Bethany President Launches Transformative Strategic Planning Initiative

2221StateoftheCollege.jpgBETHANY, W.Va. —Scott D. Miller, President of Bethany College, opened the 2008-09 academic year Tuesday morning by outlining a strategic planning initiative based on the core strengths of the College that will continue the transformation process already well under way at the 168-year-old academic institution. Miller made his remarks to faculty and staff in his first “State of the College” speech, delivered in Commencement Hall at Bethany’s historic Old Main.

“With best fiscal practice, sound planning, the continued vision and innovation which have marked us from our founding — and with grit and grace, Bethany College will indeed fulfill its mission as a small college of national distinction,” said Miller, who took the helm as the 19th President of West Virginia’s oldest college at the turn of the year after serving 10 years as president of Wesley College in Dover, Del. His formal installation will be part of Bethany’s Homecoming celebration on Oct. 3.

His address came on the heels of three national honors for the College in the past month. Forbes magazine ranked Bethany as one of the nation’s Top 100 four-year undergraduate colleges and universities in a comprehensive nationwide survey. Bethany was also cited as one of just 285 “National Colleges of Distinction” in the annual guide produced by Student Horizons, Inc. and made its fifth appearance on The Princeton Review’s annual list of “Best Colleges in the Southeast Region.”

The College recently announced a five-year $52 million capital campaign, “Transformation Now!” The goals include increasing Bethany’s endowment to $75-100 million, enhancing alumni giving and raising funds for additional student facilities and scholarships. The College has already raised $12.2 million toward this goal.

Miller pledged to increase traditional full-time enrollment to at least 1,000 by 2010. That seems a realistic goal as a new admissions team and marketing-oriented focus have already produced some of the College’s highest enrollment numbers since the 1970s. Bethany’s freshmen report to campus for orientation on Friday, Aug. 22. Classes start on Monday, Aug. 25.

One of 17 entrepreneurial college presidents profiled in a book published by the American College on Education (ACE), Miller also detailed several ongoing initiatives based on an external institutional survey of interviews that was completed early this year with more than 130 members of the College community. The survey resulted in a 96-page review which made 136 specific recommendations addressing institutional strengths, issues, limitations and opportunities. The review concluded that Bethany is “a vital and very promising liberal arts college.”

Institutional strengths noted by the review and highlighted by Miller in this morning’s address included:

  • A devoted faculty which puts teaching first
  • Bethany’s staff and historic, scenic campus
  • Phenomenal alumni outcomes
  • Academic programs in Teacher Education, Economics, English, Psychology and Social Work
  • The new McCann Learning Center
  • The distinctive PASS program serving students with a variety of special needs

Miller said recommendations from the Institutional Review will form the basis for a comprehensive 10-year Master Plan to be developed and implemented by Miller, senior management and the Bethany College Board of Trustees.

Nine months into Miller’s presidency, the College has launched a “two-plus-two” agreement with West Virginia Northern Community College (WVNCC), a “Semester in the City” partnership with the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, enrolled its first 11 “distance” learners through online courses this summer, added its first master’s level courses in autism and expanded international study opportunities for Bethany students.

The intensive three-week West Virginia Governor’s Academy, Camp Canyon and expanded summer programs on campus also hold the promise of attracting future student leaders to enroll.

Recent enhancements of amenities and athletics facilities including a renovated Student Center and modernized Bison Stadium have been completed while the former Bethany Primary School — acquired and renovated to serve as the Judith R. Hurl Education Center — opened this week as the home of the Teacher Education program. Historic Pendleton Heights, following extensive renovations in 2007-08, is once again serving the College as the president’s residence after a six-year break. According to Dr. Miller, all improvements have been made possible through private funds.

“Using the Institutional Review as a navigable road map, we are already making strides in many of these areas,” Miller noted. “New, solid strategic planning, synergistic partnerships and initiatives will enable Bethany College to build on these strengths as it heads into the important North Central Association re-affirmation of accreditation next year.

“As a community, we’ve experienced a fast-paced nine months from my arrival, working quickly and strategically to evaluate the state of the College and set our priorities for the future. Clearly, this is an exciting college that is building on a golden past and has an extremely bright future.”