College Forum Fall 2006

Image: President's Office

Carol Ann Mooney, President
Saint Mary's College

August 16, 2006

Good morning, it is good to see all of you again. I know that summer is not one long beach party for any of us, but I do hope that each one of you found some time for relaxation and renewal. Since Sunday evening, when the reality of the imminent return of our students hit me, I became certain that I could hear them packing. Along with their barbecue grills and their books, they are about to arrive with their bountiful energy and enthusiasm. As much as we love our beautiful park like existence here in the quiet of the summer, it is time to bring the place back to its intended state of high energy and high ambitions.

Much of what I need to say today is about the ordinary business of making the College better. And much of that work seems to have little direct impact on our core work -- educating the minds and hearts of the young women who come here. Many of you, just like me, play a supporting role to the faculty and the student affairs and campus ministry staff who work at the heart of our educational mission. It is often mundane matters that keep me awake at night, but they matter to the long-term well-being and success of the College, and therefore, they matter to all of us.

Before I go any further, I want to say a particular thank you to Professor Jill Vihtelic not only for her willingness to serve as Acting Vice President and Dean of Faculty, but also for the enthusiasm and energy she has already brought to the position. Those who know Jill, know that she will be an active Acting VP - she is not afraid to make decisions. Equally importantly, her decisions are thoughtful and based on her deep love for the College and extensive knowledge of it. Her focus is on the long term, best interests of the College. I applaud her reorganization of the responsibilities of the Associate Dean. The restructuring she has done has two obvious benefits: it will aid the work flow in the office, and it will provide Saint Mary's faculty with developmental experience in academic administration. I am deeply grateful to both Professors Joe Incandela and Deb McCarthy for accepting Associate Deanships. They are great additions to the academic administration and their three year commitments to their positions will provide assistance to the new Dean when she or he assumes the office. The search for the Dean continues; the search process was relatively quiet this summer, but will be in full swing again after Labor Day. I am grateful to the members of the search committee, all of whom, except Jill, will continue to serve this year. It is my understanding that the Faculty Assembly will elect a replacement for Jill later today.

Before looking ahead to the coming year, however, it is good to take a moment and look back at the past year, and appreciate the significant accomplishments.
Last year, of course, the Higher Learning Commission made its decennial site visit for purposes of reviewing our accreditation. The reaccreditation team looked at the entire college, its academic program, its student life, its financial well-being, its facilities and much more. The site visitation team's report was a very positive one. The team recommended an unconditional full ten-year reaccreditation with only one interim report, due in 2010, dealing with assessment, especially assessment of our general education program. The Commission will make its final decision on August 28. Once again, I thank all of you who assisted in the preparation of the self-study and all who interacted with the site visitors during their time on campus. The preparation for the visit gave us the opportunity to do some important self-examination. The visitors and their report gave us the opportunity to see the college and its accomplishments in a very positive light.

Last year was also an extremely successful fund-raising year. Gifts to the College totaled more than $11.1 million. That figure includes only gifts actually received by the College during fiscal year 06, it does not include pledges made but not yet paid. Gifts received of $11.1 million made last fiscal year our most successful fundraising year ever with the exception of the year in which we received the $12 million grant from the Lilly Endowment to start the Center for Women's InterCultural Learning - that year the College brought in a total of $17 million - $12 million of which was for CWIL. The Development office staff did a wonderful job and they are to be thanked and congratulated. Just as with Admissions, however, Development is a team sport in which everyone at the College plays a part. Everyone from those who keep our buildings and our grounds looking beautiful, to those who plan and execute successful events like Down the Avenue, the Madeleva dinner, and Reunion weekend, to those who prepare our students to become the successful people they are, have an important role in making Saint Mary's the sort of thriving place it is. Donors must have confidence in the College before they are willing to invest in the College. So again, I thank all of you.

