Strategic Thoughts

Image: President's Office

Strategic Thoughts By Carol Ann Mooney
Saint Mary’s College Forum
August 2005

I have been with you for one year. Together, we have already faced a number of challenges and I want to thank you for the spirit of commitment to Saint Mary’s that you consistently display. I also thank you for your dedication to our shared goal of making Saint Mary’s one of this country’s most respected and most excellent colleges.

I know that leaders matter and that leadership matters; I wouldn’t have accepted this job if I thought otherwise. But I also know that higher education is, and should be, an extremely collaborative and collegial enterprise, one of shared governance. So, in academia there is always tension between the desire for a strong leader and the desire for a leader who will do only what the community wants – which sometimes means only what everyone in the community can agree to do. In Catholic higher education, I believe that there is an even further complicating factor.

Today, the average tenure of a college president is approximately 7 years. Because of that relatively recent reality, a president is expected to articulate her vision early on in her tenure. Because presidents turn over so frequently, if something distinctive is to be accomplished, it is best not to dally too long. And as presidents become increasingly itinerant, a president needs to quickly build her resume for the next job.

Catholic colleges and universities differ from our secular counterparts in a number of ways. Colleges founded by religious congregations are even different from the few diocesan-run colleges. At Catholic colleges founded by religious congregations, the work of the colleges and the leadership of the colleges have historically been “communal” efforts in the true sense of the word. The colleges were established and run as part of the mission and ministry of a religious community. Those members of the religious community who attained, or who were ordered to accept, administrative positions at the college, did so as part of the community’s ministry. Each new president was but the current occupant of a seat that was held before her by her sister and would be held after her by another of her sisters.

That reality resulted in some important differences at colleges like Saint Mary’s. As a consequence of the shared values and priorities of the founding religious community (and, with the Sisters of the Holy Cross, a clearly articulated educational philosophy), one could expect that the basic motivation for the existence of the College and its fundamental direction would not vary drastically from one administration to the next, even though the style and effectiveness of the leaders might. One could also expect a longer range of vision than in other contexts. The sister, priest, or brother president was not as likely as his or her secular counterparts to be concerned about just the next few years. The religious president was more likely to share the Church’s and the congregation’s view of time and, therefore, to be concerned about the truly long term well-being of this particular ministry as well as its short term health. I believe that Catholic colleges and universities have greatly benefited from that mind-set.

Saint Mary’s College was no exception to this pattern. For the first 124 years of our history, Saint Mary’s was headed by a Sister of the Holy Cross. And some of the sisters had extraordinarily long and successful tenures. Mother Pauline was President of the College for 36 years, from 1895 through 1931, and Sister Madeleva was President for 27 years, from1934-1961. While both of them are legendary leaders and surely left their mark on the College, they did so as part of the community of the Sisters of the Holy Cross. I venture to guess that Mother Pauline never foresaw the day that the Congregation would not control the College. Even Sister Madeleva died before Vatican II. While there is evidence that she foresaw some of the sweeping changes about to happen to her community, and eventually to the College, it is unlikely that even she could have foreseen the wide ranging impact of all that has happened since her tenure.

I certainly do not mean to imply that the changes in Saint Mary’s governance or leadership are bad or unfortunate. Rather, I want to emphasize the relatively recent focus on the vision of the individual leader of the College. It is my hope that when history looks at my time here, my leadership will have fallen somewhere in the middle. At one extreme is what I may have unfairly characterized as the short-term president whose job is to make her mark quickly and distinctively, and then move to another institution. At the other extreme (and not easily attainable by a lay person) is the president whose long-term stability and commitment is grounded in the vision and support of her religious community and its ministries. Saint Mary’s has now and has long had a challenging and inspiring vision – a vision that is well articulated in its Mission Statement and Statement of Philosophy. I am not so vain as to believe that I could improve upon it. What I will attempt to do today is articulate how, on the basis of information you have provided to me, I see Saint Mary’s College trying to live out its vision and purpose in response to the needs of our times.

Saint Mary’s College is a Catholic, residential, women’s college in the liberal arts tradition. Those words are routinely recited here. Each and every one of them is important.

