January 31, 2006
I welcome you to our mid-year meeting of the Carlow University community, and I thank you for your participation in this important session where we will share information and opportunities. We have with us today representatives of all aspects of our community: faculty, staff, students, alumnae/i, trustees, donors, and Sisters of Mercy. It is good for us to come together periodically to be in each other's company and to understand how broad-based a community we are.
I first ask you to take a moment to remember members and friends of our university community who are no longer with us, as we begin this new calendar year, and those who mourn them.
Our agenda for today's gathering is simple: I will present my thoughts (gathered over my first six months with you) on where I see Carlow today and in the future. University officers will then provide you with information about what is happening in their functional areas. Finally, Sister Sheila Carney will share with you a new sponsorship model being developed for the Conference of Mercy Higher Education.
Today, as we see all around us signs about "Cowher Power,” I remind you of "Carlow Power.” Carlow University is a strong institution: committed to its mission, outstanding in its reputation. Carlow University is graced with dedicated faculty and staff, with hard-working students, with the sponsorship of a wonderful community of Sisters of Mercy, with successful alumnae/i, and with generous donors. Our mission inspires us, guides us, and drives us in all we do. I have found that our mission and values underpin many of the decisions we make, and I have promised that Carlow's mission will continue to be the focus of my administration.
You have seen examples of our most recent marketing campaign which has grown out of the experience of our students. Our statement captures what they say is most important to them: “At Carlow, I Matter.”
"I Matter" is not just a recruitment campaign slogan, but a genuine reflection of our culture and commitment to each other and to our relationships within the entire university community. I urge each of us to make that slogan live in our interactions as we go about our daily tasks. I have said on many occasions that I have found Carlow University to be a "high care" place. That is because each of us says “I care” about each other and reflects that in the performance of our duties. Let's be sure we deliver on the promise we advertise; remember that each one matters, no matter what function each one performs at the university. To believe and act on this is my continuing commitment to you.
This is the context for my assessment of the State of the University: our commitment to mission, and our culture of "I matter.” I now add a brief assessment of the larger climate in which we function.
I am sure you have been following in the media some of the issues which are affecting higher education nationally. The key concerns are related to access, funding, and accountability. On the issue of access: there are fewer dollars being committed at the federal and state levels to insure that all citizens who can benefit from higher education have the necessary funds to access that level of education. This issue grows out of the national and state debates about whether higher education is a public or a private good. With more human needs to fund, legislatures are moving away from providing money to students to pay college costs, arguing in some cases that such an education is neither mandated by law nor necessary as a public good. Rather, they argue, the benefit of a college education is a private good ... serving the career and life goals of individuals rather than the needs of society at large. Thus, the individuals who benefit from higher education ought to bear the cost to a larger degree than has been the case in the past. While we do not agree with the perspective, it is a perspective that enables decisions to redirect public funds elsewhere. Without individual subsidies to pay tuition, access to higher education for many people is affected. We all know how this issue affects Carlow University students.
Another aspect of this issue—the public good/private good debate—is the availability of public grant funds for higher education initiatives. There are fewer opportunities for colleges and universities to supplement operating expenses with revenue from federal and state grants to improve the quality of programs or to engage in new initiatives. Hence, colleges and universities are becoming more dependent on tuition to cover operations, and have been unable to seize some opportunities for educational innovations through grant funding. We struggle at Carlow to identify the few funding sources still available to help us reach our goals.
Finally, the current political climate at the federal and state levels—as well as in the minds of donors—focuses more than ever on accountability. With fewer funds available, those funds which are provided to colleges and universities have the additional price tag of insuring that they are spent well and provide a good return on investment. We must show that we are good stewards of the public and private funds, which are provided for our use. Hence, accountability requires of us higher expectations of assessment and stronger standards of accreditation.
These issues—access, availability of funding, accountability—affect what we do at Carlow. Within the confines of these challenges, I believe Carlow is doing an outstanding job. After six months of learning about the university, of speaking to members of our university community and of our external community, I can tell you that Carlow University is in a good place and is esteemed for excellence. Our hill location reminds us daily that we are involved in higher education. Our students remind us daily that we have committed ourselves to the continuing pursuit of knowledge and truth. Our Sisters of Mercy remind us that we are dedicated to the service of others.
After reading many documents developed in recent years by various self-study teams of the university, I have learned that Carlow already knows its strengths and has successfully built on them, knows its weaknesses and has begun to address them, knows its needs and has developed strategies to satisfy them, heard its evaluators and has positively responded to their recommendations. It is clear to me that no one person has determined a future for Carlow, but that the future we envision is the result of collective, discursive, decisive processes. I congratulate all those who have participated in these processes— most recently, the Middle States Self-Study Team. It is now my task to build on these foundations previously established by the university within the context of our mission, our culture, and the challenges we face.
As part of our State of the University Address, you will hear from the officers about some of the initiatives currently happening and planned to happen. Among those topics on which Gary will speak to you are our Middle States visit and the long planning process of self study; ongoing student assessments, and the formation of the "I Matter" Team to assist students in need or at risk. Among other academic initiatives are: implementation of the new academic organization and assessment of what's working and what needs attention; an ambitious schedule of academic program reviews; development of plans for doctoral program; development of unit and staff goals and objectives followed by assessment of achievement; installation of smart classrooms; faculty training in use of technology in teaching and learning; supporting faculty development and plans for a Center for Teaching Excellence; funding additional faculty positions; increased use of data on student outcomes assessment; and expanded service learning opportunities.
Also under Gary's supervision is the area of Student Services, where a recent report includes current initiatives and future plans such as: various units' programs reviews and enhancement recommendations; staffing analysis; budget additions and adjustments to reflect priorities; Athletic Conference issues, including membership, schedules, cost, facilities, and appropriate focus on student-athletes; joint partnership in reaching out to alumnae/i to serve the career exploration, mentoring, and networking needs of our students.
Louise will share with you her initiatives in the area of Institutional Relations, including (but not limited to) upgraded and award-winning publications; a thematic approach in the Carlow Sun to incorporate an emphasis on Carlow's values; the "I Matter" campaign; public visibility, publicity, and excellent handling of media.
Pat's presentation on Institutional Advancement will stress, among other things, such initiatives as building the endowment, increasing our Annual Fund goals, expanding alumnae/i relations, and creating opportunities for Presidential introductions and discussions with elected officials and donors.
Jackie will present to you the current and future initiatives in the area of Finance and Administration, which include (but are not limited to) finalizing the university's Facilities Master Plan; property review and plans for purchasing, facilities improvements; addressing parking and traffic flow; review of all HR/Safety and Security/IT policies and procedures; review of space needs and re-location of offices and classrooms; review and enhancement of benefits; and development of a performance review plan.
We at Carlow are blessed with an outstanding group of community leaders who serve as our trustees and who share with us their time, treasure, and talent. On behalf of our Board of Trustees, I share with you a few Board initiatives that are in process:
identification and invitation to new members who will both raise the profile of the Board and bring specific expertise; review of Bylaws; development of broader communication strategy; development and implementation of presidential evaluation plan; community advocacy and introduction of the new president to the community; identification of new sources of funding; and review for approval of plans for campus expansion.
Having heard these presentations, I hope you are all proud to be a member of the Carlow University community. But there are two other communities of which we are members: our Pittsburgh community and the Conference of Mercy Higher Education. On February 14, Carlow University will launch an intensive two-week United Way Campaign to encourage your financial contributions to meet the many needs of our local community. You will each receive a letter inviting you to join me in donating to this worthy cause.