When the students arrive later this week, we will have more first year students than we have had in several years and the academic quality of the class remains stable. We expect approximately 425 incoming first year students. Two years ago that number was 350 and a year ago it was 379. So we saw significant improvement this year in the number of incoming students. The even better news is that 10% of the incoming class is from historically underrepresented populations. Last spring we had the lowest attrition rate between fall and spring semesters in at least 10 years.
And, thanks to Toni Barstis, we have a new program to help us recruit next years' students. Toni successfully led efforts to formalize our joint engineering program with Notre Dame. For some years we have had an informal agreement under which Saint Mary's students can earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Saint Mary's after four years and another Bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering from Notre Dame at the end of their fifth year of study. Currently we have two students in the fourth year of that program. We now have a formalized and expanded agreement with Notre Dame. The newly signed agreement permits students in other majors, most likely mathematics, to participate and get engineering degrees in, for example, civil or electrical engineering. The formalization of the agreement allows us greater freedom to advertise the program and recruit students interested in the arrangement to Saint Mary's.

The new academic building is about to begin the construction phase. During the summer, we constructed a new parking lot just east of Havican Hall. That new parking lot is for commuter students and needed to be built before we could begin digging the foundation for the new academic building which will be located just east of the Science building in the Madeleva parking lot. The bids are due this week for phase one of the construction -- the digging and pouring of the foundation for the building. We have already raised $17 million dollars for the building and hope soon to close out the fundraising for the building at a total of $17.6 million. You may recall that the original total price of the building was estimated to be $16.5 million, but energy prices and the world wide shortage of building materials have caused the price of construction to increase; therefore, we increased our fundraising target. Again, a hearty thank you to all of you who helped with the fundraising and planning of the building itself. The schedule calls for completion of the building in June 2008. As in every building project, not every single desire was achievable, but this is going to be a wonderful building that fulfills our dream of having a world class teaching and learning facility. The building will bring updated technology into flexible classrooms that will accommodate a variety of teaching and learning styles; it will provide much needed laboratory space for the social scientists and it will include both formal and informal social space for faculty-student interaction. We have worked hard to make the building efficient, beautiful, and environmentally friendly.

Speaking of building, by now most of you are aware that the Congregation plans to build a new hotel and conference center immediately west of the Inn at Saint Mary's. (PICTURE 3) The hotel will be a Hilton Garden Inn with 100-125 rooms and a conference center that will accommodate 400-500 people for dinner. I have tried to cooperate with the Congregation in this endeavor while also protecting the College's interests. The Congregation, of course, owns the land and may do with it what they like. Even so, Sr. Joy O'Grady has been very collaborative in letting me know what the Congregation is planning and, when I have had strong objections, she has acceded.

Parking has been an issue on which Sr. Joy and I have spent a considerable amount of time. Parking for the new hotel can be accommodated around the hotel but, when there are large functions at the conference center, additional parking will be needed. There is not sufficient room for that parking in the corner where the Inn is located and I resisted locating the parking south of Brother Andre Drive - wanting to preserve the green space in front of the College. Consequently, we agreed to swap some land. Where Madeleva Drive turns west toward Angela Hall the Congregation already owns a slice of land on "our" side of the corner. The agreement moves Madeleva slightly to the west and softens that corner - making more room to the east and north for additional parking. In order to accomplish that, the College will deed approximately one acre of land to the Congregation. In exchange, the Congregation will deed an equal amount of land to the College. The land the College will receive is located in front of the Welcome Center and Madeleva Hall on the east side of Madeleva Road. That is a good exchange for us; it gives the College a larger buffer in front of our buildings and the land we are getting, which is the same acreage as that we are giving away, is quite likely higher in value than the land the College is deeding to the Congregation. In addition, the College is getting an option to purchase the rest of the plot of land to within 10 feet of the railroad land.

We have studied the space and there still remains sufficient room to build another apartment building adjacent to Opus Hall, should the College decide at some point to move forward with that plan. There is no entrance into our new parking lot from Madeleva Drive. That decision was made in order to discourage hotel or conference center guests from using the College parking lot. All land transactions need the approval of the Board of Trustees and these issues have been thoroughly discussed with the trustees and approved by them.

The construction of the hotel and conference center necessitated moving the power lines that crossed the site for the hotel. They have been moved to "our" side of Madeleva Drive. Unfortunately, that necessitated the removal of several trees. Sister Joy has assured me that new trees will be planted.