Saint Mary’s is a Catholic college. What does that mean in 2005? What did it mean historically at Saint Mary’s?

The historical question is interesting precisely because it is highly unlikely that anyone even considered the question 25 years ago. In fact, it is only in the last 15 years that the question “What does it mean to be a Catholic College?” has even been a topic of discussion.
Those of you, like me, who are Catholic and who did some significant living in pre-Vatican II years, experienced what sociologists and historians call a thick Catholic culture. Catholicism was not just a religious affiliation; it was a social world of church, school, and religious organizations – organizations that were both spiritual in nature (like the Sodality or Legion of Mary, or Holy Name Society) and social. It was a world of Catholic magazines and newspapers, Catholic neighborhoods, and Catholic friends. For some years of my early life, the Catholic families on our block gathered once a week in a different home each week to pray the rosary. I remember being with that group the night the Cuban Missile Crisis was publicly revealed. When faced with difficulties in my childhood my mother’s most likely response was to “offer it up for the poor souls in purgatory.” If we were to describe such a world to today’s students, they would look at us as if we were describing life on Mars.

For most of Saint Mary’s history, American Catholicism was such a distinct and pervasive subculture that it would have seemed strange to ask what was Catholic about Saint Mary’s – the obvious answer would have been everything. The College was administered by the Sisters of the Holy Cross. Sisters taught a majority of the courses. The students were overwhelmingly Catholic and so was the culture of the place.

As we all know, in the last quarter century a number of things have changed. American Catholics have become integrated into mainstream American culture – an integration that was significantly aided by Catholic colleges and universities. The all encompassing Catholic subculture of my youth has virtually disappeared. Intellectually talented young Catholic women are as likely to be at Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, Duke, or Berkeley, as at a Catholic college or university. The young women who do choose to attend a Catholic higher education institution are increasingly less likely to have more than a glancing familiarity with the richness of the Catholic intellectual traditions. Indeed, at many Catholic colleges and universities, a majority of the students are not Catholic. Now, the question “What makes a college Catholic?” is a real and important question. And the question for us is how does Saint Mary’s live out its Catholic identity?

Discussion of those questions at this time is, unfortunately, made difficult by a polarization that instills in me a fear – a fear of the loss of the virtuous middle ground. At one end of the spectrum are Catholic schools (like Ave Maria or St. Francis at Steubenville) which seem to declare that true Catholic identity is evidenced only if doctrinal orthodoxy is accompanied by social and cultural conservatism and a sort of pre-Vatican II piety. At the other end are schools where meaningful affirmation of Catholic identity is tepid at best – those schools having taken as their sole models the revered secular universities and liberal arts colleges. Peter Steinfels, in his book, A People Adrift, posits that such timidity about Catholic identity has its roots in fear of losing, or never attaining, an excellent academic reputation, as well as in a more amorphous fear of a return to the culture of the Inquisition.

Steinfels’ book contains a very interesting chapter on “Catholic Institutions and Catholic Identity.” In that chapter he discusses primarily Catholic hospitals and Catholic colleges and universities. He considers several dimensions of higher education: students, curriculum, and personnel, especially faculty and administrative leaders. Let me briefly consider each of these.

First, Students. Which students do we serve and for what purpose? Historically, of course, Catholic schools served Catholics. The schools existed to preserve and pass on the intellectual wealth of the Catholic tradition, to strengthen that Catholic subculture I referred to a moment ago, and to provide a first rate education for Catholics who were not welcome in many of the country’s more prestigious institutions. While only the first of those reasons remains strong today, some Catholic schools have as their mission the education of underserved populations. The populations, however, are quite different today than they were in the past and are likely to be significantly non-Catholic. Although many of our sister Catholic women’s colleges now serve older women or large numbers of women of color, I think it is fair to say that Saint Mary’s does not evidence its Catholicity to any significant degree by serving the underserved or marginalized. We educate traditional age college women who, while not universally wealthy, are generally at least middle class. Our students are overwhelmingly Catholic and more likely than a random sampling of Catholics to be active Catholics. What we do is prepare a core of elite women who can be leaders within the Church and who, in the wider society, can model and witness to the Gospel values.

