Friday, June 22, 2012

Bethany College PRSSA Chapter Received the “Outstanding Chapter Award”

Bethanian George Manahan '85, Professional Advisor to the Chapter, Mort Gamble, Assistant to the President, and M. E. Yancosek Gamble, Chair, Department of Communications and Media Arts, Advisor, Bethany College PRSSA Chapter, receive the “Outstanding Chapter Award” from the West Virginia Public Relations Society of America on West Virginia Day, Wednesday, June 20, 2012, at Edgewood Country Club, Charleston, West Virginia.

Containing Higher Education Costs at All Costs

(The State Journal, June 2012 - by Scott D. Miller)

 In the 2012 season of flowing academic regalia and stirring graduation addresses on campuses across the country, an unwelcome guest crashed the Commencement party—the cost of higher education.
More to the point, the public’s growing concern about the value of what tuition dollars purchase these days is a storm cloud over college admissions offices that just won’t dissipate. It’s a challenge to college recruiters that could be even more damaging than the recession has been. In an economic downturn, consumer confidence will eventually recover. Lack of confidence in higher education’s services shows signs of being just as pervasive, and equally complex to solve.
The good news—and there is some—seemingly can’t arrive too soon.
In April, I was invited to attend a conference, the “Lafayette Group,” convened by President Daniel H. Weiss of Lafayette College, who framed the discussion with a detailed opening keynote address that provided a far-sighted perspective on trends in higher education.  Sixty of America’s most prestigious private liberal arts colleges, including my institution, Bethany College, were represented.
Cost, competitiveness and value were dominant themes of President Weiss’s analysis. We learned that college expenses have grown at rates in excess of the cost of living, and that educational costs now make up more than half of median family income. On campuses, the cost-per-student rate has risen faster than the economy.
What’s driving up tuition and fees? The Lafayette Group conference focused on some of the usual suspects—the need for ever-changing technology, competitive salaries to lure top faculty and administrators, increasing costs of the latest science equipment and digital databases. What it costs to educate students properly these days and what we can charge to meet those expenses are way out of alignment, driving up the need for more scholarship funds, increasing the rate of tuition discounting (helping families defray the sticker price of enrollment by packaging student aid) and leading to risky practices like wholesale slashing of tuition when an institution can least afford it. All of this is as true of public, “state-supported” colleges and universities as it is of private ones.

President Weiss noted that the overheated competition between institutions for students has produced a kind of “arms race” to provide the latest features in campus housing and student services while consumer confidence in the value of higher education itself has steadily fallen. One statistic from a Pew Research Center study drove home the point for the college CEO’s in attendance: although 42 percent of college presidents believe that college is affordable for most people, just 22 percent of the public believes it.

One need only to observe the mounting student-debt crisis in this country, coupled with dimmed employment prospects for newly minted alumni, to conclude that higher ed could use a public-relations offensive.

We are already seeing some results of shifts in consumer confidence toward traditional colleges and universities. These include a proliferation of online education and for-profit providers and growing discussion about the number of years it takes—and should take—to complete a four-year undergraduate degree. A June 3, 2012, article in The Washington Post reminds us of government figures that show a four-year graduation rate of 31 percent for public institutions, 52 percent at private schools. Some institutions “are working the four-year theme into recruiting events as a selling point to the cost-conscious,” reports the article’s author, Daniel de Vise.

So where are we headed? The good news for private colleges, according to President Weiss and the Lafayette Group conference, is that those institutions offering a comprehensive, residential learning environment, committed faculty, strong post-graduate outcomes and the formative educational approach offered through the liberal arts, with careful financial management and wise investments in technology, will be sustainable. For all institutions, it is clear that demonstrated outcomes tied to student satisfaction, on-time graduation and career success will continue to shape the student-recruitment market, and strengthen public confidence in their investment in higher education.

I would add that sound strategic planning, ongoing recruitment and training of qualified leaders at all levels of colleges and universities, understanding of shifting demographics in the higher education market and a focus on student-centeredness are imperative.

From the turbulent 1960’s emerged recognition of the need to take stock of institutional practices. Some observers, like Lafayette’s President Weiss, are saying that today’s changing higher education environment is no less revolutionary in spirit, and perhaps even more far-reaching as students and parents are beginning to protest not by sitting in but rather, by sitting out.

Higher education is a business; as such, it is increasingly defined by how well it adheres to best business practices—including the ability to satisfy its customer base year after year.

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 22 years.

