State of the College Spring 2016 President Tom Foley January 7, 2016 It is perhaps the understatement of the year to suggest that the five months since the last State of the College address continues a trend—and that trend is: “interesting times for higher education.”
Free speech and sexual harassment issues popped up all over the country, from large state schools to elite private institutions
Federal higher education aid policies are poised for a major overhaul, beginning with simplified FASFA forms
Foundation grant priorities continue to slant away from private institutions
For-profit default rates exceed 50% for on-line programs that still devour too much of the federal aid pie
Falling enrollments remain a major challenge, especially in Northeast US
Frequent questions about the ROI in higher education are fodder for numerous political campaigns and
Fresh scandals in Division I sports are almost too numerous to mention.
Sounds more like the fabled Chinese curse, “may you live in interesting times,” than anything that might grab our attention in a positive way. And so it is. I googled “college scandals” and got over 13.3 million citations in less than one-half second. Headlines included “10 Biggest Cheating Scandals,” “10 Professors Behaving Badly,” “11 Shocking Academic Scandals,” “8 Scandals that Ended College Presidencies.” Sometimes, it feels like the search for sordid scandals to sate the thirst for 24/7 sound bites focuses entirely on higher education. I assure you that that is not the case—those kinds of salacious headlines are equal opportunity destroyers, and denigrate just about every aspect of American life these days. However, it is fair to say that the overall emphasis on the negative in higher education is certainly more pronounced than in decades—or presidential campaigns—past, and let me start this address with two comments on all the negative play. First, the Mount Aloysius example of affordability has been held up as a model in PA. Thanks to the work of my predecessors and to our Board of Trustees, Mount Aloysius remains one of the best bargains for private higher education in the state and nationally. While other institutions are taking bows for lowering their tuition (N.B., not room and board or fees, just tuition alone) below $30K, Mount Aloysius’ total package (tuition, room and board, fees) remains just above that number in 2015-16.
Second, the Mount Aloysius example of access has been held up as model in the nation—access for mature students, access for lower income students, access for career-minded students (2-year and vocational programs). On those issues as well, the record built over many years at Mount Aloysius is exceptional. The percentage of our traditional-aged students has trended up in recent years, over 30% of our students don’t begin their studies until at least five years after high school—that’s access for mature students. At Mount Aloysius, over 50% of our graduates are in two-year, careerdirected degree programs, like nursing, surgical technology, medical assistant, radiology, business, criminology and physical therapy— that’s access for the vocational and careerminded student. At Mount Aloysius, one in five students comes from a family with total income less than $21,700, and two in five from families with total income at or below 150% of the federal poverty level—that’s truly access for lower-income students. But don’t take my word for it. These aspects of our mission came in for high praise from both major accrediting entities last spring and from Washington, DC just last fall. When the federal Department of Education unveiled its new Scorecard for higher education, Mount Aloysius was one of only four institutions (and the only private college) singled out in an accompanying White House press release. Mount Aloysius was described as an "engine of opportunity,” because we have contributed “to mobility into the middle class through offering an affordable education to many low-income students.” There are about 7,000 institutions of higher education in the United States—you should be very proud to be one of these four. White House Press Release ----------------------------------------------A quick note on the above mentioned White House College Scorecard unveiled last fall— over the long course of its development, I’ve tried to stay conversant with all the twists and turns in U.S. Department of Education (and White House) efforts on the Scorecard. I offered testimony during both comment periods, wrote a widely-published Op-Ed piece, served as one of the (few) invitees to both White House Summits on Higher Education, and worked directly with both the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU, which represents all private college) and the Yes We Must coalition (which promotes the efforts of low-income students), all in an effort to ensure that Mount Aloysius (and schools like it) and our mission were
accurately portrayed. While the final Scorecard has much to recommend it, I believe there remain very significant issues that impede the fairness, accuracy and utility of the Scorecard. I will continue our efforts to make the Scorecard the best tool possible for families engaged in the college search process, and I include here a link that summarizes our efforts on the Scorecard and identifies those issues that remain. Summary of the MAC engagement on the White House Scorecard At last year’s White House Summit, I had the chance to present our case--simply that, at Mount Aloysius
we keep costs down (total package just over $30K)
we educate mature students (over 30%)
we serve lower-income families (50+% Pell-eligible students)
we pay our debts (student loan default rate is about half the national average)
we work hard and study hard (82% of our students work at least part time jobs)
we graduate students at a far higher rate than the demographics would predict and
we produce active-duty citizens (100% of our students perform community service).
