since its 2000 visit (and the attendant monitoring report on assessment), D&E has made significant progress on assessment at the course, program, and institutional levels. The self-study process itself, however, lead to recognition of the distance D&E has yet to travel on the assessment front. Specifically, the College realized that at least some of the functions and goals initially envisioned for D&E’s Assessment Committee (i.e. “to provide regular feedback to faculty” and “to develop information management and technical support systems”) have not been fully realized. Acting on these limitations, the College moved to create the Office of Institutional Effectiveness. In addition to serving as an organizational clearing house for data and information, OIE will work to close the proverbial loop by providing faculty with feedback on student learning. The launch of D&E’s new program of general education represents an effort of the College to challenge itself to move to the next level of both learning and assessment by creating a working model of shared, campus-wide, developmentally-oriented assessment of student learning on all general education learning outcomes. D&E has a well-established system for the evaluation of faculty and teaching effectiveness. Faculty Assembly’s adoption of new procedures for peer review of teaching suggests a desire by the faculty to work toward the ongoing improvement of this well-established system. D&E views the improvement of teaching as a legitimate form of professional development and allocates resources to enable faculty to attend conferences and seminars devoted to teaching and learning. D&E has made significant strides in enhancing the technological dimensions of the learning environments for students and faculty. This progress has greatly accelerated and intensified under the Smith Administration and Chief Technology Officer Matt Tarbett. It is no accident that D&E’s vision statement makes reference to a “nurturing environment.” Given the College’s mission and the nature of the region to which it is committed, D&E recognizes the necessity, value, and importance of supporting all learners in their diversity. The College has created a variety of support services and works regularly to update these services in order to better support all of its learners in their diversity Criterion III - Student Learning and Effective Teaching 12 Commencement 2010 - Governor Joe Manchin III, Gayle Manchin and D&E Graduate Daniel Kwafo Criterion III - Student Learning and Effective Teaching 13 Criterion IV: Acquisition, Discovery and Application of Knowledge Chapter Five of the D&E 2010 Self Study The organization promotes a life of learning for its faculty, administration, staff and students by fostering and supporting inquiry, creativity, practice and social responsibility in ways consistent with its mission. Evaluating Davis & Elkins with respect to Criterion IV: Strengths and Challenges â€˘ Multiple sources of evidence illustrate that Davis & Elkins values and promotes a life of learning for all of its constituents. The College understands that meaningful and engaging classroom learning is predicated upon a variety of factors: o o o o â€˘ The maintenance of academic freedom. Both the board of trustees and the faculty give strong marks to the College in terms of its continuing commitment to academic freedom. Professional development. The board supports professional development opportunities for faculty, staff, and administrators. Faculty, in general, report a high level of satisfaction with the professional development opportunities available to them. Satisfaction is more uneven among staff members, and this represents a phenomenon that merits more attention. The ongoing maintenance of a learning community. Through sustaining a campus environment rich in cultural and intellectual opportunities and through creating opportunities for faculty and students to work collaboratively (e.g. through faculty-guided research and opportunities like Winter Term), Davis & Elkins endeavors to create an environment in which students can create and share knowledge. The recognition of the achievements of its constituencies. D&E recognizes the achievements of its constituencies in a variety of ways and in a variety of forums. This chapter devotes significant attention to the history of general education at D&E, the assessment of general education over the course of the past decade, and D&Eâ€™s recent revision of its program of general education. This extended discussion was intended to illustrate the following points: o As a college with a liberal arts tradition Davis & Elkins has always valued, and been committed to, liberal learning and cultivating a breadth of knowledge and skills in its students. Criterion IV - Acquisition, Discovery and Application of Knowledge 14 The revision of the College’s general education curriculum has emerged through a review of the College’s mission, vision, and the effectiveness of the previous general education curriculum. o Davis & Elkins is capable of learning from its mistakes. The College’s previous efforts to assess its prior general education curriculum— though generating some curricular changes—were flawed in a variety of ways. D&E’s new approach to assessing its program of general education attempts to learn from these mistakes by employing measures that will be both consistent across disciplines and developmental in nature. A key objective of this new program is to develop a meaningful assessment model to sustain D&E’s program of general education. o D&E’s revised program of general education will be integrated into the entire curriculum. Students will encounter it both within and outside their major. It will not be experienced as something separate and apart. o D&E’s revised program of general education attempts to forge linkages between the curricular and co-curricular dimensions of a student’s experience at D&E. Three learning outcomes (i.e. leadership, teamwork, and community service) may be met through either curricular or cocurricular experiences. o The learning outcomes chosen for D&E’s revised program of general education have been selected because faculty believe these