"One today is worth two tomorrows." Benjamin Franklin

Friday, June 1, 2012

“The soul without imagination is what an observatory would be without a telescope." Henry Ward Beecher

Spring’s Timeless Rituals at Bethany

 (The President's Letter, June 2012)

Bethany’s Class of 2012, 137 strong, processed through Oglebay Gates one final time as students gathered for the May 11 Baccalaureate Service in Commencement Hall. The next morning, on a sun-drenched Saturday, they passed along the Alumni Walk in front of majestic Commencement Hall before receiving their diplomas at the Tilock Amphitheatre in the newly-dedicated Pennington Quadrangle.  Among them were the first seven students of our new Master of Arts in Teaching program, the first accredited graduate degree in the history of the College.  

Dr. James P. Johnson, president emeritus of Lexington Theological Seminary and of the Christian Church Foundation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), spoke to graduates, friends and families during the Baccalaureate service while Commencement speaker and Bethany Trustee Sy Holzer, PNC Bank Pittsburgh president, was among many in attendance who noted the palpable “electricity and excitement” pervading the College’s 172nd Anniversary Commencement Weekend.

Quoting Trustee Vice Chair Bob McCann ’81, Holzer reminded the graduates that “the only thing small about your education is the size of the town your college is located in. You’re being educated big-time to be world-class.”

Holzer continued, “It is at moments like these in the rich history of our great country, when we need a new generation to offer new ideas and new energy to meet the challenges we face as a country…I am excited for you because I know that you are ready to add creativity and imagination to the background and training that you have received at our great Bethany College.”  In recognition of his support of Bethany and its service-learning program, Sy was awarded the honorary Doctor of Humanities degree. 

Valedictorian Meghan L. Philp of New Martinsville, WV, was recognized with the Oreon Scott Award, given annually to the senior graduating with the highest academic standing.  A total of nine students graduated with perfect 4.0 grade point averages. 

Honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees were bestowed upon The Rev. William Burwell Allen, former regional minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and Dr. Johnson, our Baccalaureate speaker. Bill Allen has served as pastor and college chaplain at Bethany Memorial Church and at Bethany College.    

Following Commencement exercises, a tree was planted and a commemorative plaque placed at the Erickson Alumni Center to celebrate the Class of 2012, as a symbol of members’ continuing growth and enduring connection to their alma mater.

Commencement weekend capped a spring filled with traditional events and activities, including the 65th annual Darline Nicholson Spring Breakfast honoring Bethany College senior women on May 5.  This year, it was especially gratifying to visit with long-time former Dean of Students  Nicholson, namesake for the breakfast in her honor.  Featured speaker for the 2012 event was Susan Ryan Lister '89, senior specialist in global communications for the Whirlpool Corporation and former associate commissioner of the Big Ten Conference.

That evening, Dr. Kathleen Downey ’75 and Sharon Bogarad ’76 were honored at the annual Alumni Awards dinner as part of the College’s Alumni Weekend events honoring the Class of 1962.  Dr. Downey, of Cincinnati, Ohio, earned her M.D. from the University of Pittsburgh Medical School in 1979.  As medical director of the Wyoming Family Practice Center, she was named “teacher of the year” three times, working in locations around the world, including New Zealand, the Bering Sea in Alaska and a Navajo Native American reservation.  Ms. Bogarad, an attorney in Weirton, WV, served as a member of the Bethany College Alumni Council for 18 years, as Council president from 2000-2002, and as chapter advisor for Phi Mu for 11 years. She has participated in Kalon and other enrollment programs, and was a member of a presidential search committee.

Also honored at the dinner were Marc B. Chernenko '78 and Joyce Dumbaugh Chernenko '78, co-recipients of the 2012 Alumnus of the Year Award established by the Office of the President to recognize alumni who have demonstrated loyalty to the College and exceptional achievement throughout their lives, both professionally and in service to the community.

Even as we conclude another productive academic year, we position the College for continued success in a competitive marketplace; we recently signed an agreement with Carnegie Mellon University for six dual degrees offering accelerated programs. The programs allow qualified applicants to graduate with both a bachelor’s degree from Bethany and a master’s degree from CMU in five years.

Summer, always a busy time on campus, will again welcome youth from around the nation and world for the fifth year of Camp Canyon, a program combining traditional and specialized activities.  In addition, 25 students are enrolled in our first online summer session.  Bethany students are allowed to take 12 hours of online classes from Bethany College during their four years here. 

I look forward to visiting Bethanians during alumni events around the country. And to alumni and friends everywhere, thank you for your financial support during the 2011-2012 fiscal year, which concludes June 30. There’s still time to make your gift to The Bethany Fund if you have not already done so. We value your commitment to our College!

Just as our graduates walked through the Oglebay Gates during Commencement Weekend for the last time, we look forward to welcoming the Class of 2016 in August when they will take this traditional walk for the very first time—continuing the kinds of rituals that have defined our College for 172 years. On behalf of the Bethany College community, I wish you a wonderful summer, and invite you to watch for further updates as we look ahead to the new academic year.