Some of these should be priority points in the national debate on funding for higher education. All of these points should be measuring sticks in any calculus designed to rate colleges and universities. And by any formula based on these factors, the Mount Aloysius approach—where we synthesize faith and a sense of mission right into the learning process and where we try to develop competence that is twinned with compassion—is a most worthy approach. Essayist Nicholas Kristof says that “the best escalator to opportunity in America is education.” Let me begin this State of the College with congratulations to all of you—educators and administrators, teachers and tutors, role models, confidants, coaches, and caretakers all--for keeping that escalator in working condition— promoting access, protecting affordability and producing a new generation of educated citizenry. Thank you! ---------------------------------------------------------------------In the past, I have approached the January State of the College Address as a kind of “stakeholders report.” Let me continue that practice with a focus on (1) some highlights from last semester; (2) some attention to issues that keep me awake at night; and (3) a look forward at our strategic planning
process. First topic—a quick review. It was, as always, a busy fall for all of you who have the honor to serve in the classroom and for all of us whose job it is to facilitate a quality educational experience inside and outside that classroom. Ten highlights: First, the October Bertschi Center and Technology Commons dedication marked another step in facilities development—thank you Senior VP for Administrative Affairs Suzanne Campbell, Facilities Director Jerry Rubritz and team. This was our fifth building project in five years (refurbished Alumni Hall, Mountie Stables, ACWC, outdoor trail/courts, Bertschi Center and Technology Commons, and now the new-look cafeteria). All of these projects have been supported directly by a record-setting Capital Campaign that has now raised almost $22M, about three times any previous effort by the college, in little over half the time of the two earlier campaigns. Thank you to Trustees Dan Rullo and Mike McLanahan who co-chair the campaign and to all the donors who helped lead the way there. The Bertschi dedication was also a chance for us to salute two leaders from our recent past—Sister Ginny Bertschi (who served eight years at the College in Suzanne’s post) and Sister Mary Ann Dillon (who served as our President for 13 years). Special thanks to Sister Mary Ann who came west to keynote the event, and Trustee Joe Sheetz, who did so much to make it all happen. Here is a brief summary of that event. Bertschi Dedication Video | Bertschi Dedication Article Second, this fall’s Scholarship Dinner was also especially meaningful—as we now have over $4M in endowed scholarships, up 44% in the last 5 years. More than 150 students received an endowed scholarship last year. Our students appreciate their benefactors. Student Scholarship Thank You Video And the benefactors appreciate the mission of Mount Aloysius. Scholarship Dinner Highlight Video Thank you VP for Advancement Jennifer Dubuque and team. Third, our commitment to community service and the Mercy charism remained vibrant last fall, even as we experience our first year ever with no Sisters of Mercy on our paid staff. Mercy Week saw the five critical concerns of the Sisters of Mercy commemorated at events each day organized by Director of Mission Integration and Community Engagement Christina Koren and her team. Mercy Week Video | Mercy Week Poster The numbers in terms of service by students, staff and faculty continue to be impressive (17,479 hours since this time last year, with close to a thousand students, faculty and staff working on 432 projects with 249 different community partners). On one weekend, our students were volunteering in community events such as Ebensburg’s Potatofest (at 6:30 on a Saturday morning) to help with the set up (and were back that night to help take it down); they entertained over 100 kids at the Hollidaysburg Halloween fest; and marched and served in the Johnstown parade as well. And our Christmas giving traditions—and the true notion of service
behind all these efforts—were featured in a lengthy story in the Altoona Mirror—the 45th Madrigal, 30th Christmas at the Mount (700), 29th Angel Tree (186), and the 163nd Christmas Liturgy (3rd with Father Malachi). Christmas at the Mount Video | Christmas Customs Article Fourth, our students took Pope Francis’ message (about the “Year of Mercy”) to heart at three services which they designed—our traditional Thanksgiving Service; a service to commemorate those who died in mass shootings this fall; and an early December Memorial Service for two students who died from natural (but totally unexpected) causes over that holiday. The Thanksgiving Service was both inspirational and multidenominational, with some striking songs by our new Gospel Choir (thank you Ajai and Harold)—I think the most meaningful Thanksgiving service in my six years here. Our students invited members of the Cresson Police Department and our own campus security team for the mass shooting victims’ Remembrance Service. And the early December Memorial Service, designed and delivered entirely by about 25 students, was truly special. It featured eloquent eulogies by friends of first-year student Ayanna Moses ’19 and by the cousin of RN to BSN on line student Erica Gallegos ‘18, a candle lighting ceremony, a capella songs, a choir backed by a student duo on jazz piano and drum, and a well-attended reception. Thanks to Chris Koren, Director of Campus Ministry Andrea Cecilli, Director of Student Activities Elaine Grant and Michele Foley, all of whom provided significant background support to the student organizers. Fifth, our students experienced a lot of success in the classroom. As I highlighted in my August remarks (delivered for me by Dean Pugliese), Mounties finished last year with a 100% pass rate in the most recent state exams for EKG Techs, Phlebotomy Techs, Ultrasonography and Medical Imaging. Physical Therapy Assistant grads had a pass rate of 90%, MLT and Surg Tech students passed at an 86% rate (16 points ahead of the national benchmark), and our Master’s students in Counseling again achieved a pass rate of 100%. Recent MAC grads are working on advanced degrees at schools that include
Baylor University Boston College Catholic University Dickenson School of Law Duquesne School of Law Georgetown University
Johns Hopkins Notre Dame Penn Pitt Princeton Villanova
Hopkins Hopkins Congrats to faculty and students for these signature accomplishments!
