Saturday, December 31, 2011

A College President’s Christmas List

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

Although we college presidents are often expected to play Santa to our multiple constituents, we also have holiday wishes of our own. Mindful that the Grinch is often lurking on or near our campuses, I submit my Christmas list in hopes that Bethany College and West Virginia’s other higher education institutions will be rewarded for being good this year….

First on any college president’s list is an improved economic outlook. Despite the best efforts of enrollment management professionals and availability of privately funded scholarships, continued financial challenges make it difficult for many families to plan for college. Add to that the uncertainty surrounding federal student aid, and the accompanying perception that a four-year undergraduate education may be out of reach financially.

The good news is that consumer confidence is edging back up, and that foretells a slightly more optimistic enrollment outlook for next fall. All things considered, Bethany and many other private colleges are doing well in maintaining enrollment. But admissions-sensitive colleges (and that includes most private institutions) will be wise to remain fiscally conservative as they approach their new budget years in 2012.

Second on my list is the availability of discretionary funds for institutional giving. For college presidents and their advancement officers, gifts are necessary—not optional. But for consumers, even our loyal alumni and friends, a rollercoaster stock market and higher prices can drive down current gifts and delay campaign pledge commitments. Numbers for 2010 giving tell the story: According to the Council for Aid to Education, America’s colleges and universities raised $28 billion in 2010; however, with adjustment for inflation, giving actually declined 0.6 percent.

If institutions ride along with a boost in retail sales during the current holiday season, traditionally a strong time for end-of-year annual gifts to colleges, those numbers may improve for 2011. Meanwhile, it behooves colleges and universities to strengthen their cases for funding and to take no donor or gift for granted.

Third, Santa, will you help us identify new funding programs for international education? The integration of international markets and fast-moving political, economic, and social developments on all continents compel our students to be more engaged than ever in the complex issues that will confront them as global citizens. Bethany College has expanded overseas collaborations, increased on-campus programming for multinational cultural enrichment, and launched a series of initiatives with International Relief & Development, an agency in Arlington, VA, headed by Bethany alumnus and trustee Dr. Arthur B. Keys, Jr. Our first campus Light Up Night presented holiday greetings from students representing various faiths.

Educational institutions must do much more programmatically to make students not only aware of the world, but proactive in it. Their future careers will benefit from the ability to process and understand events and trends with global significance.

Fourth under my holiday tree would be some assistance in preserving the liberal arts by marketing them effectively. Central to a president’s job at a liberal arts college is leading the dialogue about the importance of lifelong, integrated, humanities-enriched education; safeguarding the teaching and funding of such subjects; inspiring strategic planning and institutional programs that recognize and preserve the value of the humanities, and finding innovative ways to communicate their importance to the general public.

Our nation will benefit from sound policy-making and responsible stewardship engendered by the broad perspectives of history and other humanities-based study. Answers to complex, interrelated economic, political, and environmental issues cannot come from a single perspective. Subjects in the humanities, with their emphasis on research, analysis, and communication, invite and permit multiple perspectives for practical problem-solving for the good of all.

Finally, I wish for all colleges and universities—large and small, public and private—the ability to serve our students well amid the myriad social changes and challenges finding their way to our campus doors. Although higher education offers much to many, it cannot be all things to everyone. Today’s college students benefit from technology, counseling, elaborate student centers, new residence halls, career services, and other campus support systems unavailable to previous generations. Living and learning on a college campus are not necessarily easier than they once were, but they are more efficiently accomplished.

It is still up to the student to make the most of his or her collegiate experience, and to take full advantage of the tools of modern education through disciplined study habits and the maturity that comes from responsible social behavior.

I realize this is a tall order, Santa, but our campus resources—like the Grinch’s heart—are sometimes two sizes too small. My fellow college presidents and I would be grateful for the assistance. Our record of success speaks for itself; for again this year, we have been, for the most part, very good at what we do.

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Dr. Scott D. Miller is President and M.M. Cochran Professor of Leadership Studies at Bethany College. A graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College, he has served as president of three private liberal arts colleges during the past 21 years.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bethany Trivia

What was the original name of Hummel Field House?

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

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bethany Trivia

What was the Buffalo Seminary?

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Bethany Trivia

In what year was Phillips Hall completed?  What is its purpose?

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

Monday, December 5, 2011

Bethany Trivia

When and why was the Green and White Club established?  What is its purpose?

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

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thankfully Looking Ahead and Giving Back

(The President's Letter, December 2011)

While most Americans mark Thanksgiving as the start of the holiday season, for those of us who work from the academic calendar, it signals the closing days of the fall semester.  For almost everyone, however, this is a period of reflection and a time of sharing with family and friends. This season will be especially significant for Annie and me, as we celebrate our fifth Christmas at Bethany.

Bethanians share a long legacy of giving back, a tradition that continues undiminished to this day as we translate the spirit of our founders into meeting contemporary needs.  In fact, recognizing Bethany’s commitment to volunteering, service learning and civic engagement, the Corporation for National and Community Service recently named the College to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.

In addition, Bethany is among over 250 institutions nationwide responding to President Obama’s invitation to higher education to create awareness of other faiths through campus service. Our Service Learning Center has also sponsored numerous initiatives, including the recently launched “Homefront Comfort” program and annual Day of Service which we will mark in January 2012.  

Among the many blessings at Bethany for which we are thankful this holiday season and throughout the year, we can cite…
  • Our visionary founders whose wisdom and perseverance created a firm foundation for our ongoing success;
  • A gifted and energetic Board of Trustees who give unhesitatingly of their time, talent and treasure;
  • A loyal and hard-working faculty and staff who go far beyond the expected in inspiring, motivating and mentoring students while supporting  our entire leadership team;
  • Accomplished students, who excel in the classroom, on the courts and playing fields and in their communities; each year we continue to welcome an increasingly well-prepared class of first-year students who demonstrate great promise.
During the holiday season, we also consider giving back through our giving to Bethany. It is our deserving students who most benefit from your gifts to The Bethany Fund. If you’ve already made your gift this year, we thank you.  If not, I invite you to participate now by clicking on our website:

Just as your experience at Bethany College was enriched by the support of those who have gone before you, you now have the opportunity to enhance the experience of current and future students.  Bethany College is committed to keeping a private, liberal arts education affordable for all who can benefit from it—an effort that by itself has also brought us national recognition.  We are especially proud that the College’s financial aid programs have resulted in “Best Buy” rankings from both Forbes and Barron’s, and also that Bethany students placed 7th nationally in lowest student debt, according to a recent U.S. News and World Report listing.  

As you know, however, tuition does not begin to cover the full cost of a Bethany education and the lifelong benefits it offers.  Gifts to The Bethany Fund expand scholarship and financial aid offerings, upgrade computer and lab equipment, strengthen the library and provide access to worldwide electronic technology.  Your gift will help to ensure that the College remains affordable and accessible for our young scholars who have chosen Bethany for some of the most important years of their lives. 

Although our roots as a College are in the Judeo-Christian tradition, all faiths celebrate this time of year as the days imperceptibly begin to lengthen and signal a season of hope and light.  May this season be one of joy, thanksgiving and light for you and yours.