Monday, July 29, 2013

Just finished the August edition of "For The Record" at the Bethany Broadcasting Network studios in the Grace Phillips Johnson Visual Arts Center. Joe Dumas of the Department of Communications and Media Arts supervises our students in the production of the digit version of "The President's Letter" all year.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Enjoyable visit with Bill and Paula McLuckie of Peters Township, PA, at the President's Social at Christman Manor. Son Bill is a new Bethanian.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Tonight we held a Pizza Party at Harder Hall to thank our wonderful Student Ambassadors for New Student Orientation. Senior Vice President Sven de Jong, Dean of Students Jerry Stebbins, and Director of Student Activities Sam Goodge joined me in hosting the special THANK YOU event! These students do a wonderful job representing Bethany College.

Enjoyed visiting with families in early for tomorrow's New Student Orientation at a social at the Mountainside Conference Center. Pictured with me are the Galloway Family from Southern Maryland. Antonio will be compete on the football and swimming & diving teams at Bethany this fall. Welcome to the Bison Family!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Unpacking the Agenda for the New Academic Year

(The Huffington Post, July 17, 2013)

We’re on the downside of another busy summer at Bethany College.  In just a few weeks, our students will return to campus and unpack their semester’s worth of belongings in the residence halls. How times have changed, when those of us who departed for college a generation ago brought little more than a suitcase or two!

Much more than that has changed in higher education.  For one thing, there is no summer down time anymore. The agenda for the coming academic year is already waiting to be rolled out in August, while the fleeting days of summer for this college president are spent visiting alumni, presenting at professional conferences, and engaging new faculty and staff members. What most of us administrators do on our summer “vacations” is what we do the other nine months of the year.

In many ways, the agenda for fall term is no different from what it has been in recent years—but it is increasingly urgent.

Affordability remains a paramount concern for all of higher education, with students and families challenging institutions as never before to justify an investment of tuition dollars. A report on college trends by The Lawlor Group, a leading higher education marketing firm, states, “Higher education has become less an end in itself and increasingly a means to an end—primarily an economically viable career path. In calculating a college’s value proposition, families factor in outcomes as well as cost and prestige. They expect proof of high graduation rates and graduate employment at acceptable salary levels.”

Colleges and universities increasingly recognize their responsibility to deliver that “viable career path,” seeking to find the most productive and meaningful balance for students of preparing for a career while learning for life. Although many institutions successfully market the life preparation conveyed by their liberal arts traditions, consumer expectations drive enrollment. And the expectation most often voiced these days is “how will my degree translate into a job?”

A related trend is how personal technology and social media are shaping the campus experience—even before students enroll.  The Lawlor Group points out that students use technology to “instantly verify any claims a college makes.” Another study by Inigral Insights shows that 72% of new high school seniors have used social media in the college search process.  Colleges are well advised to update their marketing to ensure that they reach their preferred audiences with the messages they prefer.

Once in the college classroom, students today absorb information quite differently, responding less readily to traditional lectures, relying more on online sources, and learning new rules that govern Web-based research, verification of facts, and etiquette. The possibilities posed by technology are also very exciting, however. “Smart” classrooms, videoconferencing, and other innovations now permit students to interact in real time with their counterparts thousands of miles away, in other classrooms around the world. This is important as we continue to prepare students for the global career marketplace. As I often advise our students, they will be as likely to compete with graduates from Delhi and Tokyo as they will Pittsburgh and Columbus.

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), along with many social and economic factors, are challenging colleges and universities to rethink their traditional strategies of teaching and transferring credits. Many of my colleagues are participating in that discussion to discover new opportunities for college access while preserving the classical, residential campus experience that most of us still subscribe to.

Devoted faculty members, of course, remain at the heart of educational achievement. As they guide and mentor their students, arrange internships, and open career doors—often with the active assistance of alumni networks and social media—the entrepreneurial role of many faculty can only be expected to increase. As I travel around the country each year visiting Bethany’s graduates in major cities, most credit the leadership and friendship of our College’s faculty as the most influential and enduring factor in their career success.

Part of any institution’s agenda each year, however, is finding the resources to recruit and retain faculty, to provide the tools of contemporary instruction and research, and to assist students with the shifting norms and values of a fast-paced society. Although we often stress the need for scholarship dollars to underwrite student opportunity, gifts dedicated for faculty research, development, and mentoring are equally welcomed and valued in meeting the true cost and contemporary needs of a quality education. “Faculty development” is not always easy to articulate to donors, but along with funds for innovative academic programs, it’s at the core of many capital campaigns these days.

