Monday, January 7, 2019

Nota Bene: Weekly Update

For the past 28 years, I have opened the new year by attending the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) Presidents Institute. It is the premier annual meeting of college and university presidents and the largest in the country. Although my schedule is routinely filled with a variety of meetings and events on campus and around the country, I always find this CIC gathering of 360 private college presidents to be a time of personal reflection and restoration.

Based in Washington, D.C., CIC works to raise the quality of education and strengthen resources at some 770 independent colleges, universities and higher education organizations. CIC's 2018 Presidents Institute explored the theme of "Leading Strategic Change" and other important issues of presidential leadership, drawing on the lessons learned by experienced campus CEO's and the perspectives of other distinguished speakers. 
The time was very productive. I was able to accomplish: 
  • A meeting with the National Association of Schools and Colleges of The United Methodist Church Board of Directors to discuss the controversial work of the Commission on a Way Forward.  This important work will help shape the future of the United Methodist Church and will be discussed and decided at the 2019 General Conference Special Session;
  • With Richard Cook, President-emeritus of Allegheny College, led a session on "Battling Climate Change."  Dr. Cook is past Chair of the Board of Directors of Second Nature.  I currently serve as Chair of the Climate Leadership Network and as a member of the Second Nature Board;
  • A meeting with Academic Search, Inc., Board of Directors, a group I chair;
  • A meeting with the American Academic Leadership Institute Board of Directors (I serve as vice chair);  
  • A meeting with the Council of Independent Colleges Online Course Sharing Consortium, a collaborative recently joined. (See additional details below);
  • A meeting with The Learning House, our partner in developing VWU Online;
  • A meeting of the 25 private college leaders nationwide selected to meet with Mexican university rectors in Guadalajara, Mexico;
  • A meeting with Ellucian, our partners on campus technology;
  • A meeting with Stephen Sprouls, Principal, Derck & Edson of Lititz, PA, the firm that facilitated our 10-year Campus Master Planning efforts.
Throughout the week, as I visited with my colleagues in these meetings, a theme arose. In the turbulent, often uncertain, world of higher education, many things remain constant. These include the need to build and maintain healthy enrollments and endowments, to teach well, and to give our efforts an honest and thorough assessment. We will always want to recruit the best students, faculty, and administrative staff that we can. A mainstay of Virginia Wesleyan's history is the devotion of all members of the campus community to academic, career, and life success for students. Our beautiful campus needs constant care, too, and the challenges of security and resource development in every area of the University are ongoing. 

Although there are many recent developments and trends that bring uncertainty and demand vigilance--for VWU and other institutions--I am confident that with persistent effort on campus and through strong connections to colleagues in the higher education community and beyond, we will know success.

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I am pleased to announce the addition of two exciting partnerships to our already robust Virginia Wesleyan University Online: CIC Online Course Sharing Consortium and ed2Go. 

As mentioned above, VWU proudly joined the CIC Online Course Sharing Consortium with whom I met with last week. This collaborative provides access to technology that facilitates online course sharing among members of the Council for Independent Colleges that have similar goals for academic quality, commitment to the liberal arts, affordability, and accessibility. Through this arrangement, a single platform is available for participating accredited CIC institutions to share online courses to better meet students' needs. The flexibility and increased opportunities support students' timely academic progress and degree completion. Read more here.

VWU Online has finalized an agreement with ed2gothe world's largest provider of web-based, instructor-supported training programs, to offer alumni and members of the community the opportunity to take non-credit courses online for professional and personal development.  Partnering with ed2go allows VWU to offer a wider array of online courses and to deliver them in a highly desirable format to accommodate all lifestyles. 

Please stay tuned for more information as we will be rolling out both systems in the coming month. Kudos and many thanks to Dr. Maynard Schaus, Associate Provost, for his excellent leadership in the success of these and all of our online initiatives. 

