Warren Wilson College News

President Pfeiffer’s report to campus

Periodic Report – May 28, 2010

At Commencement we awarded degrees to about 200 graduates and heard a wonderful address by Tony Earley, an alumnus and award-winning author. More than a few people noted that it was the most stimulating—and entertaining—commencement presentation they’ve ever heard. With Commencement behind us, here I’ll provide brief comments on a few end-of-year activities and accomplishments at the College.

Strategic Plan
When the Board of Trustees approved the 2010-2015 Strategic Plan at its April meeting, it agreed we could use $200,000 from a recent bequest to fund action plans next fiscal year. This decision will allow us to jumpstart many initiatives—for example, we’ll complete a space utilization study and begin the planning phase for two new buildings that have been discussed for several years, one in academics and another related to wellness and student activities. Of course, the challenge ahead is to find funding for these structures, as well as for scholarships and other actions included in our Strategic Plan.

New Grant Received
This month the College was notified that the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations approved our third successful grant application to the Foundations in the last three years. This latest grant, submitted in partnership with Furman University, will support our effort to educate other colleges and universities about an environmental literacy curriculum, being developed with funding from an earlier Arthur Vining Davis grant.

Governance Task Force
As already announced, the Board of Trustees Governance Task Force (GTF) will begin its work soon, with the expectation of doing some research this summer, having meetings and various campus discussions in the fall, and presenting recommendation to the full Board of Trustees at or before the February 2011 Board meeting. The eleven members of the task force are Alice Buhl (trustee and chair of the GTF), John Alexander (trustee), Ron Hunt (trustee), Steve Ummel (trustee), John Bowers (staff), Marion Yeager (staff), John Casey (faculty), Evan Wantland (faculty), Lacey Cunningham (student), Freesia McKee (student), and me.

Emergency Drill
This week we held a “table-top” training exercise with local emergency agencies to continue our readiness efforts on campus. In this kind of exercise, agency representatives and key officials from the College talk through responses if a certain type of emergency were to occur on campus. The drill reinforces the college/community collaboration that’s essential in any emergency and helps us work through the protocols of our Emergency Contingency Plan.

Undergraduate Research
Because collaborative research between faculty and students is such an important part of our academic mission, here I’ll include a recent excerpt from our web site. “Four Warren Wilson College students who presented their research at the 107th meeting of the N.C. Academy of Science [March 26-27] have been awarded Derieux Prizes for Excellence in Undergraduate Research. . . . Amy Kunkel, first place, zoology/behavioral sciences & physics; Isaiah Thalmayer, first place, environmental science/ecology & botany; Rachel Kivela, second place, cell & developmental biology/ chemistry & biotechnology; and Stephen Somerville, third place, zoology/behavioral sciences & physics.” In the last year or two, I’ve transferred some funds to Academic Affairs to support undergraduate research, and I plan to add to that amount.

In the News: Asheville Citizen-Times
Our web site gives a comprehensive list of noteworthy news items about the College, but occasionally I like to draw further attention to a few mentioned there. For example, the May 12 Asheville Citizen-Times included a front-page article (“On Kayaks, Veterans Get Chance to Heal”) about a program called Team River Runner, which is mainly for disabled veterans. The local chapter makes use of the Warren Wilson pool to teach participants basic kayaking skills, while also bringing new and old friends together. It is a commendable program and fine service to our greater community.

In the News: Our State
Another nice article about the College is in the June 2010 issue of Our State. Entitled “Finding Juan Pardo,” it features David Moore and describes his decades-long project at the Berry archeological dig, along with mentioning his crew, volunteers, and faculty partners from other colleges. David’s work indicates the Berry site was the home of Spanish explorers and thus the earliest settlement by Europeans in the country.

In the News: Bryson Gym
This week the College was awarded one of the 2010 Griffin Awards by the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County, given for the renovation of Bryson Gymnasium. After a section of the building collapsed in May 2008, the College worked with its design and construction partners to bring the building back to its former glory, while also adding a few features. The project took a long time with considerable effort by many people on and off campus. It’s gratifying that the work was recognized by an organization that supports restoration in the area.

I wish you all an enjoyable and productive summer. For those remaining on campus, there’s plenty of work occurring to maintain the campus and prepare it for fall. And, of course, there are many events, such as the Swannanoa Gathering and Swannanoa Chamber Music Festival, to remind us that the College stays busy and interesting a full twelve months each year.

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