Jacque's Blog - Corner Topics
My View From the Hill
When singer-songwriter Bob Dylan wrote, “The Times They Are a-Changin” he felt his words captured the spirit of social and political upheaval that characterized the 1960s. Well, I would say that these same words today capture equally well a world turned upside down in higher education. Higher education is going through a period of transformative change unlike any before, since the dawn of colleges and universities. In the decades ahead, many colleges will fail while others will prosper. That is to be expected, for this generation is not bearing witness to the end of learning—but rather we are living through the beginning of a new era of how knowledge is acquired and delivered. These are revolutionary times for teaching and learning.
We have been challenged before in our history. Our college’s founders were hardscrabble pioneers, faces weathered brown by the elements, hands worn rough by horse reins and plows, resolute in their commitment to build a liberal arts college modeled after Harvard and Yale. This little college has stood steadfast on the hill in the face of the great depression, the dust bowl and two world wars. And so we will survive the effects of their modern cousins today, such as the financial crash of 2008, the worst in over 75 years, the extreme drought of 2012, and a decade of war in the Middle East. We weather such storms in our college’s history because natural disasters, economic downturns and global war are threats to a nation and region—not direct attacks on higher education itself.
But now in this 21st century, there are new and unique forces emerging and converging that have the power to shake higher education to its very core. These new threats are to higher education today as the meteor impact was to the dinosaurs in the Jurassic. Those colleges and universities who prevail will not do so by defeating these forces of change. The winners will thrive by innovation and adaptation. We too must evolve and the sooner the better.
These new and growing challenges are quite serious, ranging from decreasing affordability and access to college, to shifting demographics of students eligible to attend college, to the most important factor of them all—the disruptive influence of technology on teaching and learning. If we respond, however, to these challenges in the 21st century with vision and determination, much as our founders did in the 19th century to their challenges, we have an opportunity to create a Doane University that not only meets the academic needs of our students today—but well into the future. As a result of these new realities, there is a great deal going on right now at Doane, including implementation of our strategic plan—our road map to the future. The future we envision for our students embraces the latest advances in technology to enhance the way professors teach and students learn, a future where the wisdom and knowledge of the liberal arts is integrated with the skills and training of the practical arts of the professions. It is a future where sustainability, diversity and globalization are not only supported in spirit on campus, but measurably advanced as goals until they become part and parcel of our academic community, who we are and what we value.
Our vision to create the future described above—and to be nationally recognized for distinguished academic excellence and exceptional student engagement is ambitious, but achievable over the next decade. It will, however, require that we increase the size of our undergraduate and graduate student populations significantly. But this will be no easy task, particularly for the residential School of Arts and Sciences. For the central challenge lies with our ability in the future to attract students who will be willing and able to pay Doane University’s cost of attendance (tuition plus room and board) that is has now surpassed $32,000 per year. The higher education landscape is dramatically changing from years past as we confront the disruptive impact of spreading online learning options where content is offered free to students not by Phoenix University or Kaplan –but by Stanford, Harvard and MIT.
Our operating costs, like all residential liberal art colleges, continues to rise faster than the rate of inflation and rate of growth in family incomes due in large measure to the significant investment in construction and renovation of buildings in support of needs in academics, athletics, residence life and beautifying the campus. In addition, we have added academic majors and minors, undergraduate research programs, honors programs, study abroad programs, as well as new programs for student services and support. These actions, in turn, have resulted in added faculty and staff to support and deliver those programs.
Over the years was this the right thing to do? Was this all necessary? Is it worth it to the student? Absolutely! Because if Doane ignored these necessary improvements then and now—we would not be able to compete successfully for new students. Students who seek the liberal arts college experience demand and expect small classes and low faculty to student ratios, the best academic and recreational facilities, and the latest equipment in their classrooms and laboratories. Large comprehensive public colleges and universities cannot begin to provide undergraduate students with the individual access to faculty and opportunity for engagement in clubs, sports and other activities on a human scale that is the hallmark of a liberal arts education. And students will continue to be willing to pay more to attend a high quality residential liberal arts college than they would at a large public or online institution because they know it is a higher quality educational experience with better learning outcomes and it cost more to deliver.
But in the future, Doane University, like all liberal art colleges, will need to be more than attractive for our academic excellence and student engagement—we must also be affordable. Students and their parents are going to increasingly look at costs and quality as linked. And they will increasingly choose a college that provides the highest quality for the best price. That is what value is all about. What does that mean for Doane University? Well it means that we must continue to increase our quality while we work hard to rein in rising costs.
Can we do this? Yes. How do we do that? Well this will be a topic for another blog . . . .