Sixth, our Nursing Program came in for more accolades this fall—the magazine Nurse Journal wrote to me last month to let us know that the college’s nursing program had been recognized as one of the premier programs in the state. This is the first time Nurse Journal has decided to rank these nursing programs and we
are delighted that the recognition was so decisive. Representing fully 35% of our total student body, our 2015 NCLEX pass rate again exceeded 90%. That is just excellent, and the fourth year in a row (and ninth straight testing period) where our overall rate exceeded 90%. That pass rate competes with and surpasses the rate for many institutions whose incoming classes carry far higher average SAT and ACT scores, exceeds both the state and national averages by 12%, is the highest for Associate degree granting institutions in the state and in the top ten for large PA nursing schools overall. Thanks to nursing faculty and hardworking students alike! Nursing Rankings Article We are also excited today to welcome Dr. Cyndi King, as our new Dean of Nursing. Her background—from direct clinical care to high level research, from prolific writer to international journal editor and as educator and leader has won her many honors before this assignment, including her place as a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing. Welcome, Dr. King. Dr. Cindy King Announcement Seventh, our faculty also came in for special recognition. I invite you to review my quarterly Reports to the Community on our website, where I chronicle numerous curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular achievements and presentations by our faculty—an average of 30 a quarter. Today, just a quick shout out to
Dr. John Whitlock who has again put Mount Aloysius in world-wide news for his work in the field of paleontology
Ms. Margaret Boyce, Assistant Professor of Nursing, who was again chosen for the NCLEX Items Writers Panel (a top honor in her profession) and
Dr. Elizabeth Mansley, who presented twice at the American Society of Criminology meeting in Washington DC—on "Operation Storybook: Utilizing Service-Learning in Corrections Courses" and "Is Life without Parole More Humane than Death?"
Dr. Mary Shuttlesworth, whose co-authored article on “The Role of Social and Emotional Learning in the Preschool Classroom” has been accepted for publication in a prestigious international psychology journal. President’s Reports to the Community
Eighth, four Mount Aloysius leaders were guests of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, following on the recognition of the College by the White House as one of four “engines of opportunity.” This was our first invitation from the Gates Foundation where we joined thirty-five institutions from across the country that are premier places for first-generation and low-income students. We sent Provost Dr. Steve Pugliese, Director of Student Success Heather Low, CFO Donna Yoder and Director of the Library Dr. Michael Jones to this Gates-
funded opportunity. They came back with confirmation about the rightness of our own approach, a few new ideas and unanimous encouragement from their peers. Ninth, I had a chance last fall to visit a number of activities geared around this year’s theme: Voice. Most of you heard Dr. Dan Porterfield, President of Franklin & Marshall, speak at Convocation on the topic, where he so graciously quoted from essays by our students. Convocation Highlight Video Some were present for Pulitzer-Prize winner David Shribman’s Constitution Day remarks on “Presidential Voices: What Past Presidential Speeches Tell Us about the Politics of Today.” Constitution Day Highlights And Trustee and Alum Adele Kupchella focused on the inner voice in her remarks to our December graduates. December Graduation Highlights We have three more all-star speakers this spring:
Dr. Karen Schneider, RSM, who practices medicine and leads research at Johns Hopkins (as a Sister of Mercy) is coming to us, frankly, because Michele insisted. Michele knows of Dr. Schneider’s big heart and brain from her own studies with Johns Hopkins and suggested that we get her to the College on this theme. Chris Koren and Andrea Cecilli also met her when she was leading a research/primary care effort at a Mercy project in Guyana. We are all very excited that she will speak to the notion of Voice in healthcare—central to the future of so many of our students— at this year’s Moral Choices Lecture, on February 25. Dr. Schneider’s Bio | Profile Article
NYC attorney, and Huffington Post writer (and my Dartmouth College and Yale Law School classmate) Cornelius McCarthy will return to the College on March 17 to deliver the Spring Honors Lecture on Immigration and America: Voices Old and New. It is a favorite theme of Neil’s and I am sure his presentation will be entertaining and interesting. Huffington Post blog
And President, Reverend and Dr. Tori Murden-McClure will speak to the theme of Voice at Graduation. Dr. McClure is a Harvard-trained Minister, a lawyer and the first non-Catholic President of Spalding University in Kentucky. She is also the author of A Pearl in the Storm, the tale of her solo row across the Atlantic, currently in production as an off-Broadway play. Dr. Murden-McClure addressed the NAICU two years ago, and brought the house down. She was my classmate at a summer Harvard program and is a longtime friend of Muhammad Ali (who inspired her to try the expedition a second time, after failing her initial crossing). Tori will literally be a “voice off mid-Atlantic” (to borrow Seamus Heaney’s phrase), as she follows last year’s outstanding graduation speaker (and my old Dean) Judge Guido Calabresi. Trust me, Tori is up to the task, and is excited to be coming to us. Dr. MurdenMcClure’s Bio | Profile Article
The most compelling part of this year’s theme has been all the efforts above and beyond the Speakers’ Series itself:
Orientation sponsored skits and small group discussions on Voice—thank you Dr. Jane and Elaine
Connections classes had required readings and group projects on the subject—thank you Dr. Jones and Deans Haschak and Anderson
Theater Director Nathan Magee chose a play that allowed our students to explore the theme on stage
Dr. Jess Jost-Costanzo helped our Belltower student-editors construct a series of pieces on the idea of voice
Drs. Pallone, Jost-Costanzo and Coakley hosted a policeman poet, who shared his take on voice with students from both the Criminology and English departments
Director of Career Development Kristi Magee and her team built the Voice theme into multiple programs, similar to what Chris Burlingame did last year with The Good Life and Learning Commons programs and
Dr. Tim Koneval and the Biology Club got into the act with an evening on "Voices of the Night: Bat Myths and Facts."
