By: Sandy Pfeiffer
To all of you—those who’ve been here for the summer and those who are returning from home, summer work or travel—I extend my warmest welcome to a new academic year. This year finds the College in great shape with a terrific first-year class, a balanced budget, a solid endowment, and a national reputation as strong as, or stronger than, it has ever been in the history of the College. We have much for which to be thankful.
If you were here last year, you heard from me and from Dean of Admission Richard Blomgren that we would have slightly more enrollment this year than we had planned, mainly because our retention of current students continues to improve and because more new students accepted our offer of admission than is typical. Fortunately, the actual number of students is only about 15 more than last year (941 vs. 926, including day students), as of yesterday. Current data also shows that “beds filled” on campus equal 833, versus 812 from last year. In other words, the growth has been kept to minimal levels by the hard work of the Admission Office and the President’s Advisory Council (PAC), which have been working on the issue all summer. That said, we will continue to seek new strategies that limit unplanned growth of enrollment.
In the past week or two, I asked the PAC to list what we’ve done on campus to accommodate recent enrollment growth. Below are a few of the actions that have been taken:
• Added course sections and adjunct faculty as needed
• Developed new faculty office spaces in Mitchell
• Added 7 additional bed spaces in Stephenson lower level
• Converted offices in lower Sunderland to student rooms for 15 more students
• Converted an additional faculty house to student housing with spaces for five
• Assigned study rooms for housing in the Ballfield dorms and Sunderland
• Added additional part-time staff in the health center to serve a larger population
• Developed an option for possible van rentals for required First Year Seminar service
• Developed multiple Service Day sites since no one site could accommodate 400 volunteers
• Partnered with Outward Bound for a first-year / first-semester program and enrolled 11 students, who will join us at the College in January
• Encouraged 27 students to defer their enrollment until January 2010, even though they deposited by the national deadline
• Expanded food service for lunch hours
• Planned to offer bag lunches
• Planned to move brunch into the main dining room from the Cow Pie Cafe (with same menu plus other options)
• Arranged for an additional cashier and a second entry line
• Planned for three new crews this year: Rental and Restorations, Fiber Arts, and Hair Cutting
• Increased maximum numbers in several other crews, as appropriate
• Planned for “fine wood working products” capability with a crew that apprenticed this summer
• Planned for the Farm to begin the year with its largest crew to date
From what we can tell so far, these changes have helped the campus adjust to the slightly higher enrollment. Though the costs have been considerable, especially for renovation and conversion of housing, the PAC and I believe the investments made this summer have made a significant difference. My thanks to all those faculty, staff, and students who helped with the tasks above, especially FMTS and Student Affairs.
One more construction-related announcement is that Bryson Gym has reopened for limited use while the wood floor, which was treated with an environmentally sustainable product, takes a little extra time to cure. Thus we’re phasing in use of the building and will plan an official “re-opening” event some time this semester,
This summer the College continued to attract national praise in all sorts of media. Just last weekend, a National Public Radio host, Scott Simon, interviewed one of our MFA students, R. Dwayne Betts, about his book, A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison. Other recognitions this month came from (a) The Daily Green, which designated our cafeteria as one of the 12 “greenest” in the nation, (b) 2010 Kaplan Newsweek Guide to Colleges, which highlighted Warren Wilson as one of only 25 schools in the nation that were featured, and (c) Mother Jones (October 2009 issue), which included Warren Wilson in its “Mojo Mini College Guide” as one of only 10 featured schools. We continue to garner national praise, thanks to the hard work of all of you.
I want to close with some comments about planning and about communication. If you read or heard my Convocation address, you may recall that I emphasized three main concerns for the year ahead:
1. Resources for the college—adding to our funding
2. Reputation of the college—continuing to strengthen our national visibility
3. Relationships within the college—building community at all levels
These "3 R’s" will drive much that we do. Regarding the last "R," I want to mention that I’ll have "open office hours" each week this year, assuming I’m not away for the week. This time will be set aside for individuals or groups to drop by to talk about any issue. If you want to make sure I’m not already meeting with someone, call ahead to reserve a time. Here are my open hours through September: August 28 (Friday), 1-4 pm; September 4 (Friday) 1-4 pm; September 10 (Thursday) 1-4 pm; and September 25 (Friday) 1-4 pm. I’ll have no hours the week of September 14-18 because I’ll be out of state on college business. Another way I intend to learn more about the needs of the community is to work shifts on various work crews every couple weeks. I’m looking forward to these work experiences, which are being scheduled through the Work Program Office.
Also, again this year I’ll invite the leadership of on-campus governing bodies to meet jointly with the President’s Advisory Council (PAC) once a semester. My assistant, Rowena Pomeroy, will arrange that meeting. Plus I’ll meet with the leadership of the individual formal or informal governing bodies (and/or with the entire bodies) as regularly as those groups would like to meet with me.
Finally, please read the message I sent to the community earlier today about the Community Strategic Planning Day on Thursday, September 3, at 2 pm, followed by a picnic. All of you are welcome to take part in this important event, which will help us develop the 2010-2015 Warren Wilson College Strategic Plan.