From Global Learning to Campus Parking, Bethany President
Encourages Students to "Ask Me Anything"

IMG_4839.jpgBETHANY, W.Va. – Continuing a tradition he initiated eight years ago, Bethany College President Dr. Scott D. Miller hosted his fall semester "President's Roundtable for Student Leaders," Dec. 8 in the elegant parlour of historic Phillips Hall.

The topics for the "Ask Me Anything" session, based on students' own questions submitted via email and social media to Dr. Miller, ranged from the College's increasing emphasis on global learning and expansion of learning technology to ongoing assessment of Greek life at Bethany and campus parking.

For the second year, Dylan Blaschak, a senior communications and media arts major from Pittsburgh, PA, served as the moderator. The Bethany Broadcasting Network served as sponsor of the event.

Joined by members of the senior administrative staff, Dr. Miller touched on a wide variety of timely subjects of importance to Bethany College and all of higher education, including college costs, Title IX, and efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions. Students also asked about his active presence on social media, high visibility on campus, and thoughts on accelerating the college experience to a three-year model.

"It's a great opportunity to speak directly with President Miller and to hear firsthand from him and Bethany's leaders," said senior managerial economics major and Student Government Association President Ruben Jared Roque. "President Miller shows great dedication to bettering each student's Bethany College experience by hosting discussions like this one. My Student Government team works diligently to provide students with an enriched college experience, and we have enjoyed the opportunity to work with President Miller to better our campus."

In addition to providing an update on recent progress at West Virginia's oldest degree-granting institution, Dr. Miller noted that a recent national feature in "The Chronicle of Higher Education" profiled Bethany's commitment to student-centeredness, reflecting the College's initiatives during the past seven years to serving the changing needs and expectations of today's college students and their families.

Dr. Miller said the College has expanded student-support services, earning national recognition. He led a Council of Independent Colleges national conference session early last spring on the career focus of liberal arts colleges. The theme of the session was "Building Value: Linking Classroom to Career."

Dr. Miller also discussed the importance of The Bethany Plan, which aids students in identifying with and becoming a part of academic, co-curricular and extracurricular activities. Students can take advantage of global study-abroad trips, career-focused internships and research opportunities. Senior capstone projects and comprehensive examinations round out a student's education at Bethany.

"We all have 168 hours in a week," he said. "A typical student will devote 18 hours per week to classroom activities and sleep between 42 and 50 hours per week. At a residential liberal arts college, we partner with students for learning activities for the remaining 100 hours. This might be athletics or recreation, a campus job, a fraternity or sorority, or service learning."

On the topic of institutional growth, Dr. Miller outlined plans to grow the residential population of Bethany College by about 100.

"Ideally, we'd like to maintain 1,100 total students and expand our residential population to 925. In this challenging higher education environment, we can't rely on doing things the old way," Dr. Miller said. "We can't just pass the cost on to students. Expanding the residential population will create a larger critical mass, greater diversity and increased resources. Such trends are also attractive to alumni and donors who support Bethany's mission and strategic direction."

He closed with comments about the College's "golden past and bright future," noting that Bethany celebrates 175 years in 2014-15.

"We're proud of our heritage as West Virginia's oldest degree-granting institution. We trace our origins to the founding of Buffalo Seminary at what was then Bethany, Virginia, in 1818. However, we count 1840 as our founding as a degree-granting college." The College reports over 22,000 alumni.

Now in his 24th year as a college president, Dr. Miller noted that today marks the start of his eighth year at the College. He provided a variety of updates on a number of topics:

  • Enrollment: This fall, the College welcomed 325 new students, including 280 freshmen, 30 transfers and 15 graduate students. Bethany annually enrolls approximately 1,100 students, with a residential community of just over 800 this fall. This year's student body includes learners from 23 states and 11 foreign countries. An additional 300 students enroll in continuing education programs each year through Bethany's re-established Buffalo Seminary. Dr. Miller said that the longer-range goal is to selectively increase the residential campus population to 925. Top states traditionally represented in the new class include Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland and Florida, respectively.
  • ECAC Southeast Bowl: He complimented the Bison football team for making its first post-season appearance since 1980. He added that under second-year head coach Bill Garvey, the team has recorded the most wins by a Bethany football team since 1981.
    Volleyball Success: The Bison volleyball squad recently completed another successful season, winning the consolation game of the ECAC Tournament after winning the championship the past four years. Coach Courtney Kline's Bison have a team grade- point average of 3.45 (on a 4.0 scale) and had six players with perfect 4.0 grade-point averages in season. "She wins contests with top-notch student and campus leaders," Dr. Miller said.
  • Globalization: This spring a new agreement with Webster University was signed, opening study-abroad possibilities for students through Webster's programs in 11 countries around the world. The Webster program, coupled with the College's relationship with Arcadia University, brings over 75 new opportunities to Bethany's international portfolio.
  • Student-Leader Trip to NYC: He commented on a unique opportunity for Bethany students that occurred in the second week of October. Trustee Vice Chair Dr. Robert McCann ('80), CEO of UBS Group Americas, sponsored a trip to New York City for 25 student leaders to tour Wall Street financial institutions and meet with corporate executives. Students from the McCann Student Investment Fund, Bethany's unique $1.5 million portfolio managed exclusively by students interested in business-related careers, were a prominent part of the leadership group.
  • Student Volunteer Service: Bethany College is one of just 98 colleges and universities nationwide to be named to the 2014 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for its leadership in developing programs in interfaith and community service. This is the third time in the last four years that Bethany has earned this distinction.
  • Dual-Degree Programs: As a national liberal arts college, Bethany has expanded educational partnerships with prominent national universities, Dr. Miller said. The College offers collaborative undergraduate/graduate opportunities with Columbia University, Duquesne University, Case Western Reserve University and Carnegie Mellon University as well as a unique collaborative in digital communications with the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. Bethany's innovative partnerships with some of the top institutions in America have significantly expanded student opportunity, he pointed out.
  • Campus Work Program: Students worked over 800 on-campus jobs this past year. This is part of Bethany's effort to make education affordable.
  • The McCann Learning Center: Housing the PASS, Beth Bridge and tutoring programs, the McCann Learning Center is important to student achievement. The Center was recognized by the Washington, DC-based National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities as one of eight innovative programs nationally to assure student success.
  • Society for Collegiate Journalists (SCJ) National Conference: The College hosted the Society for Collegiate Journalists National Conference October 2-4. Distinguished national speakers in journalism, media and communications fields were invited, most of whom were Bethany alumni. Bethany's SCJ chapter received top honors as National Chapter of the Year during the conference.
  • The Larry Grimes Lecture Series Endowment: Spearheaded by the Bethany Alumni Council, the endowment has passed $110,000 in contributions with the first lecture presented October 11 during Homecoming. Dr. Grimes delivered the address titled "Eros, Thanatos, Hemingway, Jesus and Me." He is the editor of a recent scholarly book on Ernest Hemingway's years in Cuba.
  • Dedication of Jordan Hall: The College dedicated Jordan Hall in Campbell Village, named in honor of Greg and Ellen Jordan ('81), in a ceremony October 11. Dr. Jordan is chair of the College's Board of Trustees.
  • Transformation Now! Capital Campaign: The campaign has reached the $48 million mark in gifts and pledges entering its final year. The College's endowment has grown to $52 million, the best among private colleges in the state. Financial support of the College is vital in helping to keep college costs affordable, Dr. Miller pointed out.

"Over 3,200 individuals and organizations – including 38 percent of our alumni -- have contributed to the largest fundraising initiative in Bethany history," Dr. Miller said. "To contribute that amount during two of the most significant economic downturns in our country's history is a major statement of support for the people and programs of Bethany College."

He also announced major speakers for the 175th year, noting that all are Bethany graduates:

  • Fall Convocation: Dr. Linda Lewis '61, Clinical Professor Emeritus of Neurology at Columbia University
  • 100th Anniversary Celebration of Bethany Memorial Church: the Rev. Peter Morgan '61
  • Keresty Lectures: Dave Egan '79, Chief Marketing Officer of Reed Smith
  • Kalon Scholars: Elizabeth Verrier '96, Vice President and Senior Counsel, American Express
  • Founder's Day: David Jolliffe '74, Brown Chair in English Literature, University of Arkansas
  • Darline Nicholson May Morning Breakfast: Gina DeBlasis Kinder '00, Coordinating Producer, Pikewood Creative
  • Baccalaureate: Rev. Juan Rodriguez '79, Regional Minister, Christian Church
  • Commencement: Dr. Robert McCann '80, CEO for the Americas, UBS Wealth Management

When asked what the biggest issue facing Bethany is, Dr. Miller said it is keeping college affordable and accessible during difficult financial times in this country. Dr. Miller indicated that neither issue is unique to Bethany.

Dr. Miller also spoke of the Bethany Alumni Caravan in which he travels to 36 chapter events around the country speaking to groups about Bethany College and its programs. He recently returned from visiting alumni and friends in major cities in California.

"I always look forward to our Alumni Caravans," Dr. Miller said. "Bethanians love their College. As I travel the country visiting with alumni and friends, I am impressed by the passion that our graduates have for their alma mater. Bethany College is – without a doubt – a lifetime experience."

He said the various off-campus gatherings the College holds throughout the country enable interactions with large numbers of Bethanians who live far from campus. Events held in the recent past include those in California, Florida, Texas, Georgia, Colorado, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, DC, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and many more.