Friday, April 29, 2011

Why the Humanities Are Good for You

(The State Journal, April 29, 2011 - by Scott D. Miller)

Outcomes assessment is more than a hot topic in education these days. It is at the heart of what and how we teach. As the pressure on educators to quantify those outcomes has intensified in recent years—often in support of economic growth—the value of the humanities has been perceived to decline in favor of more vocational, career-centered majors.

How, goes the argument, does studying art history, philosophy, religion, or literature support job creation or any other useful result? Or, in the traditional words of some parents to their college-enrolled children, “what are you going to do with that after graduation?”

A severe recession does about as much good for the liberal arts as humidity does for a rare book. As the nation’s financial crisis deepened two years ago, a New York Times headline proclaimed succinctly, “In Tough Times, the Humanities Must Justify Their Worth.”

So what exactly is the worth of the humanities? First, professors cannot possibly impart everything that students will need to have in order to flourish in the 21st Century. What we give our students at Bethany College is a toolbox grounded in the skills of being human—the ability to write, think, analyze, investigate, to roam purposefully across the range of  knowledge and endeavor, and adapt to the ever-shifting career marketplace. Such an education can best be achieved by exploring the human experience through the liberal arts and thereby unlocking one’s own passion for one or more subjects.

As a Bethany alumna, Marie DeParis, recently advised students at our Kalon Scholarship luncheon, “You can do many different things in college and in your career. The best thing I ever did was to follow my passion wherever it took me.”  As vice president of marketing and business development for SNY, the official television home of the New York Mets, Jets, and Big East Conference, Marie confirmed that her Bethany education prepared her well to pursue an exciting and rewarding career in a ferociously competitive field.
Second, because our students live and increasingly work in a global marketplace, they can ill afford to be ignorant of the world’s peoples, their cultures and aspirations. All business students are trained to interpret financial trends. They must also be educated to know how to read social, cultural, and political trends—which clearly influence the world’s economies, and America’s ability to compete with them.

Third, issues ranging from stewardship within our financial institutions, to genetic research in our science laboratories, to the tone of discourse in the halls of our government underscore the value of ethical awareness, discussion, and decision-making. As the American writer Joseph Wood Krutch once famously noted, “science, which can do so much, cannot decide what it ought to do.”

The benefits of the humanities may take a lifetime to appreciate, but they are there.  Nevertheless, higher education struggles to define and communicate the worth of disciplines that are easily shelved in favor of more attractive (lucrative) majors. The proportion of bachelor’s degrees awarded in humanities disciplines lags behind those in science and business, according to online data of the Humanities Resource Center of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
I recently attended a “Symposium on the Future of the Humanities,” sponsored by the Council of Independent Colleges and the School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University, which sought to clarify the value and “future vitality” of the humanities. A key conclusion of the participants was that despite the broadening-the-horizons merit of studying the humanities, and the usefulness of these disciplines to understanding, formulating, or challenging public policy, higher education does an inadequate job of “selling” the humanities to the general public.

We haven’t proved our case, moreover, in connecting the good old liberal arts to contemporary modes of learning and career development, which are driven more and more by technology, and subject to shorter and shorter attention spans. Students today process information in a vastly different way than did their counterparts just a decade ago. Lecture them that reading Shakespeare is good for the soul, and they’re ready to hit the escape key.

The reality is that reading Shakespeare is not only good for you, it also has practical benefits. Bethany annually hosts dozens of presentations by alumni and others with cutting-edge careers in business, communications, law, public service, and other fields. Without fail, they underscore the value of lifelong study of more than just narrowly vocational subjects. The benefits of such mental discipline, they say, range from holding one’s own in conversation at business functions, to thinking and communicating clearly, to establishing and managing multimillion-dollar companies. The ability to process the world through skills gained in the study of the humanities will sustain students regardless of how many jobs they hold—and for today’s college graduates, there will be many.

The challenge for higher education is to market the humanities to students, their families, and their employers—to work with schools, businesses, and other organizations to clarify the enduring value of these disciplines to one’s life, career, and personal satisfaction as well as to the public good. That is a tall order, but it is one worth pursuing.

It would be a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions if we failed to provide our students with the tools to explore the history and meaning of who they are as they go about the task of learning, in a career sense, what to do.

Surviving and Thriving in Challenging Times - Fostering Strategic Partnerships

(College Planning and Management, April 2011- by Marylouise Fennell and Scott D. Miller)

In difficult economic times, most procedures and ways of doing business are subject to review.  Sustainable growth on campuses today requires not just strategic, long-term planning, but also, strategic partnerships.  To paraphrase Charles Dickens, periods of sustained recession can evoke either the worst of times for our institutions, or alternatively, today’s challenges can lay the foundation for the best of times if territoriality gives way to innovation, entrepreneurship and synergistic partnerships.