(PICTURE 2) In addition to the hotel project, the Congregation and the College are talking about constructing a new storm water sewer that will run west along Madeleva Drive to a catch basin near the river. I am told that appropriate vegetation is planted in that catch basin to help clean the water of automobile oil and other pollutants picked up in our parking lots. Therefore, this is environmentally superior to construction of dry wells to accommodate the run off from parking lots and roofs on the campus and Congregation land. In addition to that, a new city sewer line will be constructed on Congregation land - it will enter from 933 and go west across the farmland to the lifting station that takes the water under the river to the waster water treatment plant across the river. There is an existing line there but it needs to be increased in size. Unfortunately, the lifting station needed to move the sewage under the river must be enlarged and the construction of the new line will further disrupt the nature area. Sister Joy and I have had several discussions about this. She is genuinely concerned about the nature area, but believes that if the Congregation had failed to cooperate with the city, the city would have proceeded to enlarge the line via use of eminent domain. By cooperating with the city the Congregation has had some control over the construction process and has been able to save some trees the city marked for destruction and has limited the size of the road needed to access the site. (PICTURE 1)

The budget for the year just ended, fiscal year 2006, anticipated a $500,000 deficit. At one point it appeared we would do better than that, mainly because some positions remained unfilled for lengthy period of time and in hope that departments would hold back on their spending as they did in fiscal year 2005. Unfortunately, we ended the year with a $700,000 deficit. Some budgets such as utilities were over-expended and revenues were under budget by $200 thousand. Before all of the work we did to correct the budget situation, the projections were that we would end this past year with a $2 million deficit, so actually we made significant progress. The good news is that the current year is projected to end with a $300 thousand surplus, even considering the next phase of the faculty salary plan.

As you no doubt have heard on the news, there is heightened concern about the possibility of an avian flu pandemic. Whether or not the bird flu or another flu strain becomes an actual pandemic, experts agree that at some point there will be another pandemic. There were 3 in the last century (1918, 1957, and 1968). Saint Mary's has been working with national, state, and county advice to prepare for such an eventuality. Throughout the summer, a very large committee, representing all areas of the College worked to prepare a plan that, to the best of our ability, addresses a possible flu pandemic. The committee has addressed such issues as having adequate supplies on hand, as well as the financial and educational consequences of a forced closure of the College for a number of weeks. I ask the members of the committee who are with us this morning to please stand and be recognized for their work over the summer. All of us will be receiving regular updates from this committee throughout the fall.

Last year at this forum I listed five issues that the strategic planning task forces had identified as needing attention and that SPAC (the Strategic Planning Advisory Committee) had designated as having highest priority. Those issues were: diversity, general education, library resources, marketing, and athletics (the last one not having come from the strategic plan, but added by me).

I am pleased to report that we have made progress on all but one of those priorities - the library funding.

With regard to diversity, we have focused on increasing the racial and ethnic diversity of this community. We have taken three steps. First, working with the cabinet, the College established a hiring policy that says it is the expectation that any group of final candidates brought to campus to interview will include at least one person from a historically underrepresented racial or ethnic group, or an international candidate. In all instances a thorough explanation of the steps taken to produce a diverse pool must be presented. If all reasonable steps are taken but fail to produce a diverse candidate pool, the hire may proceed. If, in the judgment of the relevant Vice President, insufficient effort was expended to produce a diverse pool, no hire will be made at that time and the process must begin again. In short, the policy does not mandate hiring any particular candidate or type of candidate, but it does mandate that all reasonable efforts are made to produce a diverse pool of candidates. Second, Dan Meyer and I have set an initial goal of having 15% of the student body from racial and ethnic minorities within 5 years. As I said a few minutes ago, this year we achieved an incoming class with 10% of the students from historically underrepresented groups. We plan to do better than that, but we are moving in the right direction. Third, I have begun conversations with the Posse Foundation with the hope that Saint Mary's can become a partner school with the foundation. I first learned about the foundation from a group of our faculty who came to me and asked that I look into it. I did so and am very impressed with the foundation and its work.
The Posse Foundation recruits students from inner city schools in Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Los Angeles. A college or university that partners with Posse commits to bring 10 students a year from one of those cities to the campus. During the fourth year of a partnership, a campus will have 40 Posse students on campus, 10 in each class. The students are not necessarily from historically underrepresented groups, but often are. All Posse candidates are college bound and Posse has an extensive selection process that focuses on the students' leadership potential. Posse narrows its large pool of applicants to approximately 20 students per partner school and then Posse and the partner school select the 10 who will attend the partner school. The students are selected in the fall of their senior year and have weekly meetings throughout the year to prepare them for the college experience. Once at the school, each group of 10 has an on-campus mentor. The mentor meets with the group once a week and with each individual student once every two weeks. In the spring, the Foundation helps to facilitate a weekend retreat on campus - the retreat is known as "Posse Plus." The retreat includes all of the Posse students plus other student leaders, administrators, and faculty. The aim of the retreat is to bring issues that need attention into the open and to seek solutions. Posse has been in operation since 1989 and its partner schools are elite institutions. Posse students have a 92% graduation rate. At the end of my presentation, I will show you a short video about Posse.