Steinfels says that the total population of students at Catholic colleges and universities is only 5% of the total college and university populations in the United States. While, therefore, it could be argued that the Catholic schools are not an important part of the nation’s higher education infrastructure, Steinfels says they are an important part of the Church’s infrastructure and its institutional networks. The education of women who know and understand the rich Catholic tradition is an important mission.

Curriculum. We have a variety of obligations to our students. Obviously we must provide them with an excellent education, an education equal to that which they would receive at the country’s best schools. As a Catholic school we also must make available to them the theological and philosophical underpinnings of the Catholic tradition. As our Statement of Philosophy says: “The College creates an open forum in which students freely and critically study the rich heritage of the Catholic tradition, raising the questions necessary to develop a mature religious life.” If we don’t do that for them, who will? And if no one does, there will be no mature adult thinkers able to help the Church grapple with the difficult questions of this time in human history. I do not mean to suggest, however, that our distinctive curricular obligations are confined to the departments of Religious Studies or Philosophy. Catholic aspects, themes, and topics can be explored in a wide variety of subject areas: literature, art, history, social and political theory, and many other fields. True, there is no Catholic calculus or physics, but Steinfels suggests that in addition to what is being taught, how it is taught might be distinctive. He suggests that Catholic colleges “would offer a different understanding of the ‘real,’ how one knows it, and what that knowledge means for one’s life.” (p. 150). In short, as an intellectual community, we should be able to ask and explore all the questions that are asked at secular schools, and do something more.

Personnel. This, as Steinfels says, is the question of who is going to do all that is necessary to make the college distinctively Catholic. If we are not attentive at the time of hiring to whether those we hire are supportive of the College’s mission, it will be impossible to carry out the mission. I am not talking about imposing orthodoxy tests or even necessarily about hiring Catholics. I am simply talking about what we say in our Mission Statement: “Saint Mary’s promotes a life of intellectual vigor, aesthetic appreciation, religious sensibility, and social responsibility. All members of the College remain faithful to this mission and continually assess their response to the complex needs and challenges of the contemporary world.” We must be serious about this every time we hire.

None of this is easy or reducible to matrices or quotas. Steinfels concludes his chapter with a quote from Monika Hellwig which is not only perceptive but stunningly challenging. With regard to Catholic higher education, Hellwig said that discerning a Catholic identity “is not a matter of something we have lost and must retrieve. It is a matter of discovering how to do something we have never done before.”

Saint Mary’s is a women’s college. Like Catholic colleges, in the not too distant past women’s colleges were never asked to justify their existence. Many, if not most, of the independent colleges and universities in this country were single-sex institutions.

Today, only three all-male colleges exist and the number of all women’s colleges is in the 60s. Why is Saint Mary’s a women’s College? Why should women’s colleges continue to exist?

Unfortunately, we still need to rebut the notion that a girls’ or women’s school is for those females who cannot handle the real world, or for privileged women who want to escape the real world and have a more lady like experience. (Karen Stabiner, All Girls: Single-Sex Education and Why It Matters, pp. 2 and 29.) In fact, those of us committed to single sex education, believe that we can better prepare young women for the real world than co-education can. Karen Stabiner is a journalist who spent the 1998-1999 school year observing at two very different all girls high schools: one an elite independent school in Los Angeles, and the other a public school in East Harlem. In her book, All Girls: Single-Sex Education and Why It Matters, she puts the advantage of an all girls school succinctly and bluntly when she says: “I had thought that girls’ school was for girls who could not handle the real world – until I spent time at two of them. The girls I met seemed almost arrogant at first, but I soon realized my mistake. They were not arrogant; they were self-confident, comfortable with themselves in a way I was not used to seeing.”

Although Stabiner studied high school girls, our experience at Saint Mary’s College reveals that women who enroll in a women’s college receive the same sort of benefits. Those of us involved with single sex education have had experiences that reinforce our belief in the benefits of single sex education, especially for girls and young women. But, more recently, there have been efforts to support our anecdotal evidence with data concerning such matters as classroom participation, interaction with faculty, etc.

According to the Women's College Coalition, research shows that students who attend a women's college enjoy the following five benefits:

1. The opportunity to participate more, both in and out of class, due to small class sizes. Small class size also creates a more positive learning experience because students receive greater individual attention.