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As the safety of our campus community is always paramount in my mind, allow me to share a reminder of Virginia Wesleyan's emergency procedures and the ways in which we communicate important updates to our students, faculty, and staff in the event of extreme weather or other emergencies. Please take a moment to review the following methods of contact utilized during situations such as these:

Emergency Information
Emergency Website:
Inclement Weather Hotline: 757.455.5711
VWU Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Emergency Contacts
Emergency Number: 757.233.8888
Non-emergency Number: 757.455.3349 (day) / 757.455.3289 (evening)
DeFord Gate House: 757.455.3289

Please stay safe and exercise caution when traveling around campus and throughout the surrounding area.


Newbury College, a private institution near Boston, announced in December that it will close following the spring 2019 semester. Newbury's decision follows a similar announcement by St. Joseph's College in Vermont, Wheelock College in Massachusetts, and Mt. Ida College, also in Massachusetts.

Longtime colleague Brian Mitchell, former President of Bucknell University and Washington and Jefferson College, writes a popular weekly higher education blog in "Academic Innovators." In a recent post he states: "The sky is not falling (for private higher education), but warning clouds are looming." In "Another Small College Bites the Dust," he argues that colleges must begin to act now to safeguard the quality of their academic programs into the future. New approaches, strategic partnerships, and the adaptation of existing or creation of new products must be explored--and implemented--if colleges are to break out of the cycle of over-reliance on declining net tuition revenue.

With pride, we share the Fall 2018 President's List. Congratulations to the following students for achieving a 4.0 grade point average for the fall semester. A reception will be held later this spring to celebrate the outstanding achievements of these students. Well done!

Virginia Wesleyan University Fall 2018 President's List 

Reina Araujo
Alyssa Balanta
Allison Brewer
Mary Brockenbrough
Katherine Burton
McKayla Calapp
Emilee Caldbeck
Madalyn Chevalier
Storie Cook
Taylor Coutts
Zoe Cruz
Kayleesue Currier
Alyssa D'Emanuele
Lauren Davidson
Austin Davis
Iyana Downie
Brooke Erickson
Christopher Fegan
Isabelle Figueroa
Bayli Foley
Kathryn Gerrish
Sophia Gonzales
Mary Gower
Vernon Hanbury
Michael Harrison
Hayley Heath
Ezekiel Herrera-Bevan
Lyric Hinton
Abigail Horgan
Jonathan Huckabee
Ebonie Johnson
Catalina Jones
Teresa Jones
Destiny Kinka
Ashley Kline
Katy Kopaskey
Skyler Lattuca
Isabel Laxton
Morgan Lucas
Ryan Mason
Mayanni McCourty
Morgan McDonald
Caleb Mercer
Ann Marie Moffett
Christopher Morris
Kirsten Powell
Alex Powers
Dalton Powers
John Provine
Emily Purdin
Mickella Rast
Nicholas Rich
Justin Robins
Skye Seutter
Garry Sjodin
Jake Stokke
Jennifer Suarez
Jessica Suter
Millie Taylor
Caroline Tryfiates
Keith Wallace
Cecilia Ward
Kwonsha Washington
Lindsay Weitzel
Taylor Wilhelm

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Kudos to Sarah Stermer, Virginia Wesleyan freshman, on receiving the Joseph E. and Bertha White Harry Scholarship from the Hampton Roads Community Foundation. She is nicknamed "Sarah Sapling" and for good reason. Sarah has worked to secure funding for and has planted more than 1,200 trees in Virginia Beach to remedy the city's tree canopy levels. She has also planted more than 1,800 trees in Haiti where deforestation is widespread. We are grateful for her environmental advocacy on our campus, in our city, and around the globe. Read more about Sarah's story and work on the front page of the Hampton Roads Community Foundation (HRCF) Fall/Winter 2018 newsletter.

Also featured in the HRCF newsletter is VWU's Tiffany Williams, Director of Stewardship and Special Gifts, for her support of The Soul of Philanthropy exhibit sponsored by HRCF at the Slover Library in Norfolk. The exhibit celebrated Black Philanthropy Month. 

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I enjoyed the "unveiling" of the new basketball locker rooms with the men's and women's basketball teams last week. Thanks to the Paphites family for their generous support! View the photo gallery here.