It’s also been heartwarming to see the different academic departments and extracurricular organizations “adopt” the theme and explore it through their own disciplines this year. I also
attended a concert on “Irish Voices,” Vox Nova’s tribute to the voices of our founders—thank you Nancy Way “Danny Boy” Video
enjoyed an art exhibit at the ACWC curated by our own Dr. Don Talbot on “The Heart’s Voice”—thank you Dr. Talbot
witnessed Brenda Sanner’s “Every Picture Tells a Story: Photography as Voice” exhibit currently in Wolf Kuhn (the first exhibit at the College featuring the work of a single student)—thank you again Dr. Talbot Brenda Sanner Article
examined the monthly exhibit in the Library that highlights different voices (this month is Voices for Peace)—thank you Dr. Jones and Sharon Markovich
listened to the Faculty Honors Symposium that examined the theme from the perspective of theater, language (particularly ASL) and science—thank you Drs. Rohlf and Costanzo, and faculty presenters Professors Magee, Muroski and Diaz and our moderator Chris Burlingame
received a giant card from Little People’s Place where they used their combined voices to wish me well—thank you, Lisa Segada.
One of the most interesting takes on the theme has come out of the Digital Grotto, where, at my request, Sam and his team have been periodically interviewing students and others in the Mount Aloysius community on their notions of Voice and how that notion may have adjusted since we started the series. We have been posting these on the website—here is a snapshot of those voices! Mountie Voices Video Tenth, we continue to expand our efforts to tell the Mount Aloysius story—which is an absolute requirement if we want to both attract new students and raise the funds to help pay for their education here. This video on Voice is but one example. In the past five years, we have quadrupled our presence in print media, tripled our presence on visual media, planted a firm footprint in the internet market (where our efforts are on par with schools with much bigger budgets for this kind of work) and spent some of our advertising dollars in new markets for admissions in Harrisburg, York and Lancaster. VP for Enrollment Management Frank Crouse sends many of our Digital Grotto videos out to his emailing list of over 20,000 potential students and shows several of them at every Open House that we host—and he sends out plenty of our written pieces as well. VP for Institutional Advancement Jennifer Dubuque also has a wealth of first-rate materials to distribute to alums and other potential donors thanks to all these efforts at telling the Mount Aloysius story. During this fall semester alone, we
produced a new Alumni Magazine that focused on last year’s theme (thank you Jack Coyle and team) Alumni Magazine
released the fourth edition of a new Academy Newsletter (thank you Jennifer Dubuque and team) Academy Newsletter
featured two new monographs on Voice speakers (with a third on the way—thank you Tom Fleming) Porterfield Monograph | Shribman Monograph
produced 44 new YouTube videos for our library of 570 (thank you Sam Wagner and team) MAC YouTube
generated more than 500 print stories in almost 40 different newspapers (thank you coach of both soccer teams and full time SID Matt Davis, who generated and wrote a third of those stories himself)
developed nine TV news stories featuring the College on everything from higher education’s role in economic development, to our rare new ASL certification, to Mountie Madness
created and updated seven social media sites, with over 10,000 “points of engagement” just last fall (thanks to our two communications grad-assistants and seven workstudies) Social Media pages linked from homepage
wrote an Op-Ed that appeared in five PA papers (my piece on higher education’s role in stopping mass shootings), and Michele penned an article on the Sisters of Mercy in Chile which ran in the international publication Viva Mercy) Campus Violence Op-Ed | Viva Mercy Article
designed and placed billboard, radio and TV ads featuring our students and their stories in two media markets representing more than 20 PA counties, including 20 of those billboards and over 150 radio ads in the Harrisburg/York/Lancaster markets
And I hope you enjoy the monograph on last year’s theme The Good Life—it’s good enough for submission to the Library of Congress (our second such submission in five years). Six different first-rate Speaker Series contributions to the theme appear in the monograph, along with some excised remarks from each presentation. We will distribute it to our Mercy colleagues, to others in the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU), Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in PA (AICUP), and NAICU and to opinion-shapers and educators in our region. If there are other entities to which any of you feel we should send this monograph, let me know. Good Life Monograph
Finally on fall highlights, our student-athletes came in for some special recognition this fall. The men’s soccer team is the first Mount Aloysius team in any sport ever to qualify for an NCAA tournament. They won the regular season and post season conference titles, dominated the league’s post season honors and were courageous in a 1-0 loss to the number one team in the country—all firsts for the College. More importantly, they took a page out of the women’s soccer team’s book, showed up for their mandatory study halls and actually improved their overall team GPA—a number that usually goes down when teams win championships (and the extra games associated with that). Men’s Soccer Article While this is the first time we have led the AMCC to the NCAA in on-the-field endeavors, you should be very proud of how well our student-athletes have done in far more important endeavors. The AMCC has awarded the Dean’s Cup four times (started during my second year here) for overall academic performance— and Mount Aloysius student athletes have won it twice, including last year. The women’s soccer team
didn’t make the playoffs like the men this year but they were one of only two conference teams to win the national academic team award. Those academic achievements don’t happen except that so many of you go the extra mile to stand up with these busy students. Dean’s Cup article Similarly, the AMCC has recently begun recognizing outstanding service to community by athletic teams. Mount Aloysius student-athletes have quite literally led the way in making community service a hallmark of our athletic conference. Three years ago, when I served as conference chair, we initiated the effort to recognize good works off the field (the ADs voted 9-1 against it, the Presidents 10-0 for it), and now every single team in our conference is engaged and motivated. This fall, almost 150 teams and over 2,000 student athletes not only played hard for their schools, but they worked hard doing good deeds for their home communities. That’s the Mercy way—sharing our mercy values much further afield. -----------------------------------------------------II. What Keeps Me Up at Night (Part Deux) When Provost Steve stood in for me last August at the State of the College, I asked him to deliver my remarks thanking folks for all the good work of the previous year—the trifecta of accreditations, etc. I later emailed to you the rest of that speech, where I discussed Part I of “what keeps me up at night.” In that text, I discussed
the multiple opportunities that technology presents for higher education
the essential relationship between critical thinking skills and “jobready” education and
the challenge of safety on the modern campus (this last topic turned into the op-ed piece that appeared across the state).