As you might guess there are some significant financial implications of participation (each student attends tuition free), but I hope you will work with me to help make this happen for Saint Mary's. I have spoken with the presidents of DePauw in Greencastle, Indiana, and Denison in Ohio about Posse. Both schools have had very positive experiences with Posse, in fact, both schools now take two Posses per year (20) students. The students have been leaders and change agents on both campuses. Because of the significant financial implications, our participation must be approved by the Board of Trustees. I have introduced the idea to the Board, but I have not yet made a formal presentation to them. Even assuming Board approval, acceptance of Saint Mary's by the Posse Foundation is not a sure thing. The foundation must visit campus and accept us as a Partner Institution. In my conversations thus far with the foundation all signals have been positive, but we need to finalize our proposal to them.

Second on last year's list was General Education. I visited Faculty Assembly in the fall to propose a new standing committee on general education. I did not move forward and actually form that committee believing it better to await the new dean, who I assumed would be here this fall. Well, there is a new associate dean in charge of general education and it is my firm belief that we will have wonderful leadership on this issue from Joe Incandela. At the Faculty Assembly meeting you asked me a number of questions and suggested some revisions of my proposal and I have passed that information along to Joe who is prepared to take up the issue this year.
Third, the integrated marketing work, what we now call the identity initiative, is in progress. We selected the firm Stamats to do the work. They made three campus visits last spring. Stamats held several public meetings to introduce themselves and the process they would use. They also met with a number of individuals and small groups on campus to get an initial understanding of Saint Mary's. After the conclusion of those visits Stamats drew up the research instruments they used with our various constituencies. In addition to the survey instruments that were distributed to all faculty, staff and students, alumnae, prospective students, and prospective parents were also surveyed. 240 current students and 201 faculty/staff/administrators completed the online survey. 2,128 alumnae completed an online survey - the speed of their response as well as their response rate astonished Stamats. 430 prospective students and 377 prospective parents participated in telephone surveys. Those surveys were completed more quickly than anticipated because of the willingness of those audiences to participate. In sum, the research portion of the initiative is now complete.

Chuck Reed from Stamats will be on campus in a couple of weeks to present the findings from the research. Most of what we learned is not surprising. With every one of the survey audiences we received our lowest score on the ethnic diversity of the students on campus. We score high on offering students personal attention. With external audiences we scored low on the quality of the majors and programs at Saint Mary's. Although I know that we offer high quality programs, I also am not surprised by that response because we have tended to market the college rather than the individual programs. You will receive much more detailed information in the near future, but we I do want you to know that we are obtaining information that will be useful as we plan to market Saint Mary's more effectively.

Fourth, athletics. This is the topic I personally added to the list. As I explained last year, 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. We lag significantly behind our peer schools and even further behind our aspirant peers relative to athletic facilities and full-time coaching staff and I believe that puts us at a competitive disadvantage. Some young women will simply not consider attending Saint Mary's because we do not have their sports or we are not competitive in them. Last year we added one full-time coach, the softball coach and this year we will have another, thanks to the generosity of an alum who is providing funding for three to four years. In these times of tight budgets, I would not make these expenditures if I did not believe that they would play a significant part in recruitment and retention of students, which is after all the key to our long term health.

The one priority on which we have made no progress is library funding. Unfortunately, to make any significant progress on that front, I believe we will need to make it a priority in our next fund raising campaign. Our work is not finished with respect to any one of these five priorities, but that does not mean that we should stand and in waiting until we are finished with them, which brings me to the part of this address that begins to look at the future and our need to plan for it.

But, before I address some issues that we at Saint Mary's need to address, I want to take some time to talk about the context in which we operate, that is the context in which higher education now operates. I will look at the issues that arose this past year in conjunction with the yet to be accomplished reauthorization of the Higher Education Act and the about to be completed Spellings Commission Report (explain the Commission). I will focus there not because I agree with the perspectives that seem to have come to the fore, indeed I am often quite critical of the approaches being advocated. I do so, rather, because the issues and the way in which they are being thought about seem to strike a chord with some significant portion of the American population and, consequently, are likely to affect higher education for some time into the future.

