Warren Wilson College News

Warren Wilson College November 2006 Report to Campus

By: Sandy Pfeiffer
One temptation in these monthly missives is to provide a laundry list of my activities for the last 30 days. I’ll keep resisting that temptation, in favor of noting just a few items that give you the flavor of my experience and my perceptions about the state of the College. I’ll start with academics.

Though busy finishing their teaching for the semester, the faculty also are involved in an interesting email conversation about teaching, scholarship, and service to the College. I applaud their efforts to explore the importance of balance in their careers, analogous to similar conversations being had among the staff. I’m reminded just how important a sense of community is at this college, where most of us both work together and also live in close proximity. Together, we’re striving to teach, practice, and “model” sustainability, and the conversations are getting interesting.

Several experiences I’ve had this month have given me further insights into the culture of the college, our needs, and our future direction:

1. Jeanne Sommer invited me to her home for a dinner conversation
with students in her First-Year Seminar. We discussed retention,
financial aid, sustainability across the curriculum, and portfolio
assessment, among other issues. That session, plus an equally
interesting dinner meeting with students at the ANTC dormitory,
showed me once again how important it is to listen regularly and
carefully to our students about the needs and direction of the
College.

2. I became more aware of opportunities our faculty take to involve
students in collaborative research and to conduct scholarship that
benefits the community. As an example of the first, I viewed one
of several excellent environmental education videos that John
Brock and some of his students produced and that are used outside
campus. As an example of the second, I continue to marvel at, and
eagerly await, the “Physics Photos of the Week,” which are a gift
from Don Collins to all of us. I admire his energy and imagination.

3. The lecture by Interface CEO Ray Anderson was a fitting
celebration of the 10th anniversary of our esteemed Environmental
Leadership Center. He emphasized just how important it will be for
us to spread the word about sustainability beyond the “converted”
and gave specific examples of how he led the sustainability
revolution in a major company.

Finally, I’ll comment on a few “bread-and-butter” challenges that await us in the coming month or two. First, we need to take a close look at the campus schedule to see if it meets our current needs. For example, we must designate a specific time for attendance at crew safety meetings. Second, the senior staff will complete its draft of the 3-Year Action Plan in January, for distribution to the campus community for comment. I had hoped to complete it this semester, but my colleagues and I need a bit more time to draft the document. And third, we have been laying the groundwork for a long-term fund-raising effort, which will be the main topic at the February meeting of the Board of Trustees. I look forward to the challenge of attracting resources to a college that has such an important mission. There’s no doubt we’ll need a much larger endowment if we are to reach our ambitious goals.

I’m writing this report the day before Thanksgiving and wish all of you a safe and enjoyable holiday.

Sandy Pfeiffer

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