Today, in Part II of that discussion, I want to talk briefly about safety, then focus on two other across-the-board challenges to higher education—the dramatic decline in the number of available students (flat/falling enrollments) and the cost of maintaining infrastructure and upgrading facilities. A few thoughts on each: Safety, Enrollment and Construction. Campus Safety My Op-Ed on campus shootings, written shortly after the atrocity at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, ran in a number of newspapers across the state—from Erie to Philadelphia. The Sunday Allentown Morning Call headlined the piece “The Arsenal of Higher Education.” It is not a subject on which I expected to write when we moved to a college in the Southern Allegheny Mountains, but it is an unavoidable topic for any college president these days. Last year, I asked Suzanne and Director of Campus Safety Bill Trexler to co-chair a Violent Intruders Response Task Force here at Mount Aloysius. Thank you to that very diverse cross-campus committee. Link to committee names slide Here is what we have done as a result of their work so far:
1. Training—many of you participated in the five emergency response training sessions that Bill, Suzanne and the Committee arranged last fall. The sixth program this academic year will occur right after these remarks with the session on violent intruders. To all those who volunteered for the first five training sessions, we thank you. Today’s training will include almost 100% of our faculty and staff. Previous trainings have included:
On August 13th, an Intensive Active Shooter Training took place in Ihmsen Hall in conjunction with Cambria County Emergency Management Services. Campus Security, staff, some faculty and our student Resident Assistants went through the simulation along with members of PSP, Cresson Township PD, Cresson Borough PD, and Cambria County SERT Team members.
On September 3rd, we hosted a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) training and legislative briefing in partnership with the Cambria County District Attorney's Office and the Victims Advocate team members.
On September 3rd, 2015 Mount Aloysius hosted a regional railroad safety training program entitled Passenger Train Emergency Response (PTER), sponsored by the Cambria County Department of Emergency Services and presented by the National Railroad Passenger Corporation – AMOUNTRAK.
On September 17th, we hosted a Train-the-Trainer workshop for our internal task force and other campus members on Non-Law Enforcement Response to a Violent Intruder. Chief John Baker of the Lancaster Lebanon IU 13 School Police Department presented on the Department of Homeland Security’s RUN-HIDE-FIGHT protocol for non-law enforcement (professors, employees, students, etc.) personnel. He outlined measures non-law enforcement personnel should take before first responders arrive on scene.
2. Educating—I hope that every single person in this room has taken the time to read this very simple colored coded sheet that appears in every building, on every floor, in every classroom, closet and dormitory room on this campus. It tells you what is the wisest course of action against a variety of potential threats—weather related, external gas leaks, rail incidents, violent intruders, etc. 3. Notifying—I also hope you have taken note of this sheet, which appears in every one of those same locations (usually right underneath it). It tells you, in case of a medical or other emergency, exactly where you are located at the college. Cambria County 911 dispatchers, the Cresson Fire Department, the local State Police barracks and local EMS entities all have copies of our floor plans and will use them to find you. Most of them have already been here for at least one of the multiple table top and active shooter exercises that we have hosted here in the last four years. 4. Alerting—Our Safety team has strategically placed 12 Alertus Alarms throughout campus. The purpose of these alarms is to attract the attention of bystanders (in classrooms, hallways, basements, etc.) and alert them—with blinking lights and piercing sounds--that they should check their phones for text messages
regarding any potentially dangerous situation that may arise on campus. We did this because our Task Force learned from some of you that you are not always able to check your cell phone while you are teaching and our E2Campus text alerts go to your phone. The Alertus alarms are another tool we can use that can notify those not in front of a computer or in classrooms where phones are not available that an event may be unfolding and that they should, in fact, check their phones for information and situational awareness. 5. Recording—in the past five years, we have strategically located 75 more cameras and are now recording views at 120 spots around the campus. So if you see something that looks odd, and you call Campus Security immediately, we have the capacity to grab that footage and check it out. 6. Studying—Bill and Suzanne have been at numerous webinars/seminars/trainings where these issues of campus security are debated, explored and various solutions offered. We also work closely with the county DA, who is responsible for more than 20 school settings dealing with these same kinds of issues. We will continue to do this as we try to find our place in the wide spectrum of security responses. 7. Sharing—I try not to miss an opportunity to ask other colleges and college presidents about their current approaches to campus security and the thought processes behind those approaches. As you can imagine, they run the gamut irrespective of the location of the college (urban, suburban and rural), size or public/private affiliation. Even amongst the sixteen Mercy colleges the responses range from fully armed in urban areas to completely unarmed in some non-urban settings. Despite all these actions, I still have questions on campus safety that keep me up at night, and here’s a few of them: If we choose to arm our security team, do we arm all of them or do we restrict arms to those who are Act 120 certified (state police graduate or local police veteran)?
If we choose to arm our security team, what level of weaponry do we want to use (batons, Tasers, guns, rifles, etc.)?