To be sure, the issues are not really new ones, but the threat to the health of higher education in the United States that is posed by the current responses to the issues, seems especially acute to me. First, when I read the various drafts of the Spellings Commission Report, it became clear that the authors think about education very differently than I do and, I believe, than most of you do. Throughout the report education is treated as a commodity that is delivered and that should be delivered as cheaply and efficiently as possible. While I do not dispute that we have an obligation to be efficient and cost-effective, if one's mindset is simply that education is about pouring knowledge in the brains of others, one's priorities are quite different than if one's mindset is that education should promote a life of "intellectual vigor, aesthetic appreciation, religious sensibility, and social responsibility." The Spellings Report's emphasis on efficient delivery of education leads to repeated suggestions to make greater use of technological innovations, rather than, one suspects, the teacher and the learner meeting face to face. But, the human interaction between teacher and student conveys much more than the bits and bites of information exchanged. The report displays no awareness of the sacredness of the relationships between human persons - even that between teacher and student.

Second, I take it as a given, that the variety of higher educational institutions in the United States is an integral part of the strength of our system of higher education, and of our country. We have community colleges, large state research universities, regional state campuses, large and small private universities and colleges, some of which are research universities, some of which are teaching colleges, some of which are faith based, others of which are secular, some of which are professionally oriented, some of which are liberal arts focused, some of which combine both, and a few of which are single-sex institutions, etc. Our country clearly does not have a one size fits all set of offerings, and most observers agree that diversity is a key part of the health of our educational system. Yet, a number of proposals that are currently on the table would, I believe, move our system toward greater and greater homogenization of American higher educational institutions. A number of factors have brought about the climate in which the proposed solutions find some measure of acceptability, but foremost among them, I believe, is the cost, or perceived cost, of obtaining post-secondary education.

Today, I do not intend to justify the cost of higher education, or show that the real cost has not increased at the rate that many people assume, or even propose ways to lower the cost. Rather, I want to point out some of consequences of the perception that higher education is very costly.

The big three topics that are covered in the Spellings Commission's report and that undergird the debates about the Higher Education Act are: access, affordability, and accountability. The relationship of affordability to cost is obvious. The push for accountability could be explained as just part of the larger cultural phenomenon of suspicion and the resulting need to demonstrate trust worthiness. But the desire for accountability also has roots in cost consciousness and the sense that if it costs that much, we better be getting our money's worth. Access is affected by many factors, such as the quality of one's secondary school preparation, but access is also increasingly seen in light of the need/desire of many students to begin their education in lower cost community colleges and then transfer to four year institutions - again a cost driven practice.

Let's begin with access. We are, and should be, concerned that one's chances of obtaining a bachelor's degree have more to do with economic status than with academic talent. Both the American ideal of equal opportunity and the Catholic doctrine of social justice teach us that such a system needs reform. The hard question, of course, is how to accomplish that reform.

The system of public higher education and private schools' scholarship programs were long thought to be the solution to the problem. The strongest state institutions, the state flagship institutions, now compete with the elite private research universities. Operating an institution of that quality is very costly. Given the strong opposition to increase in taxation and the other stressors on state budgets, the state subsidy provided to a state university has become a minute portion of a flagship university's budget. Consequently, we recently saw years of double digit inflation, indeed in some instances an annual increase of more than 20 or even 30%, in tuition for in-state students. Given the rising cost and the rising talent of those attending the flagship schools, in many states the average family income of students attending the flagship institution is higher than the average family income of students attending the independent colleges and universities in that same state.

Where have the students of lesser means gone? In most states they cannot be fully absorbed by the private sector and its scholarship aid. Many are in lower status state campuses or junior colleges, where the cost is significantly lower. Many are part-time students who often attend a succession of different institutions before they attain a degree. Others enroll full-time with the intent to transfer to higher status institutions to complete their education. Consequently, one of the access issues that is addressed both in the higher education reauthorization bills and in the Spellings report is transferability of credits. Reducing barriers to transfer of credits may be helpful to the individual student, but what is its overall effect on our diversified system of higher education? Imagine if the government, either federal or state, began to regulate the transferability of credits in order to make it easier and faster for a student to obtain a degree. Saint Mary's requires all of our students to take religious studies and philosophy courses, and not just any such courses. I don't think we would want to accept any and every religion or philosophy course in fulfillment of those requirements. While none of the present proposals go quite that far, the road seems to me to be a dangerous one. The aim, greater access to higher education, is a good one. The cure could lead to ever more and more homogeneous educational options, which in my opinion, is a highly undesirable outcome.

