By: Sandy Pfeiffer
These are both exciting and challenging times for Warren Wilson—indeed, for all private colleges with relatively small endowments. Although our fund-raising success has improved in the last year, we still depend far too much on tuition to meet our operating expenses and have far too little scholarship money. That said, we continue to have an outstanding pool of new students, our faculty and staff openings attract the best applicants in the nation, our Triad mission serves as a beacon for other colleges, and our success in sustainability is much admired by colleges and universities around the country.
As president, I feel a strong commitment to prepare the College for challenging times ahead that I believe all colleges will face. Toward that end, I’m writing to inform you about some decisions that have been made to strengthen Warren Wilson—especially its fund-raising function. (Note: These decisions have been discussed with individuals affected by them.) In addition, I’ll mention some personnel changes that were previously announced and provide a brief update on two vice president searches.
REPORTING CHANGES PREVIOUSLY ANNOUNCED
As of July 1, 2008, the staff responsible for the Farm (Chase Hubbard), Forest (Shawn Swartz), and Landscaping (Tom LaMuraglia) will join the Garden (Karen Joslin) in reporting to Ian Robertson, dean of work. Ian’s leadership in land issues led the College through the adoption of the 1996 Long Range Land Use Plan, and he currently serves as the chair of the committee reviewing the plan. After two years, I will review this new reporting structure.
As of July 1, 2008, the director of human resources will again report to the vice president for administration and finance. This past year, I shifted the reporting of the director from the vice president for administration and finance to the president, so that I could learn first-hand about some critical personnel issues and so that Larry Modlin would have time to focus on pressing issues in his division before he retires on June 30. Now that these transitions have been successfully handled, we are ready to revert to the former reporting relationship with the arrival of a new vice president for administration and finance planned for July 1, 2008.
REPORTING CHANGES BEING ANNOUNCED FOR THE FIRST TIME
As of July 1, 2008, the Environmental Leadership Center director, Margo Flood, will report directly to the president of the College, not to the vice president for academic affairs. This change reflects the fact that sustainability and environmental affairs affect and relate to all units of the College, not just to academics. Although Margo will not be a member of the President’s Advisory Council (PAC), she will meet with the PAC when appropriate to make sure that sustainability and environmental action remain at the core of our mission. As well, it is important to note that Margo may be redistributing a number of responsibilities among the ELC staff as of July 1, if not before.
As of July 1, 2008, the director of multicultural affairs, Rodney Lytle, will report to the dean of students, Cathy Kramer. During the current year—which was the first year of the multicultural directorship—Rodney reported to me so that the needs and responsibilities of his new position could be evaluated. With that review now complete, it is clear that Rodney’s major efforts need to be in support of student programming within Student Life. That said, Rodney will continue to assist with student recruitment, faculty and staff recruitment, community outreach, and other aspects of the College that relate to diversity and multiculturalism. Therefore, although his major efforts will be in support of Student Life, he will work with other units and staff members, as directed by Cathy Kramer.
SEARCH FOR VPAA AND VPAF
We are now conducting searches for a vice president for academic affairs (VPAA) and dean of the college and for a vice president for administration and finance (VPAF). The VPAA search began last semester and then was extended into this semester. Now it has progressed to the point where committee members are conducting phone interviews with a group of semi-finalists, and campus interviews of finalists will follow soon. We fully intend to have a new VPAA in place by July 1, 2008. The VPAF search is at the stage where we are conducting on-campus interviews of finalists for the position. We expect to have a new VPAF in the position on July 1, 2008, after the June 30, 2008 retirement of Larry Modlin.
As of July 1, 2008, Franklin Tate will begin serving a one-year position as interim dean in the Office of Service-Learning, to replace Carolyn Wallace, who will retire as Service-Learning dean on June 30, 2008. Starting this spring or summer, we will hire an outside consultant to coordinate a program review of Service-Learning—similar to the reviews that have been scheduled, and will be scheduled, for all major units of the College. The review will offer recommendations for strengthening the crucial service portion of our Triad mission.
As of July 1, 2008, we hope to have filled the position of assistant dean of students, which is open due to the loss of our long-time employee, Cathy Clarke. The responsibilities of this position have changed a bit, as noted below.
During Cathy Clarke’s illness, members of the Student Life staff took on a variety of additional responsibilities. Some of the duties formerly in the assistant dean position, including processing withdrawals, extended absences, and early support concerns, have been assumed by Marilyn Eichman, administrative assistant. Looking forward, Deb Braden, educational access coordinator, will be taking on programming and policy development in the area of working with students with disabilities. In addition, Dan Seeger, our director of student activities, will coordinate all activities associated with Commencement.
The search for the assistant dean offers the opportunity to recognize changes described above as permanent, as well as to shift some responsibilities that are now included in the job descriptions for the dean of students, assistant dean of students, and the director of residence life. The result will be an organizational structure that will best meet the needs of the division and our students.
The College is preparing to invest more funds in Advancement, with the expectation of significantly increasing our fund-raising success. Because private colleges and universities are becoming ever more dependent on non-tuition revenue, we must attract much more funding to Warren Wilson than we have in the past. That goal drives the decisions described below.
As of July 1, 2008, we will implement revised job descriptions for almost all positions in Advancement, while also increasing the staff by several positions. All persons who are personally affected by this change will be offered interim positions beginning July 1, 2008, in the new structure. These interim positions will be for six months, with possible renewal for another six months. The possibility of renewal will depend on the time it takes to conduct the searches described below. Of most importance, while staff members are serving in interim roles, they will have the opportunity to apply for open positions.
The search process for new positions in Advancement will proceed in two phases. Phase One begins immediately and involves positions that we hope to have filled by July 1. Phase Two begins this summer and involves positions that we hope to have filled by January 1, 2009. Again—as noted above—all current staff members may apply for any advertised positions for which they believe they are qualified.
A large portion of the cost for any new Advancement positions and related operational expenses will be derived from income received from a major gift that came to the Colleg
e this year. Ultimately, of course, we expect that the increase in funds raised by the new structure will more than cover any new costs associated with the changes. As the saying goes, it takes money to make money, and we simply must invest in people and strategies that will attract funds to the College.
Note: Information on the new positions and a related organization chart have been distributed to all staff members in the Office of Advancement. Soon these items will be placed on the Inside Page of the college web site. You will be informed when this information is available for your review.
Early this week I spent a few days in Washington, meeting with the seven Work College Consortium presidents, visiting Congressman Shuler’s office, and attending the annual meeting of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. This trip reinforced my belief that financial support will become even more crucial to the future of Warren Wilson than it is today. Yet I also came away with the impression that our particular college has the mission, employees, and students that place it in a terrific position. We have been, and continue to be, on the leading edge of issues being discussed by many colleges—for example, ways to build solid programs in the liberal arts, service-learning, civic engagement, international experience, student work, and sustainability. If we stay true to our mission, remain nimble in thought and action, and seek financial support with gusto, our future will be secure.