Do we have cameras in enough locations around the college to preview incidents or to help us educate ourselves about incidents after the fact?
Can we afford to rely on local law enforcement in the case of the kinds of disasters that might happen on a rural campus?
In the next month, after one final meeting with the Board of Trustees Executive Committee, we will announce steps in addition to those just outlined to our campus security plan. Thanks to this excellent cross-college committee for all your help and guidance to this point.
Enrollment We have had a good, no, not good, a great run at Mount Aloysius these last ten years. We beat the odds every single year, producing higher headcounts and more importantly, increasing our total of full-time day students each year. During that time, just about every competitor in this region and all but three of our 16 Mercy colleagues experienced enrollment drops. We did not; we kept going up. Our enrollment strategy is at once seamlessly scientific and particularly personal—Frank and his team count everything that moves in the admissions world, so that we can gauge what works and what doesn’t. That’s the science part. And, with your help, they oversee a very personal enrollment process—so that I can truly say six or seven times a year at open houses to over a thousand parents that: “your child will never be a number here, and the personal attention you have received in the admissions process at Mount Aloysius will be duplicated by our faculty and staff when your child enrolls here.” And that has been our magic to date—a scientific approach where we deploy all the tools available to modern enrollment management, and a personal approach where personal phone calls to 100 prospective students each week by each admissions counselor is not an option, but a requirement. And they get it done. And in the numbers that most schools report—what they call headcount—we beat the odds again this year. We’ve gone up ten years in a row. Our fall headcount was again higher than last year at 1,877, up marginally from 1,867 in 2014. Other Enrollment initiatives: Communications outreach— I described this a little bit earlier, and it has been a strategy really from day-one. We use print, visual, online, and paid radio and TV, all geared to getting the word out about Mount Aloysius. If you read stories about Mount Aloysius sports teams, half the time it’s not about who won or lost. It’s about the fact that Kaleiagh Roop ’16 is majoring in business with a focus on sports management and she had an internship last year with a professional team in Akron, Ohio. Or it’s about Dylan Bender ’17 who is a great basketball player but, guess what, he has a 4.0 average and has written 13 articles for the school newspaper. We try to tell these kinds of stories about our students because we think it helps people to say, that’s the kind of place where I want to send my child. We do that across the board with these stories. Facilities outreach—we also try to use our campus and our facilities to bring in more potential students and others. In just the last year we hosted: the Sheetz Wrestling Tournament, with 32 high schools from four states and an attendance of over 3,000; the Mirror Classic—this is our third year—with 30 high schools represented and over 2,200 attending the event; HealthQuest, 424 came this year from about 24 schools; JARI—twice we’ve had 160 opinion-shapers on campus for half a day; the Job Fair that Kristy Magee and team organize; the Tri-County Leadership Initiative will commence in February with 25 students from 20 high
schools experiencing Mount Aloysius over the next six months; the Diocesan retreat comes here every year— about 130 people; St. Vincent DePaul had 350 people here for an event; the High School Super Conference representing 20+ high schools from five counties, with 400 students, counselors and principals in attendance—we’ve done that for the past five years; the Association of Fundraising Professionals regional conference with 30 opinion-shapers from Western Pennsylvania; PIAA playoff games which bring a lot of people onto the campus—we had baseball and softball and basketball playoff games here with attendance well in excess of 2,000 visitors. So we are trying to use our facilities as a way to bring people to the College. Camps outreach—we also host a ton of camps as a way to bring more people to the campus. Camp Cadet is in its fifth year, that’s 55 students and their families here for a full week. Volleyball Summer League (15 high school teams for six weeks), Basketball Camps (380 last summer). This will be the first year we have a girls’ team-basketball camp--10 to 15 girls’ basketball teams here for three days, all having a Mount Aloysius experience. Youth softball plays here. Youth baseball plays here. For the first time, Dr. Jess Costanzo, Dr. Michael Jones, Shamim Rajpar and others helped us put on a journalism camp with the Shribmans. We had five different schools represented. We have a Health Sciences Camp that we’ll do again this summer. We expect to have seven schools represented at that. The Autism Camp that David Haschak had so much to do with bringing here, attracts about 30 students and their families. So we’re trying to use our facilities part of our marketing and admissions process, and a lot of you play a role in those efforts. Buzz—and lastly, there is this whole thing— buzz. You want people taking about your college, particularly people in our region. In the past, Mount Aloysius was not always at the top of the list of what people were talking about. But we are now getting a lot of buzz for the things that we do here. Opening up those two new facilities (Bertschi and ACWC) gave us great coverage. We’ve had some really interesting people here, particularly in our Speaker Series. And even though we don’t get a lot of people from our community at those talks I still find them asking me, “Did you really have Guido Calabresi here? Did you really have Tim Shriver here?” Yes, we really had them right here at Mount Aloysius; you should come up and check us out sometime. The White House recognition that is referenced earlier always helps. And I love it when our Professors get national recognition—most notably, Tony Dragani in the New York Times last year and John Whitlock twice recognized nationally in publications discussing paleontology. I keep writing Op-Eds. My Mount Aloysius Op-Eds have appeared in about 30 papers now from Chicago to India on various topics related to higher education, and that puts the Mount Aloysius name out there. When we have exceptional graduates we write about them. Like an excellent student athlete who was nominated for the Women of the Year Award. She was a semi-finalist for the whole NCAA for that award. A great student here with a 3.8 or 3.9 GPA in graduate school now. We have a number of those kinds of students, and Jack and his team grab their stories and write them up. We had great coverage on the ASL accreditation. The local TV station, WTAJ, really got just how significant that achievement—we were one of just 12 schools in the
United States to earn that accreditation. When Nathan Magee directed HONK this year, a lot of high schools and elementary schools were really interested. This was a play that has a lot to say about bullying. And that too helps get the word out there. This was Mount Aloysius doing a play that really matters to those students. All those kinds of activities help. Enrollment is the most important component of our budgets. And being careful in our expenses and conservative in our budgeting is part of the reason
that we balance our budget every year
that we have no negative findings in our audits every year
that we have doubled both our endowment and our plant fund in the last five years,
that we have the highest fiscal responsibility rating that the US Department of Education gives out, and
that we earned three successive upgrades and now have the highest S&P rating of any institution in the region—a full “A”.