In case you missed it, work was completed December 22 on the stands/press box and auxiliary building at Virginia Wesleyan University's new TowneBank Park / Broyles Field. The new stands/press box at Birdsong Field are scheduled for completion within the next month. These additions at Birdsong Field will be named in honor of the Dale Foley family-proud graduates and generous supporters of Virginia Wesleyan University.  Blacktopping of the new 259-space parking lot at the new Susan S. Goode Fine and Performing Arts Center is complete. Dedication of the Center is set for March 30. Taken last week is this photo of the sunrise through the trees at Renn Reserve and Pond on Marlin Way.

Read the latest happenings from our friends in the Center for the Study of Religious Freedom at VWU in "Action Steps You Can Take in 2019."

Kudos to alumna Marissa Coombs '18, newest member of New Balance's Garden State Track Club Emerging Elite team! In an interview, Marissa discusses her experience at VWU and how it prepared her for a post-collegiate career in running. Watch the video here.

Congratulations to Vox Vera, Virginia Wesleyan's student choir, who performed at the White House on Tuesday, December 18. Led by Choral Director Bryson Mortensen, the choir sang in the East Room under portraits of President George Washington. I'm proud of these talented students for receiving the invitation, and appreciate their representing the University so well at our nation's capital. The week prior, Vox Vera performed their "Sing We Now of Christmas" concert on campus and it was fantastic. Read more here.


  • "The top 10 higher ed trends of 2018" as reported by Education Advisory Board (EAB). Discover them here.
  • From the United Methodist News Service: A group of bishops has debuted a website to provide information on the One Church Plan, one of multiple proposals heading to the special General Conference. The new site is getting push-back, but also support, Heather Hahn reports in "Bishops' website spotlights One Church Plan." Read the story here
  • "Teaching the Students We Have, Not the Students We Wish We Had," in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Natalya Balnova for The Chronicle reports,"As educators, we need to lead the way and design our pedagogical approaches for the students we have, not the students we wish we had. This requires approaches that are responsive, inclusive, adaptive, challenging, and compassionate. And it requires that institutions find more creative ways to support teachers and prepare them for the work of teaching. This is not a theoretical exercise--it is a practical one."
  • "How America Pays for College." According to Sallie Mae and Ipsos, families pay nearly half of college costs. Read more here.
  • "Analyst:  Virginia Public School Enrollment Sees First Drop in Decades," reports WVTF.  After decades of steady increase, Virginia's public school enrollment dropped 2,000 students this year. It's the first decline in enrollment since 1984. Hamilton Lombard at the University of Virginia says it's probably a welcome relief to Northern Virginia, where taxpayers have been financing a massive growth in schools in recent years. Read more here.
  • "U.S. college completion rate climbs to 58%." Although six-year completion rates are rising across the board, significant differences among several groups persist. Read more in Education Dive
  • "Low-income student enrollment up 3.5% at top U.S. colleges." Education Dive reports:  "A group of 100-plus colleges has committed to increase equity and access in higher ed, and early reports show they are pacing to meet their goal." Read more here.
  • "Creating video content that appeals to college students." University Business reports, "Educators seek ways to streamline presentation in this age of short attention spans and new tech capabilities." Read more here.
  • "Report: Virginia's economy looking good, but dependence on federal spending still problematic." Read more in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
  • "The liberal arts may not survive the 21st century," reports The Atlantic. "Wisconsin built a public higher education system that was admired around the world. But it may not withstand a tech-hungry economy." Read more in  University Business.
  • "What a Liberal Arts College Is and What You Should Know." U.S. News and World Report writes: "Historically, a 'liberal education' has focused on broad knowledge, particularly in the humanities, sciences and social sciences, notes the Association of American Colleges & Universities website, emphasizing the development of 'social responsibility; strong intellectual and practical skills that span all major fields of study, such as communication, analytical, and problem-solving skills; and the demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings.'" Read more here.

I hope you find these links useful to my recent columns and publications:
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Twitter: @vawesleyanprez
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Have a great week!