The success of any higher-education agenda depends on a proactive view of the internal and external forces that influence success. The most viable strategy of any college or university is not simply to react to those forces, but to lead the necessary process of planning for change that will anticipate and prevail over them.

It’s more than a matter of having large endowments or healthy enrollment trends, though these indicators are obviously critical. It really comes down to taking a hard look at the consumer landscape, five years to a decade or more from now. That landscape is not unfriendly to higher education as we know it today, but the GPS of our strategic planning needs to be precise. An unnecessary detour, like any wrong turn, can be costly.

 Dr. Scott D. Miller is president of Bethany College and M.M. Cochran Professor of Leadership Studies. Now in his 22nd year as a college president, he serves as a consultant to college presidents and boards. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Visit with two of our students who staffed the booth in the Exhibition Hall at General Assembly this week at the Orange County Convention Center in Florida. Matt Sipos, a sophomore Religous Studies major from Chesterland, Ohio, and Sarah Smith, a sophomore Biology/Chemistry major from Bluefield, West Virginia, are pictured with Dr. Larry Grimes, Dean of the Buffalo Seminary, and me.

Rick and Linda Hull of Jacksonville attended today's Bethany luncheon. Rick, a former President of the Bethany Alumni Council, also celebrated a birthday today.

With Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), just before the start of the afternoon Business Session at General Assembly.

Bethanians Bill and Gwen Allen celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary at today's luncheon.

Leading off the Youth Rally at The Peabody in Orlando, Florida, for approximately 500 high school age members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The Council of Colleges and Universities sponsored the event. As Chair of the Council, I'm pictured with Executive Director Guy Waldrop, Ken Garren (Vice Chair & President of Lynchburg College) and his wife, Sheila.

Monday, July 15, 2013

With Dennis Landon, President of the Higher Education and Leadership Ministries (HELM) of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), at their annual dinner at the Orange County Convention Center in Florida. Serving a two-year term on the HELM Board of Directors.

With Rev. Dr. Guy Waldrop, Executive Director of The Council of Colleges and Universities of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), at the General Assembly in Orlando today. I am pleased to be serving as Chair of the Council. The Council meets tomorrow morning and will be presenting our annual report to the 5,000 assembly delegates tomorrow afternoon.

Nice visiting with Regional Minister (and Bethany Trustee) Rev. Thad Allen and Dr. Larry Grimes, Director of Church Relations (and Emeritus-Professor of English) at General Assembly today. Approximately 5,000 representatives of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) are in Orlando this week.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Enjoyable visit this morning with Pittsburgh Steelers legend Franco Harris.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

With Dr. Mort Gamble (Executive Assistant to the President), Tom Rhine (Vice President for Finance), and Dr. David Black (Sarah Cochran Visiting Executive in Residence and Provost) at tonight's Bethany College alumni event on the terrace of the Reed Smith Centre in Pittsburgh.

Thanks to Greg and Ellen Jordan (both Class of 1981) for hosting tonight's Bethany College alumni and friends event on the terrace of the Reed Smith Centre in Pittsburgh. Greg is chair of the Bethany College Board of Trustees and Global Managing Partner of Reed Smith. The group was treated to post-game fireworks from the Pirates game just across the river.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Enjoyable visit with Washington, D.C. Area Alumni and Friends tonight at the worldwide headquarters of International Relief and Development in Arlington, VA. Thanks to Dr. Arthur B. Keys (next to me), President of IRD, for hosting the event. Sven de Jong, Senior Vice President, and Dr. Mort Gamble, Executive Assistant to the President, join us for the picture.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Pictured with Maureen Curley, President of Campus Compact, at tonight's board/state director/state chair dinner at Widener University in Chester, PA. Campus Compact is a coalition of college and university presidents, committed to fulfilling the public purposes of higher education through civic engagement, service learning and community service. Over 1,100 educational institutions, more than a third of all higher education providers in the United States, are members.Thirty-five state affiliates and one national office support the work of member colleges. Campus Compact has members in all 50 states, many US Territories, and international member campuses in Hong Kong, Ireland, Lebanon and Mexico. Civic engagement, service learning and community service are a critical part of Bethany's mission and the College has received a number of national recognitions.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

173 Years and Counting

(The President's Letter, July 2013)

West Virginia’s 150th birthday in June offers opportunity to reflect on Bethany’s own history, heritage, and bright future. As the state’s oldest degree-granting institution of higher education—founded in 1840 before West Virginia itself was established—Bethany not only reflects the perilous times of the mid-Nineteenth Century of our birth and the Mountain State’s, but also the complex and amazing era in which we live today.