2. Measurably higher levels of self-esteem than other achieving women in coeducational institutions – 9 out of 10 women's college graduates give their colleges high marks for fostering and developing self-confidence.

3. Greater satisfaction from their college experience than their coed counterparts – academically, developmentally, and personally.

4. More likely to graduate, and more than twice as likely as female graduates of coeducational colleges to earn doctoral degrees and to enter medical school. (5 of our Biology majors applied to medical schools last spring – all 5 were accepted at their first choice schools.)

5. They earn more after graduation than their coed counterparts because they often choose traditionally male disciplines, like the sciences, as their academic major. Women's colleges continue to graduate women in math and the sciences at 1.5 times the rate of coed institutions.

In addition to that sort of sociological research, neuroscientists have begun to influence the debate.

Neuroscience has made incredible strides in the past decade, and especially the past five years. When I was a young mother, the conventional wisdom was that all major brain development was essentially accomplished by 5 years of age. Recent findings appear to confirm that significant brain development continues into the third decade of life, that is, at least into one’s early twenties. That alone should be of major interest to those of us in higher education. But, in addition, there now seems to be quite solid evidence showing that the brains of men and women are organically different.

What brain differences are we talking about? I will provide just a few examples. You are probably all familiar with the left brain/right brain distinctions that have been made for over a century. The common wisdom has been that the left brain is specialized for verbal functions, and the right brain for spatial functions. By the mid 1980s, it was learned that such hemispheric specialization is much more pronounced in male brains than in female brains, or, may not exist at all in female brains.

The following example is from a book entitled Why Gender Matters, by Leonard Sax, M.D., PhD.

Men who suffer a stroke on the left side of their brain suffer, on average, about a 20% drop in verbal IQ. Whereas, if a man’s stroke affects the right side of his brain, he is not likely to suffer any diminishment in verbal ability.

In contrast, women who suffer a stroke on the left side of their brain, experience about a 9% drop in their verbal IQ (about 1/2 of the drop men experience) but, if a women suffers a stroke on the right side of her brain, she will suffer a similar drop of 11%. In short, women use both hemispheres of their brains for language; men do not. And, as recently as 2004, a team of scientists appears to have established that many of the brain differences between males and females are intrinsic; that is, the result of genetics, rather than the result of hormones washing over the brain – which had been the conventional wisdom. The fact that the differences are genetic was determined by identifying, in male and female brains, proteins derived from X and Y chromosomes.

Dr. Joann Deak, a psychologist, has become something of a guru for advocates of girls’ schools. Like Sax, she uses recent neuro-scientific findings to explain different male/female responses and behaviors. She ties female math phobia or girls’ perceptions that they are “dumb at math” to the fact that the areas of the brain used for spatial relations and for geometry develop earlier in boys than in girls. (In contrast, the language areas of the brain develop earlier in girls.) Simply put, the standard math curriculum may ask girls to do math that many of them are developmentally a year or more away from being able to comprehend.

These findings are fascinating and worth following. However, I have a healthy skepticism at this point about drawing very broad conclusions from the findings. First, the science itself is new enough that the findings may lack the nuance that we will eventually be able to bring to them. Second, experience shows that we too easily slide from gender difference to gender stereotyping, from difference to inequality.

But I do know that at Saint Mary’s our Math Department is one of our strongest departments. Many of our Math majors have gone on to exceptional careers – and not only careers as mathematicians. Janet Squires, a noted pediatrician and the 2005 Commencement speaker, was a Math major at Saint Mary’s. At a women’s college, it would be absurd to assume that women cannot do math. We approach the subject with confidence that women can not only do it, but can master the subject. And we have used our experience to hone the best way to teach our students. In our classrooms we utilize small group activities and collaborative teaching and learning – techniques we know work for our women. Whether the techniques that we have perfected are connected to intrinsic sex differences or to social factors doesn’t matter at the pragmatic level, because we know that what we do works for our students.