The accountability proposals that have received the most attention in the popular press are those that would require national testing to assess student learning and replacement of the regional accrediting agencies with national or state run accreditation processes. The homogenizing effect of both of those proposals is patent, as is the narrow scope of the learning that can be measured by standardized testing.

The affordability proposals have included such things as requiring any institution whose tuition increase exceeds a certain percentage to report to the federal government and justify the increases. Again, such proposals are well motivated, but the effects could go well beyond the reporting burdens that would be imposed. It is not unlikely that innovations would be stifled if their costs could push an institution into a position where the reporting requirements would be triggered.

I recite this parade of horribles, not because I am convinced that all or any of them will come to fruition, but to indicate the climate in which we are operating. As individual institutions, and through our higher education associations, we need to recognize that there is growing distrust of our work, of its efficiency, and of its efficacy. We do need to be affordable; we do need to increase accessibility in ways that provide equality of opportunity, and we do need to be more transparent and accountable. If we do not find ways to respond to these very real concerns, we endanger our future, and the much richer educational vision that places like ours have preserved.

Probably the most disturbing shift in attitude about higher education is that it is primarily an individual benefit and not a social good. That shift fuels the view that higher education is a consumer product. One of my economist friends tried to soften my concern about that shift. She noted that because the personal benefit of obtaining higher education is so strong and, therefore, the motivation to obtain a higher education is so strong, the externalities (i.e., the social benefits) can be obtained without our needing to focus on them. But doesn't the failure to focus on the common good have consequences for how we see higher education? Doesn't it effect what we see as its purpose and therefore how we shape it? If it is primarily an individual benefit, doesn't that weaken our obligation to find ways to make it available to the widest possible swath of our society?

I do not have any ready remedies for these truly pressing social issues, but I do believe that places like Saint Mary's have a special mission and, at this point in time, perhaps a heightened reason to find ways to articulate that mission and its importance not just to our students but also to our society.

It is in this context in which we must plan our future. Planning must become an on-going part of what we do. Planning should be a natural outgrowth of the hard work done at the College. For example, we need to take what we learn from the identity initiative and begin to shape the way we tell the story of Saint Mary's and what it has to offer and perhaps even shape what we are doing so that we have more to offer. And then we need to plan to repeat the exercise because neither we nor the young women who are now in 7th and 8th grade will be the same in another five years. A second example, tomorrow the faculty will begin a discussion about the inter-relationship of liberal and professional education. That discussion is an opportunity for the faculty to gather itself together and think about how the various parts of our educational enterprise fit together to fulfill our mission and how those various parts should look in the future. Planning and strategy are important, but I have heard it said, and believe it is true, that success is about 10% strategy and 90% execution.

Consequently, this year I am going to form a relatively small planning committee. While the committee will be small, the number of people involved in planning should not be. I am going to ask this committee to work for this academic year, and no longer, to articulate strategic goals for the next several years. But, I do not expect this set of goals or plans to remain static over any period of time. Once this community establishes a set of goals, each goal will be assigned a time frame and some one who will be accountable for what must be done and when. The planning committee will come together at least at the end of every year, perhaps more frequently, and assess both what has been done as well as what remains to be done and whether things need to be added or subtracted from the list. I will chair the planning committee and, although I believe I have learned a lot in the past two years, over the next two weeks, I am going to host a series of listening sessions with all full-time employees of the College. We will meet in groups of not more than 40 people at which time I want to hear your dreams for the College.

This year for my annual evaluation of the Vice Presidents I asked each of them to address four questions - what do you do well; in what areas do you want to improve; what should you stop doing that you are now doing; and what should you start doing that you are not now doing. As I thought about our larger planning process, I came to believe that those questions might work pretty well for the College as a whole. Planning is really asking one fundamental question - are we doing the right thing? So, I want each of you to begin thinking about what Saint Mary's does really well. In what should we improve? What, if anything, should we stop doing? And what should we start doing? I have already set aside time for these meetings, and invitations to them will be in your mailboxes tomorrow. For those of you unable to attend at your scheduled time, we have scheduled a couple of catch-up meetings, one for faculty and one for staff. I want to begin this work with all of your ideas in mind.

