With the 2008-2009 academic year behind us, I’m writing to highlight a few important issues for the coming year—and to comment on the fine graduation exercise that occurred last week.
Our May 16 Commencement was a wonderful event, with over 150 graduates crossing the stage. Lending lasting memories to this year’s graduation was an inspiring Commencement Address on sustainability by Ray Anderson, president and CEO of Interface. The complete text of the address is available on the College web site. An equally inspiring (and “interactive”) student presentation was given by graduating senior Jake Salt. Combined with our good fortune that rain predicted for the day didn’t arrive until well after the event, it was a fabulous graduation. The previous evening’s Honors and Awards celebration helped set the tone, with major student awards being given in the Chapel, including the 2009 Pfaff Cup to Lauren Kriel.
With Commencement past, the President’s Advisory Council (PAC) and I are addressing challenges we will face next academic year. Certainly the main one is dealing with the possibility that we may have more students than we had anticipated. Dean Richard Blomgren has written the community about our enrollment conundrum—that is, the difficulty we have knowing exactly how many students will be here in the fall after current numbers “melt” during the summer. Indicators suggest we’ll have more enrollment than originally planned, so we’re exploring options such as additional housing on campus (that is, using several available houses for student residences). Plus we’re planning to add staff, classes, and work crew capacity to accommodate the possibly higher numbers. For the long term, the PAC and I will be spending a good deal of time (a) revising our admission and registration process to make it easier to predict and reach our desired enrollment and (b) adding staffing and services for whatever enrollment we have.
Related to enrollment, of course, is our operating budget—in that the College depends on student tuition for most operating funds. Although our probable strong enrollment next year has helped avoid fiscal problems that so many schools are facing right now, we must stay vigilant and plan well. Toward that end, our budget that starts July 1 will include a larger “reserve” (or contingency fund) than in the past, to give us more flexibility to face fiscal challenges that lie ahead. Also, we’re expecting tuition to increase at a slower rate in the next few years, making it even more important that we tighten our budget and place more funds in reserve right now. Finally, additional financial aid has been budgeted for both new and returning students.
Concerning raises for faculty and staff for the 2009-2010 academic/fiscal year (beginning July 1, 2009), we have the following three components: an across the board raise, a merit pool, and an equity pool. The across-the-board raise applies to all full-time regular employees and will be 1% of their current 2008-2009 salary. The merit pool is available for distribution by PAC members to employees in their respective divisions deserving of merit. It equals 1.5% of all current salaries in each division. That is, PAC managers will determine which employees are deserving of a merit raise based on performance. Then these PAC managers will use their division’s 1.5% merit pool for merit raises of an amount they believe is justified—again, only if merit is deserved. The remaining one-half percent equity pool comprises a small amount to be used to adjust those salaries determined to be most out of line because of salary compression or other circumstances. I will make decisions on distribution of the equity pool, based on recommendations made by PAC members. In short, a 1% raise will be given to all full-time regular employees. The merit and equity raises will be used selectively as noted above.
An exciting effort is underway to produce a new Warren Wilson College Strategic Plan by the end of 2009, for consideration by the Board of Trustees at or before the February 2010 meeting of the Board. The new plan is needed to help us set and fund priorities for the College in the coming years. With information and feedback provided by a recent campus survey, a committee of trustees has been working on drafts of some plan components—namely the mission, vision, and value statements. This summer the PAC, serving as an on-campus steering committee for planning, will develop a process that invites employees and students to take part during the fall 2009 semester. Plus there will continue to be a trustee-directed planning committee serving as a sounding board. Then at the end of fall semester, it’s my job to submit a completed draft of the Strategic Plan to the Board of Trustees for its consideration.
My next periodic report will be sent during the summer, before fall term begins. At that time I’ll provide additional information about the year ahead, especially regarding the Strategic Planning process. In the meantime, enjoy your summer whether you’re with us on campus or in other regions of the country or world.