Isn’t that at the heart of it all? Saint Mary’s mission is to educate women. Everything that we do is aimed at that outcome. That can’t help but make a difference. And that is as true in the student life arena as it is in the classroom. At Saint Mary’s everything that is done by students is done by women. Our students sit on all College committees – all the way up to having a full voting member on the Board of Trustees. If there is a student initiative, every facet of it will be planned and executed by women. That alone is fundamental and important.

Last November there was an article in the business section of the Chicago Tribune under the heading “Getting Ahead.” The article was written about Saint Mary's College alumna Diane Aigotti, who has been the Treasurer of Aon Corporation since 2000. Diane has been on a very impressive career path since her graduation as a Business Economics and Political Science major at Saint Mary's in 1986. Before she became the Treasurer of Aon, Diane worked in Washington, DC in the US Department of Commerce, as a budget analyst, and later as Budget Director for the City of Chicago. She had also been Vice President for Management and Budget for the University of Chicago Hospitals and Health systems.

The reporter asked Aigotti if any classes from college were particularly helpful to her career. Diane replied, and I quote: “It wasn’t what I took as much as where I went. I went to Saint Mary's College at Notre Dame, an all-women’s college. There were fewer gender pressures. I was encouraged to stand up and speak my mind. If I’d gone to a co-ed school from the start, it would have been a lot harder. Later, when I was thrown into environments that were primarily all-men, it didn’t occur to me not to participate.”

Saint Mary’s is a residential campus. Our students’ college experience is not defined solely by the 15 to 17 hours a week they spend in class and the time spent preparing for class. In the US, colleges play an important role in character formation (or if you have read I Am Charlotte Simmons – Tom Wolfe’s recent novel – in character deformation). One of the defining characteristics of a Holy Cross education is a profound commitment to the personal formation of students. (James Lackenmier, C.S.C. “What is a Holy Cross University,” Portland, Spring 1993, p. 29) Although something similar was long said at virtually every liberal arts college in the country, it is no longer in vogue to say so, or to attempt to embody such a commitment.

A lot of teaching and learning takes place outside the classroom. Again, Peter Steinfels’ chapter challenges Catholic colleges with several questions: What do we communicate about compassion for the isolated or alienated? Do we create an environment that treats moments of prayer and reflection as natural rather than eccentric? Are the liturgical rhythms of the week and the seasons integrated into campus life? Is there anything distinctive about our expectations regarding sexual relations? I think our responses to those questions are relatively encouraging, but I am not certain that we ask them as overtly or systematically as we should. (p. 151).

One of the things that makes me especially proud of our students is the amount of time and energy they devote to community service and that we institutionally support our students’ efforts through the Office for Civic and Social Engagement. We rightly sensitize our students to the obligations that an educated person has toward society. (Lackenmier, p. 30.) Our Statement of Philosophy says that “The College nurtures awareness and compassion for a troubled world and challenges students to promote human dignity throughout their lives.” At Saint Mary’s, we have a commitment to and a serious obligation to instill in all the members of our community a sense of responsibility for the common good, a responsibility that flows from the social teaching of the gospels.

Last, but certainly not least, this is a college community. Saint Mary’s is a center of higher education and a community of scholars; a community of learning for both faculty, students, and staff. As I said at the beginning of this talk, we share the goal of making Saint Mary’s one of this country’s most respected and most excellent colleges. We provide our students with a first rate education. That is fundamental and of first importance. But what else must we do?

Before I launch into some of the suggestions that came forward from the strategic planning task forces, let me briefly return to one of my messages last fall. A year ago I said that I would like to see Saint Mary’s counted among the top 50 national liberal arts colleges. I knew at the time that my statement could be controversial and discomforting to the professional departments. So why did I say it? First, I believed then as I do now, that it is time for Saint Mary’s to be responsibly daring. In the ranking game, there is no higher classification for colleges than the top 50 national liberal arts colleges. So, a top 50 ranking is a statement of how high I think we can responsibly aim. It was not intended as a signal that we should either abandon or downplay our professional disciplines – disciplines that attract a good many of our students. Indeed, if some of the information that currently is circulating about Carnegie’s reclassification project is accurate – we are likely to be classified as having an Arts & Sciences undergraduate curriculum (between 50 and 75% of the students majoring in arts and sciences – counting both first and second majors – there will be schools classified as High Arts & Sciences, having 75-100% in those fields). That classification is likely to be more favorable for us from the point of view of status than our current classification, which groups us with colleges most of which are quite unlike us. If that turns out to be our classification, I believe that we will more comfortably live with that grouping than our current one.

