What kind of residential, liberal arts do our students need in order to serve and lead in a digitally connect, globally linked, and rapidly changing world?
Many of you have heard me say that I see my work as two-fold: to ensure that the College is making the changes necessary to remain successful and relevant for a new generation, and equally, to ensure that we continuously reaffirm and reinvest in the things about Austin College that should never change.
In my conversations on campus and all over the country with alumni, I find strong agreement that the “unchangeables” have to do with the character of our community, the strength of our liberal arts education, our commitment to opening our doors to talented students no matter their family circumstance or background, our supportive covenant relationship with the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the quality of our teaching, mentoring, and student support.
Those things that you tell me must evolve over time include the ways we meet each new generation of students “where they are,” the ways we prepare our students to lead and serve a changing world, the facilities that support our mission, and the ways we interact with local, regional, and international communities.
I am very pleased that our new strategic plan continues our commitment to both sustenance and progress. You can find the complete plan, Adding Value to a Changing World on our website. And within the pages of this magazine you will find information about several of the new initiatives that are part of the plan. But I am delighted to provide here a brief overview of our thinking and a preview of the plan’s four core areas of focus.
Our plan has emerged from focus on two key questions:
- What kind of residential, liberal arts do our students need in order to serve and lead in a digitally connected, globally linked, and rapidly changing world?
- What sustainable business model will allow us to provide this education?
The plan explores these questions in detail and identifies four core areas in which we intend to make meaningful progress over the next five years:
Career and Life Planning: As the nature of work evolves, our liberal arts curriculum and our co-curricular program must be integrated and aligned to maximize opportunities for students to develop transformative life and career skills.
Liberal Arts in a Digital Era: Graduates of this generation need to be able to express themselves using both traditional and new communication technologies. We are committed to expanding the ways we integrate technology into learning so that our students are prepared for the new ways knowledge is being constructed and disseminated.
Sustainability in the New Economy: We are committed to making an Austin College education even more affordable and its opportunities more accessible to all talented students, including first-generation college students, international students, transfer students, early-access college students, and others who could benefit from expanded opportunities. We will create financial stability by slightly expanding the size of our student body, by developing revenue streams that build on our core strengths, and by undertaking a comprehensive fundraising campaign that will move Austin College to the next level of competitiveness and excellence.
Global Vision, Local Engagement: We are ready to serve as an accelerator for the cultural and economic growth of our surrounding region. Concurrently, we will build international partnerships that have a local impact and further build on our long-standing reputation as a leader in international education.
We have set measurable goals and identified key projects for each of these areas. And we will continue to seek out the best ideas and put them into practice as our plan unfolds. We are confident that we can realize our vision:
By 2020, every graduating Austin College student will be ready to offer perspectives, skills, and knowledge that add authentic value to a changing world. The College and its graduates will be well prepared to flourish amidst rapid technological advances and economic disruption.
Please do let me know your thoughts after you read the plan. We are eager to have your engagement and support. And be sure to keep in touch with us about other things as well. We love to hear about the ways our alumni are continuing to find value and meaning in the education they received at Austin College.
On a personal note, I’ll be spending some time this summer with Larry, Jessica (on her summer break from St. Edward’s University), Cameron (newly employed at Mathematica Research and living in Philadelphia), and our extended families in Chicago and Wisconsin. I hope that your summer is equally full of love.