Doane University and the City of Crete
Working Together Towards Common Goals
Located in the great State of Nebraska, the City of Crete and Doane University have something very special that they have shared together for over 140 years. Good Town-Gown Relations! As the story goes, this little college on the hill found itself in a bit of a financial pickle back in the early days of 1925. The college was deep in debt and well behind in completion of its major campaign goals that stretched back to the days of founding President David Brainerd Perry. The college grounds and buildings were ragged and in serious need of repair. It seemed the only way out was to accept an offer made by the citizens of the neighboring City of Beatrice to acquire the College for a sum of $2,000,000 and move it out of the City of Crete. Long story short, this challenge galvanized the citizens of Crete to rally in support of raising the necessary funds to meet the college’s needs. By the end of the year, the Crete papers reported “that Crete business and professional men put their shoulders to the wheel and started the Greater Doane campaign to moving again.” As was relayed by President Dean, once it was realized that even after all of their hard work they were still $1,000 short of their goal, out went “two Crete workers,” who promptly returned carrying with them “a promise of four thousand more.” At the news of this good fortune, the bells of Merrill rang out and shouts of victory were heard on campus and throughout the town. The citizens of Beatrice had failed to attract the college and the citizens of Crete, through their determined actions, ensured this little college would remain forever on the hill.
Over the past century and a half, the bonds that tie the College and City together have only strengthened. Whether it was facing the hardship and disruption of two World Wars, the Dust Bowl or Great Depression—or enjoying times of economic prosperity brought forth by American hard work, ingenuity and innovation—our destiny was always inextricably linked together. But, we no longer find ourselves in the 19th or 20th centuries. We exist today in 21st century and it is presenting the college and the town with challenges and opportunities unlike anything we have seen before in our collective history. Our future success as a college has much to do with the actions we take today to adapt to this changing environment. And it begins by entering a new era of community engagement.
While once functioning mainly as an enclave of intellectual pursuit, we now play a much broader role in the economic, social, and physical development of our host cities and neighborhoods which include not only Crete, but Lincoln, Grand Island and soon to be, Omaha. We are making a positive difference through our economic impact on employment, spending, and work-force development, as well as through our ability to attract new businesses and highly skilled individuals and the potential to revitalize adjacent neighborhoods.
We must be prepared to take calculated risks and re-imagine and re-invent the very nature of the partnership between the City of Crete and Doane University in the 21st Century. The good news is that we have taken a major step forward together by engaging the services of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Architecture to complete a Master Plan for Development or Roadmap to the Future for the City of Crete. From the very beginning, it has been a 'grassroots' initiative led by leaders throughout the entire Crete community.
This process began last summer as students from architecture, landscape architecture and planning backgrounds worked diligently to collect and analyze a broad spectrum of data. This data ranges from creating appealing entrances into Crete and developing a green belt and trails system around the city, to repairing and revitalizing the historic buildings and developing new educational and economic opportunities for the Downtown core. With this work complete, the next step forward is to establish an office of economic development for the City and hire a dynamic and experienced person to lead it. Work is underway to make this happen as soon as possible, so we can move forward on several of the ideas and recommendations presented in the plan.
Why Diversity Matters at Doane University
Submitted on Thursday, January 24, 2013 - 3:54pm
Name: Linda M. Kalbach
I enjoyed reading your comments Jacque and support both your vision and efforts in this area. My comment is about the need to better support students and faculty brought in under the umbrella of "diversity" once they are on campus. Recruitment matched by retention might be the slogan for increasing our efforts in this area. We need to work on everything from authentic integration into student life/leadership for students along with academic support and relevant course offerings. Additionally, a more visible integration and support for faculty of color will honor the notion that everyone at Doane is part of the "community." I know these thoughts are not new, but they seem worth sharing.
Submitted on Thursday, January 24, 2013 - 2:27pm
Name: Kay Hegler
Today is a great day to celebrate diversity. As a nation, India is beginning to formally recognize the culture of male domination that exists in its nation. As a nation, the USA has just formally recognized that women in the Army and Marines can serve in combat operations, as they have been doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Formal recognition for women's roles in combat zones will enable women to receive medals and other recognition they previously could not qualify to receive. Hopefully, other nations will see the growth steps that India and the USA are taking. Each is serving as a model for other nations. The timelines are very different, but the impact for diversity in a multitude of areas is dynamic and broad. Thanks for your strong leadership to support diversity.
Athletic & Academic Achievement
In the liberal arts you can't have one without the other!
Out on Simon Field, long the home of Tiger football, defensive linemen adjusted their positions in advance of the familiar snap of the ball to the opponent's quarterback. In the background, Doane's Pep Band and Cheer and Dance Team were in full swing pumping school spirit into a dedicated contingent of family, friends, students and faculty who filled the bleachers to capacity for the final home game of the season. The Tigers scored six touchdowns for the win against rival Dordt College giving us a perfect mark at home for the first time since the 1997 season. On floor of the Haddix Center, the Tiger volleyball team thrilled fans with their athleticism and a skillful series of kills, assists, digs and blocks as they defeated the Midland Warriors in four sets. The game capped a conference semifinal victory and moved one step closer to a GPAC championship run for the third straight year!