To give all of this a bit more shape, there are some fundamentals upon which I believe any plan for the College's future should be built. So, I am going to conclude today with my thoughts about those fundamentals.

First, Saint Mary's long-term health requires that we build a stronger national academic reputation. We know that the number of high school graduates who will consider attending a women's college is small. We also know that with the exception of Indiana, the four states in our primary market (Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio) are predicted to have shrinking populations of high school graduates. If we do not work to improve our reputation and expand our market, we will face an uncertain future. While I do not want to start to enumerate all of the things we need to do to build our academic reputation, I do feel the need to explicitly state that our work on general education which is just beginning and returning our library funding to good health both fall under this heading.

Achieving a national reputation also requires us to have world class facilities. That means that a number of our existing buildings must be renovated. That also means that as the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross develops strategies for the use of its property, we need to plan to acquire land from the Congregation that we may need for future expansion and that will preserve the green space around the College.

Second, we were founded as, and continue to be, a Catholic College. While defining all that it means to be a Catholic College is not easy, and I talked about it quite extensively at this forum last year, our commitment to Holy Cross values and to being a Catholic College must be unwavering. That is fundamental to our founding and to our continuation. In fact, the core value on which we will focus this coming year is faith/spirituality.

Third, it is imperative that this community become more racially and ethnically diverse. The need for diversification flows first from its role in making this a more vibrant learning community. Therefore, while the imperative is campus wide, diversification of the student body, faculty, and student affairs personnel are of highest priority because of their direct impact on student learning. Other important reasons for diversification include: the social justice call to correct the inequities that are the product of our political, cultural, and economic history; and the fact that the Catholic Church is world-wide organization encompassing people of every race means that if Saint Mary's fails to become an inclusive community representative of all of God's people, the College's ability to provide intellectual leadership within the Church will be ever more and more marginal.

Fourth, enrollment must increase and stabilize. We should aim for total student enrollment of 1700 within five years. If we do not increase student enrollment, our ability to add new faculty, to expand programs, and to inaugurate innovative programs will be constrained by our financial status. While we have had apparent success recruiting this year's incoming class, enrollment and retention must remain a first level priority for each one of us in our various roles.

A key component of stabilizing and increasing our enrollment is the need to obtain resources to improve financial aid. Meeting the full financial need of all of every student is a dream that is unattainable except by the very wealthiest colleges and universities. However, I would like our financial aid to grow to the point that we can offer full assistance to our neediest students (those who are Pell eligible).
Fifth, we must increase alumnae giving. Currently, 32% of our alumnae are contributing alumnae. That is a respectable rate, but many women's colleges do much better. We must work to increase our alumnae giving rate to 45%. The obvious result of that will be an increase in donations to the College but it also will result in increased numbers of involved alumnae which spills over into reputation and recruiting.

In addition to an increase in alumnae giving, we must increase our endowment. Presently, our endowment is approximately $112 million. That gives us the largest endowment of any Catholic women's college. However, we need to increase that figure to at least $200 million. Two hundred million dollars does not put us in the league with our aspirational peers, but it is moving us in the right direction and it is a goal that I believe is attainable in the next several years. Again, attainment of that goal is achievable only when each and every one of us is performing at our best. People give to successful ventures. We will need faculty to explain to donors the importance of funding certain activities and new proposals; we will need the help of special events in hosting a lot of people on campus, and we will need clean hallways and friendly and welcoming staff in all of our offices. We will need good financial records and students who speak glowingly of their experiences here.

These five fundamentals are, I believe, part of the context in which we must plan. I hope you can become as excited about the possibilities for Saint Mary's as I am and that we are able to come to agreement on a set of projects that keep us moving in a positive direction. One of the things that I find most invigorating about Saint Mary's is that it is a place of aspiration, a place that hungers to be better. It is my intent to help us find ways to both feed that hunger and to keep us wanting more and more.
Thank you for listening. Now, before I open the floor for questions, I would like to show the short video I promised about Posse.

President Carol Ann Mooney
August 16, 2006