In that same time frame we also raised salaries by 16%, or about 15% more than the national higher education average (which was 13+%). The College has been purposely careful for a long time, and that is why we remain on strong fiscal footing today. But that doesn’t mean we can’t all help to increase enrollment, which is our primary revenue driver. Like it or not our revenue is admissions-driven. Because we are dependent on revenue that comes from students, we all have to remember that Admissions is everyone’s job. That means we can all do three things: 1. Always say yes—when Frank or the admissions team asks you to show up or speak or otherwise engage in a recruiting event. In six years, I have missed only one weekend admissions event and I know that is a record matched by many of you in this audience. 2. Tell the Mount Aloysius story—whenever you get the chance. I mentioned earlier that we have earned over 500 print placements since the summer, and those stories cover everything from the new ASL certification to the 186 kids helped through the Angel Tree, from Dr. Whitman’s Paleontological exploits to Dr. Koneval’s batman escapades, to a 3.9 GPA recent Mount Aloysius grad being named a semifinalist for Women of the Year honors to a 3.7 GPA student being named to the all-Canada baseball team. If you are reluctant to toot your horn or a story about your students, tell us and we will find a way to tell that story. 3. Never forget we are all part of the Admissions team here. We are not—and given our mission never will be—an institution that can just open the mail and line up our next class. We work hard for every admission, and every single one of us needs to be on that team on occasion. To help you on both points 2 and 3, I am sharing here some remarks that I delivered recently at a local Chamber of Commerce event. I had five minutes to tell our story, and I think I managed to do it in less than that. Here is what I said to that audience:
“1. It’s been a good five years at Mount Aloysius. A lot has happened at the Mount since my first appearance before this Chamber. Though our core values remain unchanged, the campus looks very different thanks to:
Refurbishing a 90-year-old campus theatre and turning it into a 21st century performance space
Erecting the Mountie Stables and other amenities to enhance the Ray and Louise Walker Athletic Complex
Reinvesting in our simulation labs to preserve our status as a premier nursing education venue
Completing the Campus Master Plan with the Athletic Convocation and Wellness Center
Converting our old gym into a new Technology Commons cum Bertschi Center (and indoor tennis!)
Creating a 1.9 mile forested walking trail through the beautiful 193 acres of campus, and adding four outdoor tennis courts.
Those projects invested over $30 million in the local economy, increased the floor space of the college by more than 40% and have enhanced our academic performance. Our business and criminology students aced their national competitions last year, our student-athletes have now twice won the Dean’s Cup for overall academic performance in the AMCC, and our nursing students (beneficiaries of the simulation labs and excellent leadership) have now hit the 90% pass rate nine times in a row over five years in their statewide NCLEX exams (the highest percentage of any school in the region, and one of the highest in the state, over that time frame). So it’s been a good five years. 2. It’s been a good one year at Mount Aloysius as well.
We hit the trifecta, achieving Mercy (CMHE) and Middle States (MSCHE) accreditations while earning a full “A” rating from S&P. (As I explained at the Chamber, very few schools get the full accreditation on all fourteen Standards of Excellence in the Middle States Review and even fewer achieve the full “A” financial rating).
It was also a year of The Good Life at Mount Aloysius, as we hosted a Pulitzer Prize Winner, the head of the International Special Olympics, a former Dean at Yale Law School, a three-time Catholic College President, a prominent local CEO/statewide Arts leader, an NYU Philosophy professor, a Catherine McAuley scholar and several others on our quest to help our students and community define (and ultimately achieve) The Good Life. At Mount Aloysius, we shy away from hiring one or two expensive celebrity speakers and instead focus our Speakers Series (and lots of other activities) on a single theme each year, from Citizenship to The Common Good, and from The Good Life to this year’s theme, Voice.
3. And it’s been a really good week at Mount Aloysius.
Our Nursing students just got notice that they hit the 90% mark again.
Our Wolf Kuhn Gallery just opened the first ever show focused entirely on the work of a current Mount student—a photography exhibit featuring Brenda Sanner.
Our women’s soccer team brought home the National Soccer Coaches Association academic honors (one of only two in the AMCC).
And our men’s soccer team swept three of four conference postseason individual awards, swept the regular and postseason AMCC titles, and competed in their first ever NCAA tournament game.