When Alexander Campbell decided to build a college in the remote wilderness of what was then the northern-most section of Virginia, he was guided by the principles of scholarship, leadership, and devotion to God. As visitors to our website can learn, Mr. Campbell was the leading influence in America’s largest indigenous religious movement, known as the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), churches of Christ, and the Christian Church. He was an innovative educator who believed in childhood, adolescent, and universal female education. And he was a contemporary of many of the notable figures of his time, including Henry Clay, U.S. Presidents James Madison and James Garfield, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Here, along the scenic banks of Buffalo Creek, Mr. Campbell would make his stand for the values closest to is heart, for here would be an institution of opportunity, intellectual freedom, spirituality, reflection, and selfless action. It would be a new college in what was still a very young republic, but Mr. Campbell also watched with grave concern the gathering storm of conflicts that would lead to the Civil War.

As Dr. Duane Cummins points out in his new history of our institution, the war that created West Virginia almost claimed as a casualty the fledgling Bethany College. Twin Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg 150 years ago this July, however, foretold preservation of the nation, and of Bethany whose trustees were determined to keep the College’s doors open despite the disastrous consequences of a nation at war with itself.

Today, Mr. Campbell’s vision is flourishing in a different world, but one that still, in many ways, aspires to his values. Bethany College celebrated its 173rd year this past March as the only nationally ranked liberal arts institution in West Virginia—devoted to the classical disciplines of the arts and sciences and committed to the development of the whole person “for a lifetime of work and a life of significance.” On a 1,300-acre campus of 45 buildings amid the natural splendors of the Appalachian mountains, the College enrolls approximately 1,000 students annually from throughout the nation. Adhering to Alexander Campbell’s vision for a life of ongoing education, Bethany College was recently named by U.S. News & World Report as among the top ten institutions in America whose alumni attend graduate school within a year of graduation.

For the past five years, our successes have foretold the future we have charted through our strategic plan: selective enrollment growth, in recent years among the strongest admissions success in our history; strengthening of the College’s financial resources through a campaign that has secured over $45 million to date, including support for an endowment commensurate with our academic quality and reputation; and enhancements to the campus that will not only preserve the beauty and traditions we cherish but also equip us for the demands of advancing technology and new knowledge. This is especially important for our pre-professional offerings in medicine, dentistry, engineering, law, veterinary medicine, and other fields.

We’ve made substantial improvements to the physical assets of Bethany: renovation and reopening of historic Cochran Hall as suite-style housing; an all-weather track and turf, lights, and locker rooms at Bison Stadium; the popular Bethany Beanery coffee shop; expansion of library holdings through the virtual Bowen Central Library system of the Appalachian College Association, relocation of the equestrian program to Oglebay Resort and Conference Center, and much more.

Through a major investment in campus technology, including live web streaming of campus events, Bethany is reaching a truly worldwide audience. And new student audiences are served through dual-degree programs with Carnegie Mellon University, Case Western, Columbia, and Duquesne universities. Our innovative thinking pays off. Bethany’s graduation rate of 64% rates in the top 28%, against a national average of just 40.1%. And our students graduate in fewer years than many of their counterparts at other institutions nationally.

As we develop the next generation of academic programs appropriate to our mission and enrollment goals, recruit top students and talented faculty, and discover new avenues for leadership, Bethany is challenged by shifts in economic, social, and cultural realities. Costs of maintaining an up-to date campus, providing student-friendly services, and reaching admissions goals rise every year. Social complexity inevitably finds its way to the halls of colleges, along with the cultural implications of students who attain and process information far differently than just a decade ago, who are often the first in their families to attend college, and whose educational backgrounds may prove lacking. Accompanying those trends are the perennial questions of what should be taught, in what format, and how learning outcomes should be measured in an era of expanding online instruction.       

So although our natural landscape in and around Bethany would still be familiar to our founder, the educational landscape has altered considerably—requiring a different kind of vision from Mr. Campbell’s, but one that coheres with his founding principles. Accordingly, Bethany College will need to market its educational services even more aggressively, creatively, and meaningfully to the incoming students who may trust our reputation but will expect greater levels of service as they build careers and lives.        

I believe our founder would have anticipated nothing less for his living and still-evolving college among the mountains. He and the many successful leaders in our history embraced change, and such is our destiny, too, as A Small College of National Distinction.
With Pittsburgh Pirates owner and Bethany College trustee Bob Nutting in the PNC Suite at tonight's Pirates/Phillies game. Also pictured: Bethany Director of Athletics and Recreation Brian Rose, Head Football Coach Bill Garvey, and Ben Arikian.