Contrary to some thinking, scarce resources actually create opportunities for partnerships that can reduce costs, enhance quality, raise needed revenue and build win-win relationships with new external audiences.

External partnerships are a vital component of any effective strategic plan, notes our colleague Dr. Wendy B. Libby, president of Stephens College in Missouri. Coming to the presidency at a crossroads in that institution’s history, Dr. Libby quickly seized on engagement with the larger Columbia community, fostering and enhancing relationships with businesses and individuals and leading a renaissance in Stephens’ enrollment and visibility. Writing in our book Presidential Perspectives (Aramark publications), she cites two opportunities for campuses to create a more student-centered culture, recognize employees as valued members of the community and enhance a respected brand identity among key audiences:

·         Convert underutilized facilities into revenue-producing resources.

Often vacant spaces such as auditoriums, residence and recital halls and other spaces can be made productive when aggressively marketed as event venues, delivering an excellent meeting experience.  On-campus conference centers can not only produce needed revenue, but also, they can help to reconnect alumni with their alma mater while attracting community residents and businesses to campus.  Campuses cannot afford to let playing courts and fields, student residences and other non-performing assets lie fallow when students and faculty are not on campus; leasing them for summer conferences and camps attracts revenue and students when programmatic objectives are synergistic with the institution’s mission and values.

·     New external partnerships with local vendors can enhance the student experience while boosting institutional brand.
A balanced and robust partnership with an external dining services provider at Stephens, where a high percentage of students place a high priority on body image and fitness, served as the cornerstone for an entire student-centered dining experience under the umbrella of a strategic plan.  A new emphasis on options, sensitivity to cultural differences and dietary preferences, and flexibility in food choice as well as  meal plans as part of a “customer-conscious” awareness was a critical strategic component of enrollment and retention goals, helping Stephens to be perceived as more competitive and student-friendly.

Although Stephens College opted to outsource dining services, other campuses may consider other candidates, including facilities maintenance.  As Dr. Martin Nadelman, president of Alamance Community College notes, each college has a different set of factors to weigh when considering outsourcing.  It is prudent, he points out, to review items for change that are too costly, demand more of our time than we would like, or may be better handled by others outside our campus.  

Here are other cost-related factors to consider when seeking to build public-private partnerships involving outsourcing of functions currently performed in-house:  
  • Consider average increases in expenditures in the outsourced area over the past three-four years and compare them with the escalator factor used by the vendor.
  • Factor in "hidden" costs such as cleaning supplies which are often included in outside vendors' fees.
  • Calculate significant institutional expenses without an actual cost factor including personnel expenses such as sick days, advertising, interview costs, sick and annual leave, and unemployment compensation.
  • Analyses shoudl carry costs over a five-year period.

Many vendor contracts include a multiplier linked to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to facilitate budgeting.  Historians are fond of noting that civilizations seldom recognize a “golden age” as occurring in the present—such halcyon times are always thought to have existed in an imagined past or in an idealized future.  With a student-centered focus, laser-like strategic planning consistent with our mission and values and with imagination and vision, we can create a “golden age” on our own campuses today.

#  #  #  #

Dr. Scott D. Miller is President of the College and M.M. Cochran Professor of Leadership Studies at Bethany College in West Virginia.  Now in his third college presidency, he has served as a CEO for 20 years. 

Dr. Marylouse Fennell, RSM, a former president of Carlow University in Pittsburgh, PA, is senior counsel for the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and a partner in Hyatt Fennell, Higher Education Services - The TCR Group.

They have collaborated on six books, including “President to President:  Views on Technology in Higher Education” (2010) and “Presidential Perspectives: Economic Prosperity in the Next Decade” (2010.)  Both serve as consultants to college presidents and boards.  

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bethany Trivia

How many current professors at Bethany College are Bethany alumni?

Click here to see the answer and other Bethany Trivia questions.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Bethany College -- Happy Easter

Friends--We invite you to view our Easter greeting.

Click on the link below or you may cut and paste it into your browser (Please adjust the volume on your speakers for optimum listening)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Bethany Trivia

What awards are presented to fraternities and sororities for outstanding academic achievement?

Click here to see the answer and other Bethany Trivia questions.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bethany Trivia

What was the original purpose of the Robert C. Byrd Health and Wellness Center?