Speaking of groupings, we need to build a list of aspirational peers; that is, a list of colleges that we believe Saint Mary’s should emulate in some important ways. We would compare ourselves to the aspirational peers and use what we learn from those comparisons to help us decide where and how to dedicate our energies and resources. I do not mean to suggest that we should aim to become clones of any other school. We should, of course, remain distinctively Saint Mary’s. But we can learn a great deal from such comparisons that can aid our decision making. I am told that from a statistical standpoint, a group of 20 is desirable. Consequently, I propose that the Faculty Assembly choose 10 schools and I choose another 10. Without going into great detail at this point, I think that the group should be similar to a high school senior’s list of colleges to which she intends to apply. The list should include some schools that we could realistically compete with in the near term and some that are a true stretch. The stretch schools should, however, be relatively realistic. In short, the distance between us and the colleges with billion dollar endowments is such that comparisons would not likely yield much useful information. I have already spoken with George Trey about the Faculty Assembly supplying the names of 10 schools and I hope that the Assembly will undertake to supply 10 names this fall. I will be very interested in your choices.

So, what of the strategic planning task force reports? First I want to thank all of the members of the various task forces and their chairs for working hard to provide us with their reports and recommendations this spring. Following receipt of the task force reports, I asked the Strategic Planning Advisory Committee (SPAC) to consider the reports and to suggest a prioritization of the various suggestions. My thanks also go to the members of the SPAC. I have studied the task force reports and SPAC’s suggestions to me. This morning, I want to briefly address those high priority items on which I think we should begin working. The first four areas of emphasis will be no surprise to you:
General Education
Diversity
Library Resources
Saint Mary’s College Identity Study

I, personally, want to add a fifth area not appearing in any of the task force or SPAC documents – Athletics.

First, as to General Education. The key recommendation made by the General Education Task Force is the formation of a new permanent committee of the College, a committee on General Education. It is the opinion of the task force that the Curriculum Committee has too many tasks. In reality the Curriculum Committee focuses on approval of new courses and does not have time to consider the overall structure of the General Education curriculum or the General Education courses. Assuming that is true, we are neglecting that part of the curriculum that touches each and every one of our students. While I am fully aware that this community is concerned about the proliferation of committees, this crucial portion of our students’ education should be consistently monitored and improved. I would like the Faculty Assembly’s advice about the formation and structure of such a committee. When formed, the committee should systematically consider the recommendations of the task force.

At this time, however, I would like to highlight one of the task force recommendations that I find particularly exciting. The task force proposes that we increase the number of tandem courses so that all students enroll in a tandem in their first or second years. The opportunity for a student to make connections between two different academic disciplines at the beginning of her academic career can have a transformative effect not only upon her, but upon the intellectual atmosphere of the College. A new high school graduate typically lacks understanding of the interconnectedness of ideas, concepts, and methodologies. Exposure to that interconnectedness is both exciting and intellectually maturing. In addition, tandems provide close interaction among students, and between the students and the faculty members. I am certain that making it possible for each student to participate in a tandem would involve a number of challenges, but meeting those challenges and providing that opportunity for each of our students could be truly energizing.

Second, Diversity. Diversity has been a constant topic of conversation at the College for a very long time. The establishment of OMA and CWIL are concrete steps that evidence the College’s commitment to diversifying itself. It is fair to say, however, that the progress the College has made, especially in attracting students, faculty, and staff from historically underrepresented groups, falls short of all of our hopes and expectations. And recruitment of a more diverse faculty, staff, and student body is only a means to an end, not the end itself. The reason that we need a more diverse community is that this is a community dedicated to learning. Learning is enhanced by the presence of different voices. Saint Mary’s can be an excellent academic community only when the discourse of the community is lively and intense, only when the community itself is transformed by the ideas and experiences of its varied members. At the time we were recruiting Dan Meyer, our new Vice President of Enrollment Management, we very clearly articulated to him our intent to expand our efforts to recruit underrepresented student populations. Dan has been with us only one week and is just getting his feet on the ground. But let me assure you, that Dan and I will be working together to establish ambitious yet realistic goals for the future. It would be premature for me to articulate such goals at this time. With regard to diversification of the curriculum, a goal that was articulated by both the Diversity Task Force and the General Education Task Force, I will expect the General Education Committee to address that issue.