Never hesitate to tell your own Mount Aloysius story, and I hope this brief example of my most recent Mount Aloysius “elevator” speech is helpful to you. Campus improvements Last thing that keeps me up at night—staying on top of campus infrastructure and, to borrow an AP test word, “exoskeleton” needs. I mentioned earlier that we have raised almost $22m in our Capital Campaign in a little over three years. That has allowed us to complete the old Campus Master Plan by refinishing Alumni Hall and building the ACWC. We also raised the money to create the Bertschi Center and Technology Commons, to upgrade our technology systems and simulation labs, and to complete a number of far less sexy projects that just had to be done— from refurbishing the basement of Old Main, to creating a study/lecture hall in Nursing, to replacing hundreds of feet of underground and very old pipes, etc. Tomorrow, you will have lunch in our completely redone cafeteria—hardwood floor, space carpets, a variety of sitting styles—from booths to high tops—and some good old-fashioned paint. We spent a little more than half the money we raised from several donors to complete this job, and will make some more changes when we find out from you and the students what else works in there. That project was in the Campus Master Plan 15 years ago, but we could never touch that layout because it was the only space in the college that could hold audiences for events like Scholarship and Alumni dinners, Student Leadership and Athletic banquets, Madrigal—pretty much any event with over 125 people had to be held there. The gala space in Bertschi solved that problem and we were finally able to tackle our 40-year old cafeteria. Next project is either an addition to Pierce or a brand new Health Sciences Building (65% of our students major in health sciences)—depends on how much money we can raise. We have raised $2M already for this build, which will be a $6 to $10M project—depending on design and, again, how much we raise. I have a pretty good line on the next $2M. Whatever we raise, up front, we are committed to the building, it has already been approved by the Trustees, we have been working with a general contractor and we just finished the competition for architect work—22 applications (up from just four when we did Alumni Hall). Meetings with our in-house experts (the faculty and staff who will work in there) have already started and continue this week. We have done all this “exoskeleton” and infrastructure work while raising salaries and while working hard to maintain excellent health care coverage for all our employees. So that’s what keeps me up at night—safety, enrollment and construction.
-----------------------------------------------------Let’s finish with a little “forward thinking,” with a few words on the Strategic Plan process that is already underway and a final wish for all of you. Strategic Plan In the next nine months we will endeavor to be self-critical and hopeful at the same time—to understand our recent past at the College, and to use that knowledge to chart a sensible and even prescient future course. This is not a maiden voyage for us—Mount Aloysius is truly a planning institution. And I mean that in three senses. First, we are no strangers to strategic planning at the college. This is our third strategic plan in my six years at Mount Aloysius. I inherited the last year of Sister Mary Ann’s final strategic plan; we developed our own three year plan in 2012; and now this effort. The current plan is in its last year, and it might be helpful to look for a moment at our progress. Strategic Plan Worksheets Second, it is not a maiden voyage in another sense as well. I inherited a Campus Master Plan that was created fifteen years ago, for which the renovation to Alumni Hall in my first year and the creation of the Athletic, Convocation and Wellness Center, in my fourth year, were the final two steps. Third, we are coming off two years when so many of you actively engaged in the most important planning that we do— preparing self-studies for our very successful yearlong CMHE and Middle States accreditations. We’ve undergone six other accreditation efforts on individual programs in that same time period, are about to finish our ACEN nursing ten-year accreditation and voluntarily put ourselves through the rigorous S&P financial ratings process 3 times in the last five years—all very successful endeavors. So, I think we are ready to take this planning assignment on. I don’t know that I have ever been associated with an institution that takes its planning and assessment responsibilities as seriously (we are lucky for that intentionality) and as transparently (all those pre-planning documents are on our website). Just two more reflections on the Strategic Planning process—gratitude and opportunity. First, gratitude—I am very, very thankful to our steering committee, chaired by our two Senior Vice Presidents and which includes our Deans, our mission leader, our technology and assessment gurus, our student services chief and others.
Second, opportunity—this is a prime opportunity to help the College move forward. I want to thank more than 100 people—faculty, staff, students, trustees and community leaders—who responded to the first step in this process, the online questionnaire and SWOT analysis. Almost every single response—and I read them all—was helpful and most were hopeful as well. This is just one step, and every step is important. David Foster Wallace liked to tell his parable of the fish—the moral of which is “Remember the Water.” The story goes like this: There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says "Morning, boys. How's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and says "What the hell is water?" If you’ve read Wallace, you’ll know that he detested didactic little parable-ish tales like this one, but he tolerated the fish story because it was a convenient way to recognize a central tenet of his too short, often sad, still remarkable life. That tenet is that no one knows everything but we all know something—in almost every situation, whether it is teaching and writing like he did, or putting together a strategic vision and plan for the College like we are about to undertake. Just about everyone has something to add to the pot. And that wisdom applies here. So please engage. Do not assume that you personally or any of us have all the answers, but we all have some things about which we truly do know a bit more than others—and let’s offer that up for the betterment of the college. Thank you. -----------------------------------------------------In one of his last poems, which he prophetically called Postscript, Seamus Heaney wrote these words: And some time make the time to drive out west Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore, In September or October, when the wind And the light are working off each other So that the ocean on one side is wild With foam and glitter, and inland among stones The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans And then a bit later he writes— Useless to think you'll park and capture it More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there, A hurry through which known and strange things pass As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways And catch the heart off guard and blow it open. I hope everyone gets one such moment this spring, when a fresh idea, or a fresh-faced student, or just another beautiful mountaintop sunset, catches your heart off guard and blows it open. Let’s have a great Mount Aloysius semester.
Published on Jan 22, 2016