outcomes represent the skills, knowledge, and dispositions that students will need to succeed and thoughtfully engage—both professionally and in their lives—in a diverse and rapidly changing world. In terms of assessing the usefulness of its curriculum to students, the College has—in the creation of the learning outcomes associated with its revised program of general education—adopted these specific outcomes in the belief that they will be necessary for students to succeed and to engage in a global, diverse, and technological society. In the spring of 2011, Davis & Elkins will launch a more conventional form of rolling program review. Though the principal focus of Davis & Elkins College is on teaching rather than research, the College does provide and support opportunities for students to engage in, and present, research and to work collaboratively with faculty in the creation and sharing of knowledge. Davis & Elkins offers a variety of both curricular and co-curricular opportunities that promote social responsibility. With the adoption of develop an appreciation of community service as one of the new learning outcomes of the College’s program of general education, this variety of social responsibility will now move toward being formally assessed both in the curriculum and co-curriculum. Davis & Elkins, like most contemporary colleges and universities in the digital age, struggles with the issue of plagiarism and cheating. Discussions are ongoing about these challenges, and some small steps have been taken to address these issues; but the College has not yet moved to address these challenges in an institution-wide fashion. o • • • • • Criterion IV - Acquisition, Discovery and Application of Knowledge 15 â€˘ â€˘ Davis & Elkins follows specific procedures with respect to research conducted with both animal and human subjects. Through the self-study process, it became evident that these procedures ought to be publicized and disseminated in a more deliberate manner. Davis & Elkins disseminates and enforces clear policies and practices involving intellectual property rights; although, like the procedures for clearing research, the self-study process suggests that these policies ought to be publicized and disseminated in a more deliberate fashion. D&E Student receives academic award from Dr. Sharmistha Roy at Honors Convocation Criterion IV - Acquisition, Discovery and Application of Knowledge 16 Criterion V: Engagement and Service Chapter six of the D&E 2010 Self Study As called for by its mission, the organization identifies its constituencies and serves them in ways both value. Evaluating Davis & Elkins with respect to Criterion V: Strengths and Challenges • • • Davis & Elkins College is located in a poor, rural region of Appalachia. The College is deeply committed to the City of Elkins and the surrounding region. At the same time, it recognizes that—in order to thrive—it must draw students from outside the region. The College’s effort to attract students from beyond West Virginia’s border, while meeting the needs of in-state students, represents an ongoing challenge, but one which the College continues to successfully manage. D&E’s commitment to the region is expressed in its mission of preparing and inspiring students for success and for thoughtful engagement with the world. The mission reflects the College’s recognition that an Appalachian college must commit itself to its students’ success while, simultaneously, communicating to its students that mere, worldly—or purely material— success is, in and of itself, insufficient to lead a full and rewarding life. D&E’s integration with, and deep and abiding commitment to the region are evident in a variety of different forms and on a variety of different levels. Many of these commitments illustrate, simultaneously, the College’s ongoing efforts to learn from and, thereby, better meet the needs of its constituencies. o o o o o o o • The nursing program’s thirty years of success in providing a rewarding career path for citizens of the region who would like to stay in the region and contribute to society in a meaningful fashion. The deep roots that the education department has set down in the local education systems. Inauguration of the Highlands Scholar Program. The fact that the College regularly plays host to a wide variety of community events including elementary school holiday concerts, high school and youth swim meets, high school cross country races, Forest Festival activities, etc. D&E’s support for both its traditional and veterans Upward Bound Programs. D&E’s support of its own Augusta Heritage Center. D&E’s participation in the Veterans Administration Yellow Ribbon Program. Davis & Elkins is quite sensitive to the diversity of its primary constituency, its students. The SSI, the Naylor Learning Center, the Honors Program, and Criterion V - Engagement and Service 17 • • • • • • • • • • • the pilot preparatory / mentoring program all represent efforts of the College to embrace the varying abilities that students bring to college. D&E has been less sensitive to the diversities of its other constituencies. Lessons learned via multiple self-study surveys have, however, already resulted in the College working to be more attentive to the diverse needs of its other constituencies. D&E’s educational program connects students with external constituencies through internships and practica and through various winter term courses. The College hopes that—as its new Career Management Center develops— it will expand the opportunities for its students to interact with external constituencies in professional settings. The College’s extensive connections with, and commitments to, the region (highlighted above) illustrate that its resources support effective programs of engagement and service. This is evidenced by the College being named “2010 Employer of the Year” in Randolph County. D&E’s co-curricular activities engage students with multiple external constituencies primarily through a wide variety of service opportunities. Davis & Elkins has a very liberal credit transfer policy that supports the mobility of learners. Davis & Elkins supports learning for a wide variety of learners (i.e. not only for its core student body). These learners include high school students in the Academic Partnership and Upward Bound programs and D&E’s support for continuing education among educators and other professionals. The self-study survey of community leaders suggests that—generally speaking—the College’s programs of engagement and service are successful and well-received in the local community. The College participates in multiple partnerships focused on shared educational, economic, and social goals. Two recent examples of this variety of partnership include D&E’s sponsorship of the Healthy Living Expo and the West Virginia Sustainable Fair. Curricular changes, ranging from major to minor, illustrate D&E’s responsiveness to the needs of external constituents. The community regularly utilizes the College’s facilities and participates in a wide variety of College-sponsored events ranging from concerts and plays, to lectures and exhibitions, to sports camps and athletic events. For example, over 50,000 people attended events at Harper-McNeeley Auditorium last year. The College has a history of being responsive to student needs and concerns. Criterion V - Engagement and Service 18 • • The self-study has pointed out two principal weaknesses with respect to D&E’s ability to engage and serve its constituencies. The first centers on the fact that, although the College maintains a host of relationships with people and institutions in the community and region, these relationships are largely informal. Unfortunately, this means that these relationships risk being lost when faculty and other staff members leave or retire. The College must work to track these relationships if only to ensure that they be preserved. The second weakness is that the College has not done a good job of monitoring the needs—or level of satisfaction—of its external constituents, or whether it is effectively meeting those needs. The surveys conducted in support of the self-study suggest that doing so might not be terribly costly or time-consuming, but might yield appreciable benefits. Winter Term D&E students pose with homeowners in Gautier, MS – Gulf housing restoration after Hurricane Katrina Criterion V - Engagement and Service 19 Concluding Observations As this self-study has illustrated, the first-decade of the twenty-first century was a challenging one for Davis & Elkins College. As a small, rural, tuition-driven institution, the College’s stagnant and declining enrollments, coupled with similar trend lines for annual giving, created a chronic and growing gap between revenues and expenses. This situation came to a head in 2007 and 2008 with dramatic workforce downsizing and expense reductions. D&E’s future during these years of crisis appeared murky at best. Protracted periods of crisis take their toll on the populations that must endure them. To say this, however, is not to equate all crises. The struggles of a small, rural college to remain viable scarcely compare to the traumas endured by those in war zones and refugee camps across the world. The crises that D&E endured over the course of the past decade, nevertheless, took their toll on the College community, even if this toll was difficult to measure or quantify. The College community had gradually, almost imperceptibly, adopted a diminished sense of possibility and, correspondingly, a diminished set of expectations for itself. The challenge the College faced as it looked toward the future was thus not purely one of reversing discouraging trends in enrollment and finances, it was a psychological one as well. Could the College Community embrace a broader sense of possibility and a more demanding set of expectations for itself? The authors of this self-study have tried not to focus either too intently or at too great a length on the direness of the College’s situation during its years of decline. We did not want to ignore, or to gloss over, the realities of this situation, but focusing too extensively on these challenges would have meant being unfaithful to the spirit that has emerged at D&E in the past two years. Sometimes institutions get lucky. D&E has been extraordinarily lucky to be the beneficiary of its exemplary leadership over the past two years. But luck, as the saying goes, is ultimately what you make of it. The entire D&E community has risen to the challenges it faced and responded to President Smith’s call to dream larger dreams for the institution. Thus, rather than representing an exercise in examining the College’s frailties and limitations or in attempting to preserve particular legacies, the self-study became—early on—an energizing and engaging process. At the heart of this process was the extended discussion centering on the revision of the College’s core mission documents. This process was a genuinely organic one, with a great 20 deal of debate, discussion, and—quite frankly—disagreement. When the College’s new Mission Statement was finally distilled, however, a consensus emerged rather quickly that the College’s revised mission—to prepare and inspire students for success and for thoughtful engagement in the world— accurately articulated what the College was about while, simultaneously, remaining faithful to its past. It would be inaccurate to say that all the positive changes at Davis & Elkins College have somehow been driven by its revised mission. Many positive changes simply amounted to the College working—under President Smith’s leadership—to strengthen its fundamentals. Thus, the College has worked to modernize its finances on multiple fronts; it has employed new strategies in recruiting students and encouraging giving; and it has enjoyed unprecedented success (at least in the contemporary era) on both fronts. The College has continued to make technology upgrades and has established an Office of Institutional Effectiveness to supplement assessment efforts and to begin the process of evaluating other aspects of institutional functioning. And yet, in many respects, the College’s revised mission has played a critical role in driving positive, participatory change at the College. The revised mission has led the College to more fully recognize and appreciate the