Third, the Diversity Task Force, the Enrollment Management Advisory Committee and the Integrated Marketing Task Force jointly propose that Saint Mary’s undertake an Identity Study. The study would be a comprehensive quantitative and qualitative research project designed to better understand our audiences and their perceptions of the College. Armed with that knowledge, we will be able to more effectively communicate with these audiences and enhance the image of the College. The task force proposal is to study high school women, parents of current and prospective students, current students, alumnae, faculty, and staff. The proposal is co-sponsored by the three task forces because the research has the potential to significantly impact our efforts to increase enrollment, to increase diversity, and to effectively market the College to key audiences.

We have not previously done such a comprehensive study. In 1997, we researched prospective students and their parents. The information from that study guided the Admission marketing efforts for several years, initially with very good results. Unfortunately, that information is no longer current. The high school juniors and seniors surveyed in ’97 are now college graduates. Most colleges do this type of research on a 4 or 5 year cycle. As a tuition-dependent institution, we must learn how to maintain and increase our enrollment. The SPAC gave this proposal a very high priority and I agree. If you were to ask a random sample of people at Saint Mary’s to identify the three things a prospective student should know about Saint Mary’s, you would hear dozens of different responses. While it is good that we are proud about so many aspects of Saint Mary’s, the lack of a consistent message hurts us in the marketplace. This October I will ask the Board to authorize expenditures to undertake such a study. If approved, the study will require the use of a consultant.

Fourth, Library Resources. It is no secret to anyone in higher education that the cost of journals and periodicals has sky-rocketed over the past several years. One of the distressing facts that I noted in the materials presented to me during the presidential search process was the declining acquisition of periodicals at the College. While the double digit inflation in the cost of periodicals has caused all libraries to cut some subscriptions, there is a big difference between cutting frills and cutting essentials and I feared that we were actually cutting essentials.

The task force recommended a significant increase in the Library’s FY ’06 budget line for electronic resources. Although funding the new academic building and endowing scholarships remain our top funding priorities, I am asking our Development Office to be alert to donors who might create library endowments. We will be putting together a comprehensive campaign in the not too distant future and library endowments will need to be a part of that campaign.

Last, Athletics. Athletics does not have a prominent place in our strategic plan, but I think it should. A very large percentage of today’s academically talented young women are high school athletes and they want to continue to compete at the college level. If you look at the elite women’s schools, they all have extensive athletic programs. Most small liberal arts colleges have comprehensive men’s and women’s athletic programs. We are significantly behind most of them in facilities and full-time coaching staff, and I believe that puts us at a competitive disadvantage. Some young women simply will not consider attending Saint Mary’s because we do not have their sports or we are not competitive in them. In addition, at Division III schools, coaches typically play a significant role in recruiting athletes. That has not been true at Saint Mary’s, primarily because our coaches are part-time and they have a very high turn-over rate. A softball team can have 22 players on the roster; last year we had 12. We had barely enough students to play a game. Why? We have had a new softball coach every year for the past four years. That does not build good esprit de corps. If we had had a full roster, by a rough rule of thumb, those extra 10 students would have added another $200,000 to our net revenue last year. A strong athletic program helps to retain student athletes, build school spirit, dispel the finishing school image, and bring in students. Given our budget situation, we will proceed slowly, but I want to make you aware of the importance that I assign to athletics.

Let me conclude by stating, once again, my joy and pride at being your colleague at Saint Mary’s College. This college does a remarkable job of producing confident young women who take their excellent education out into the world and accomplish things small and large that make our world a better place. Saint Mary’s and her graduates are important forces for good. Our work here is important. I mentioned earlier that I think it is time for Saint Mary’s to be responsibly daring. I hope you, too, find this an exciting time in our history – a time for us to move ahead with confidence and assurance in our future.

President Carol Ann Mooney
August 17, 2005