Click here to see the answer and other Bethany Trivia questions.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Celebrating a Spring Season of Success at Bethany

(The President's Letter, April 2011)

Bethany College has been far from dormant during the winter months.  Now, with the arrival of spring and the fast-paced months on our campus of April and May, we pause to celebrate continuted accomplishment at A Small College of National Distinction. 

Click here to read more.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bethany Trivia

What is Upsilon Pi Epsilon?

Click here to see the answer and other Bethany Trivia questions.

Presidential Perspectives

(This month's issue of Presidential Perspectives, a presidential thought series, published by Scott D. Miller and Marylouise Fennell with support of Aramark Higher Education).

This month's chapter is titled "Speaking With One Voice": 

Friday, April 1, 2011

College Presidents Must Be Visable and Set the Tone

(Enrollment Manager, April 2011 – by Scott D. Miller and Marylouise Fennell)
News on the enrollment front is mixed, adding to the challenge facing college Presidents already beleaguered by financial sustainability issues.  The "Millennials," the mini-boom generation now in and just out of college, is being replaced with a much smaller demographic.  The good news is that there is still time to plan, because the percentage of high school graduates entering college is projected to increase through 2014.  However, it's estimated that in the next decades the number of students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities will drop as secondary enrollment declines.  How can our campuses respond?
The conventional wisdom is that admissions offices will have to work overtime to attract more students.  We submit, however, that solutions need to go far beyond enrollment management and a plethora of student friendly-communications techniques to comprehensive strategic planning strategies.  Following are some key recommendations:
The President must be the driving force in making recruitment and retention a top priority on the campus. 
In these times, it’s too easy for enrollment issues to be placed on the back burner as fund-raising consumes Presidential time and energy.  It is essential, however, that the President remains equally hands-on in both areas.  We know of Presidents who have awakened too late to “red flags” which should have indicated negative enrollment trends. 
No other area is more vital to an institution’s ongoing health and viability than recruitment and retention.  It is critical, therefore, that enrollment report directly to the President with an open line of communication and access.  In this critical area, Presidents simply cannot afford to take their eye off the ball for even a short period.
The President must create a corporate culture that supports the enrollment operation. 
This includes a President who is highly visible at recruitment events, while taking the lead in the institutional philosophy portrayed in enrollment publications and online.  This initiative also includes leveraging facilities to create value.  “Tired” classrooms, grounds and facilities create a drag on the entire enrollment management process; enhanced residences, recreation-fitness facilities and dining services serve as an integral part of the student experience and play a vital role in attracting and retaining students.
As our 2010 book “President to President: Views on Technology in Higher Education” (Council of Independent Colleges/SunGard publications) co-edited with our friend and colleague Jacqueline Powers Dowd emphasizes, institutions must also leverage technology to create a competitive advantage.  While expensive, investing in technology also levels the playing field for small and mid-sized institutions.
The President must maintain a balance on enrolling student-athletes.
Most liberal arts colleges are members of the NCAA Division III, which emphasizes student-athletes who fit academically with the colleges in which they enroll.  It is important that the President underscore the importance of athletics while at the same time holding the enrollment office to a standard of recruiting student-athletes who mirror the campus population.  Student-athletes need to be just that.  Recruiting those who do not reflect the institutional profile will inevitably lead to retention problems later, serving neither the athlete nor the institution.
The President must exercise leadership in setting financial aid priorities. 
We hear many stories of Presidents getting into trouble over runaway financial aid budgets that are out of control.  “Buying” students with steep discounts is a recipe for long-term financial ruin.  Contrary to popular opinion, it is possible to attract and retain students, while also improving selectivity, access and affordability.  It’s all in the planning.
Indeed, thoughtful, strategic planning, which includes but is not limited to, creating strategic partnerships, altering the product-delivery mix, enhancing student-friendly facilities and amenities and leveraging facilities to attract students who are a good fit with the institution is the bedrock upon which all future growth must be based.  As an astute admissions dean once remarked, “The ability to respond to the market is a better benchmark of the health of an institution than any short-term tactics.”
We could not have said it better.
Dr. Scott D. Miller is President of the College and M.M. Cochran Professor of Leadership Studies at Bethany College in West Virginia.  Now in his third college presidency, he has served as a CEO for 20 years.
Dr. Marylouise Fennell, RSM, a former President of Carlow University in Pittsburgh, PA, is Senior Counsel for the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and a Partner in Hyatt Fennell, Higher Education Services-The TCR Group.
They have collaborated on six books, including “President to President:  Views on Technology in Higher Education” (2010) and “Presidential Perspectives: Economic Prosperity in the Next Decade” (2010).  Both serve as consultants to college Presidents and Boards.