critical role it plays in the region and to embrace that role with a greater sense of responsibility and commitment. D&E’s inauguration of the Highlands Scholars Program represents a key example of the College’s rediscovered sense of responsibility and commitment in this regard. The influence of D&E’s revised mission is also readily apparent in the College’s new program of general education. D&E’s program of general education has adopted a mission statement that is closely aligned with the institutional mission: To cultivate the knowledge, skills, and dispositions students need to succeed and to engage thoughtfully in world. The influence of the College’s mission is equally apparent in the learning outcomes that faculty—through a process of deliberation and debate—selected as the outcomes that would best serve students who are being educated “to succeed and to engage thoughtfully in the world.” The outcomes reflect the College’s appreciation of the fact that colleges—particularly those located in poor, rural, regions of Appalachia—must prepare their students to succeed not only in the workforce, but also to live meaningful and rewarding lives as citizens, family members, friends, and neighbors. The self-study also uncovered, unsurprisingly, areas in which the College must improve. D&E needed to create an office to coordinate assessment efforts and institutional research. It must also update its faculty and personnel handbooks. 21 It must move to create more systematic ways of evaluating the performance of the non-academic dimensions of the College. It must work to create a meaningful institutional entity to undertake strategic planning, and it must work to develop further its relationships with key external constituencies. As the College weathered its years of crisis, it turned its energies inward. This may have been both understandable and necessary, but as it looks to the future, D&E must begin working systematically to monitor the needs and perceptions of the world beyond. Just a few short years ago; this list of challenges would have appeared overwhelming—even paralyzing. Now, however, the College is fortified with a stronger sense of its own identity and mission and energized by the confidence that flows from successfully tackling other major initiatives (such as the revision of the College’s core mission documents, the revision of its program of general education, the creation of an Office of Institutional Effectiveness, and the creation of a Career Management Center). These tasks seem, increasingly, like little more than a list of things we clearly are capable of doing to further strengthen the College. As the final changes and edits were being made to the self-study in preparation for printing, D&E learned that it would be the first private college or university in West Virginia to serve as host institution for the West Virginia Governor’s School for the Arts. Only a few years ago the thought of even applying to host this event would have been considered audacious at best. Today the College’s attitude is no longer “Not us!” but rather “Why not us?” Drawing on its own unique strengths and resources, D&E submitted a proposal that will expose Governor’s School students to the cultural riches of the Augusta Heritage Center and its programming. But more than that, it was the newfound strength and confidence of the entire college that made a resounding impression. As Kay Goodwin, West Virginia Cabinet Secretary for Education and the Arts wrote: Passion for the arts is an essential element for a college hosting GSA. Although we encountered other excellent proposals, passion for the program coupled with planning and commitment from all interviewed staff brought Davis & Elkins to the top. We eagerly anticipate bringing GSA to D&E and the arts community of Elkins. Preparing for this task will be challenging but, in meeting the challenge, the College will only be further strengthened. 22 Davis & Elkins is not entirely out of the woods in its recovery. As a small, rural, modestly-endowed, tuition-driven institution, the College appreciates that the woods will never be far off. Nevertheless, the College has overcome tremendous obstacles over these past ten years and has emerged as a fundamentally stronger institution, one fortified not only by a renewed sense of hope, but also by an authentic, and growing, measure of confidence as it looks to the future. The Davis & Elkins College Appalachian String Band 23 Davis & Elkins College 100 Campus Drive Elkins, WV 26241 The Self-Study Executive Committee: Steve Creasey, PH.D., Professor of Education, Chair - Dept. of Education Stephen Mattingly, Assistant Professor of Computer Science Joseph Roidt, PH.D., Associate Provost for Programs, Professor of Sociology Victor Thacker, PH.D., Provost & Dean of Faculty Ruth Tunick, PH.D., Associate Professor of Psychology David Turner, PH.D., Professor of History, Chair – Dept. of History & Political Science Support Staff: Robin Price, Executive Assistant to the President Connie Townsend, Administrative Coodinator Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Office Manager of the Center for Sustainability Studies Sharon White, Administrative Assistant to the Provost and Dean of Faculty Erin Young, Academic Secretary Dept. of Fine Arts & Performing Arts and Writing Center Coordinator (Cover Design) Acknowledgements: Kind thanks to the following for their guidance and support: Scott Goddard, Dean of Students Stephanie Haynes, Registrar Debbie Larkin, Associate Registrar Craig Merriam, Coordinator of Administrative Computing Wendy Morgan, Coordinator of Alumni Relations Mitzie Paynter, Office Assisisant, Registrar’s Office Amelia Rossi, Office Assistant, Registrar’s Office Carol Schuler, Director of Communications & Marketing Pat Schumann, Vice President for College Advancement Lisa Senic, Coordinator of Parent Relations & Special Projects Ken Sheller, Administrative Computing Assistant G. T. “Buck” Smith, President Matt Tarbett, Chief Technology Officer Greta Troastle, Director of Financial Operations Karen Wilmoth, Director of Advancment Operations & Stewardship Kevin Wilson, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer 24