Success on the scoreboard, and spirit in the stands, is in the DNA of Doane's athletic program, which over the years has produced conference contenders in multiple sports and won championships. Most notable of these achievements are reflected in the halcyon years of legendary coaches Bob Erickson '57 (basketball), Fred Beile (track) and Al Papik '50 (football). Together, they produced an unmatched string of All-Americans, individual and team national champions, All-American Scholar Athletes and unbeaten seasons. These records are certainly a point of pride. And amid the deserving accolades of Doane coaches, a sharp focus is always maintained on the real reason student-athletes chose Doane: to get a first-class liberal arts education. Coaches believe participating on a sports team is complementary to excelling academically. Coaches know if students can learn to exceed their expectations in soccer or track, then they certainly can and should do the same in biology and mathematics.
Marrying the ideals of academic and athletic excellence has been a goal for generations of Doane leaders. For me, a successful athletics program is one that is integrated into life on campus, allows our student-athletes to excel in both athletics and academics, and also to become engaged in the broader Doane community. Survey data and conversations with peers from some of the best national liberal art colleges demonstrate student-athletes perform at a higher academic level while participating in their sports and have felt more organized and motivated during their seasons to do well academically. Our recent major investment in infrastructure as evidenced by the $18.7 million Sport & Fitness Facilities Project is very wise because it creates a first-class athletic and fitness experience for students as an integral part of Doane's liberal arts mission and goal to achieve academic excellence.
We are making great strides, but our work is far from finished. For example, we have a very dedicated, but thinly spread, crew of part-time and a few full-time staff shouldering the burden of keeping a winning sports culture running as the college grows in size and complexity. Going forward, we should allocate resources to add sports of high strategic value, continue necessary upgrades and improvements to facilities, and most importantly, to develop a strategic plan to hire more full-time coaches in the coming years. Given the high percentage of student-athletes on campus, I believe there is need to have more full-time coaches to give the teams someone who can really focus all of their energies on building successful programs-and make it possible to go from good to great!
Our goal is clear: to keep moving the athletic program forward, all without compromising the academic rigor and community spirit that distinguishes Doane. Coaches are well aware that the students they work with are more than just athletes. Many are musicians, actors, singers, scientists, teachers, psychologists, historians, artists or people involved in politics or community service. Hopefully all of them are leaders!
Our goal is to ensure we always have a community where athletics and academic not only coexist but sustain and energize each other. We want to be a place where professors send student-athletes congratulatory notes after games and coaches routinely ask them what they learned in class that day. We want to recruit student-athletes who say they are looking for the chance to attend a college with an outstanding academic reputation and still play for a strong and competitive team. When we do these things-we have a winning combination!
Why Grey Matter(s) at Doane University
To a scientist, grey matter is simply a component of the central nervous system-brain cells involved in muscle control, sensory perception, memory, emotions, speech, and yes, reasoning. But to us at Doane University, grey matter is more than that. It's where knowledge is stored and learning occurs, and in that respect, GREY MATTER does MATTER!
One thing students and parents look at when selecting a college is the "quality" of the academic program. But how can they ascertain "quality" and what does "quality" mean?
The most commonly quoted claim of academic quality is the annual rankings byU.S.News and World Report. Although influential, these rankings primarily measure "inputs" in contrast to "outcomes," and are based on composite scores such as faculty resources, student selectivity, class size, financial resources, student debt, alumni giving, student retention, graduation rates, and peer assessments.
We are very proud that Doane University is consistently ranked among America's top colleges by U.S.News & World Report, The Princeton Review and Forbes.com. But, however useful these "input" measures may be, they do not effectively measure a critical factor-that being "value added." By that I mean what has been improved about students' capabilities or knowledge as a consequence of their education. This has proven difficult to measure reliably, but everyone who has thought deeply about the subject of learning knows it's of immense importance.
One alternative approach may be to measure "outcomes." In other words, how well do we do fulfilling our mission? How well do we prepare students for lives rooted in intellectual inquiry, ethical values, and a commitment to engage as leaders and responsible citizens in the world? Of the many criteria used to measure quality, none are more important than those tied to teaching and learning. It's in this area that we seek to enrich the student experience and improve our academic performance and reputation.
We'll be asking important questions in the days ahead. For example, are there intellectual areas that we need to make a priority for investment? Are there intellectual areas that no longer best serve the needs of our students? How do we strike the right balance between disciplinary and interdisciplinary work? What does it mean to be a "global," "affordable," "sustainable" and an "intellectually challenging" liberal arts college? How will new technology impact the way we teach and deliver information? How will we know reliably whether or when learning is taking place?
Clearly we have much hard work ahead. But it will all be worth it. Because after all the dust settles, it will be GREY MATTER that MATTERS most in the end. And how will we really know that we achieved academic excellence and prominence on a national scale? Well it won't be from only seeing our name in the latest rankings by U.S.News & World Report, but more importantly when we read on our students' blogs that the main reason they chose Doane University was for its academic rigor and reputation. And that they stayed for the faculty and academic support staff who challenged them intellectually every day; people who are equally passionate and committed to doing everything they can to help students succeed in life as well as in class.