Being a college president these days leaves precious little time for reflection—I’m on the road and away from campus at least a third of each year. But as we look toward the spring term at Bethany, I’d like to offer a few thoughts on how where we’re going has been positively influenced by where we’ve been during the past five years, and why your support has made such an incredible difference in the process.
Let’s start with communication. Revamping our website and communication strategies has been an enormous advantage to Bethany’s marketing program. Five years ago, we weren’t very visible or interactive, electronically that is. Now, using online versions of this letter and The Old Main Journal, webstreaming of campus events, and social media like Twitter and Facebook, we’ve expanded our audience to be truly worldwide. More alumni, friends, families, and prospective students than ever before can access Bethany College for breaking news, sports statistics, and live events. Following consumer preferences in other organizations, “our Bethany” has truly become a more personalized “my Bethany.”
Our challenge is to continue to stay ahead of the technology “curve” by securing the latest tools to take Bethany to the world.
A second key area of progress is campus facilities. With a substantial investment of millions of dollars over the past five years, the Bethany campus has been enhanced while preserving the traditional splendor of our historic buildings and natural environment. A few highlights are the Bethany Beanery, a popular food and coffee shop in the heart of campus; the reopening of Cochran Hall, offering modern, suite-style housing to 72 students; the technologically smart Hurl Center for Education; our 24-hour Cummins Community Fitness Center and athletic enhancements including an all-weather turf and lights at Bison Stadium, expanded weight and workout rooms, and the Goin Locker Room and Ault Football Suite.
We’ve upgraded learning technology throughout the campus; one important example is that the T.W. Phillips Memorial Library, through a Mellon Grant, is now a part of the Bowen Central Virtual Library of Appalachia with more than two million additional resources available for research. Last but not least, Christman Manor at Pendleton Heights, the president’s residence, has hosted more than 2,000 guests per year in that renovated, historically significant facility.
Predictably, Bethany’s challenge is to implement the recommendations of its campus master plan to continue to upgrade classrooms, labs, residence halls, and student- and faculty-support facilities. It’s vital to our recruitment and retention of students and faculty in the coming years to foster the best possible teaching and learning environment for Bethanians.
A third area of innovation is academic partnerships. During the past five years, Bethany College has significantly expanded its synergistic partnerships with institutions around the world. They include dual-degree completion programs in engineering (Columbia University and Case Western Reserve University), law (Duquesne University), and new bachelor’s-to-master’s degree programs with Carnegie Mellon University. Our global initiatives include expanded offerings through the InterAmerican Consortium and partnerships with Harlaxton College and Arcadia University abroad.
Along with expanding an already active internship program with corporate and organizational partners in major U.S. cities, Bethany must continue to develop such collaborative initiatives—including increased emphasis on study-abroad opportunities—to give our students the best possible start on their careers.
Fourth, affirming that the core of our mission is and will remain the liberal arts, within the past five years we have focused on making that mission even more meaningful and marketable to a new generation of Bethanians. Our reputation, as always, precedes us, as confirmed in our most recent ranking as a First-Tier National Liberal Arts College in U.S. News & World Report—the only West Virginia higher education institution so named. Today’s students, however, want specific advantages tied to our good name—as they should, in order to pursue the latest opportunities available to them in a hotly competitive career marketplace.
That means that Bethany must redouble its planning for academic initiatives three, five, seven years out. Progress is promising thus far. Our new Master of Arts in Teaching program, the student-managed McCann Family Student Investment Fund, our partnership with the New York Times Knowledge Network, and cooperation with International Relief and Development, Arlington, Virginia, on a campus video and online journal, to cite just a few examples, are ways that our small, liberal arts college is offering big advantages to career-minded students. Combined with Bethany’s marketing and communications expertise, academic innovations will offer a highly visible, attractive, and advantageous package for students who seek an updated residential campus experience for their 21st-century expectations and ambitions.
I could cite numerous other areas where the best of what we have accomplished in recent years foretells continued progress for Bethany College. My colleagues and I are committed to realizing the ultimate goals of our strategic-planning process by building on that success.
And here is where you, our alumni and friends, come in. Your generous commitment to Bethany through gifts and grants has made, and will continue to make, possible our plans in the above areas and more. Our $44 million secured to date through the “Transformation Now!” campaign for the College is having direct impact on our ability to recruit top students and faculty, fund academic innovation and collaboration, and tell the Bethany story with exciting new narratives of scholarship, service, and global leadership.
We therefore thank you for your direct support through The Bethany Fund. I invite your continued giving in 2013, and promise to share exciting updates each month from A Small College of National Distinction.