Bethany President Affirms College’s Proactive Vision Amidst Change in State of the College Address
BETHANY, W.Va. — Bethany College President Scott D. Miller delivered the annual State of the College Address to a packed Commencement Hall and online viewers worldwide August 16. In his fifth such speech as Bethany’s 19th president, he credited the College’s proactive management of change for the great strides Bethany has made in areas such as strengthening enrollment, furthering a successful capital campaign, and recruiting talented faculty committed to the core principles of a liberal arts education.
“Although the future, as Prime Minister Winston Churchill pointed out, is unknowable, we can shape it by thoughtful, strategic planning as we discern larger trends affecting higher education,” Miller remarked. “Our current planning process proceeds from a position of strength, with strong enrollment, a very promising new class and a solid financial position.”
Miller stated that the changes on Bethany’s campus are a result of an institutional strategy “guided by Bethany’s history and tradition — our ‘golden past’ — as we move forward to implement recommendations of The Institutional Review, the Reaffirmation of Accreditation Report and Master Plan — “Transformation Now! Bethany College from Here to 2020.”
Recalling Pittsburgh Pirates board chairman and Bethany College Trustee Bob Nutting’s spring Commencement address, Miller noted Nutting’s comment to graduates that their Bethany experience might fulfill their need for “a sense of permanence in the midst of change.”
“Bethany College does indeed send alumni into the world both with roots and wings,” Miller said.
President Miller highlighted a variety of recent achievements at Bethany, including:
- Strengthened enrollment.The current student population is reported to be the most diverse in the College’s history and includes a much wider geographical representation than in past years. The academic profile of the incoming class is the strongest in 11 years. The total of new students in each of the past three years represents the largest classes since the mid-1970s, and the total enrollment of 1,020 is the largest since 1976-77. Miller spoke of growth in other areas of the College as well, including the recent initiation of Bethany’s first accredited graduate degree through the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program.
- Resource acquisition. Bethany’s capital campaign has passed the $33 million mark after only three years. Total new resources from all sources during that time period have exceeded $40 million. Also a testament to the broad-based commitment to the College is increased alumni giving participation, which moved from 17 to 23 percent, and a continued 64 percent contribution rate among full-time faculty and staff.
- Advancement of human resources. Dr. Darin Fields, vice president for academic affairs & dean of the faculty, and his team have recruited a number of exceptionally well-qualified candidates dedicated to teaching in a liberal arts context. Bethany’s more recent faculty members are, among other noteworthy activities, chairing the Curriculum Committee, directing the First Year Experience Program, seeking and receiving research and development grants, and publishing well-reviewed works.
Noting the changing face of higher education as colleges and universities are confronted with increased economic pressure and other challenges, Miller spoke of the importance of limiting rising education costs.
“Although the future holds immense possibilities,” Miller said, “we continue to confront enormous challenges, including a significant population decline in West Virginia and increased competition from other colleges. Two of the foremost challenges are finding creative solutions to marketing the College in an economy slowly recovering from recession while keeping Bethany affordable and accessible for all students who can benefit from a first-class liberal arts education.”
“To thrive in today’s volatile and sometimes turbulent environment,” he continued, “we must continually scan the landscape, and be constantly alert to new possibilities and areas of vulnerability. The window of opportunity often closes rapidly, and the margin for error is increasingly slim.”
"National economic uncertainty compels us to maximize our opportunities, to build in financial assurances where we can find them with reasonable certainty and safety," continued Dr. Miller. "Accordingly, after three years of a feasibility study and extensive consultation with our neighbors in surrounding counties, the College recently signed a contract with the Chesapeake Energy Corporation that will permit drilling of Marcellus Shale on off-campus, College-owned lands along Route 88 North outside the town limits of Bethany. In so doing, we recognize and embrace our responsibility to be good stewards of the environment and to ensure the safety of our community."
Miller said, “We should all be proud to be doing so well in the enrollment and fundraising areas — our major revenue sources — despite the weakened state of the economy in this country.”
As the College enters its 172nd year as a small college of national distinction, it continues to strengthen ties with its sponsoring denomination through the revitalized Buffalo Seminary, now entering its third year serving the continuing education needs of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and other clergy and laity in the region.
Headed by long-time Bethanian Dr. Larry Grimes, director of church relations and emeritus professor of English, the Seminary is strengthening Church outreach and utilizing such resources and landmarks as the Campbell Collection, College Archives and Historic Bethany and the Campbell Cemetery. The 14 Disciples colleges and universities, including Bethany, now have a revised covenant with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). In support of this goal, Bethany has launched the Campbell Scholars Program.
Bethany’s recent enrollment-related initiatives include new articulation agreements with West Virginia Northern Community College and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. Re-affirmed professional articulation agreements with Case Western Reserve University, Columbia University and Duquesne University provide a variety of options for students pursuing graduate school goals in areas such as engineering and law.
The College is also strengthening its partnerships with prestigious colleges and universities globally, including 18 foreign countries, and is moving steadily toward a global studies requirement. Dr. Gary Kappel, associate vice president for academic affairs and director of institutional effectiveness, was recently selected to serve as a Visiting Professor at Harlaxton College in England.
On campus, Bethany continues to meet goals of student success. Partnerships with organizations such as The New York Times, facilitatedthrough Bethany’s membership in the Council of Independent Colleges, are thriving. Now in its second year, this unique relationship offers access to the Times Knowledge Network and workshops for student journalists.
Bethany’s PASS program (Program for Academic and Social Success) under the leadership of Dr. Chris Sampson has received national recognition for student support. By federal definition, Bethany’s diversity rate reached 10.1 percent last year. The College continues to expand its service to this population with programs such as a campus-wide diversity panel each semester.
On the financial front, Bethany students placed 7th nationally in lowest student debt according to U.S. News and World Report.The College’s efforts in the financial aid area also resulted in “Best Buy” rankings from both Forbes and Barronsin 2010. Re-organization of the College work programs, Federal Work-Study and Bethany Educational Employment Program has provided more than 500 meaningful jobs on campus.
As a result of the College’s ongoing commitment to service, the Corporation for National and Community Service recently named Bethany a national leader among institutions of higher education for its support of volunteering, service-learning and civic engagement.
Bethany was admitted to the 2010 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for engaging its students, faculty and staff in meaningful service that achieves measurable results in the community.
In addition, the College has joined 250 colleges and universities in answering President Obama’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge. The program challenges campus religious and non-religious organizations to partner with each other, community service organizations and churches to undertake year-long service projects.
Miller recognized a variety of individuals who have made recent accomplishments in the academic arena:
- Dr. Darin Fields, who is in his third year as vice president for academic affairs, dean of the faculty, and Sarah B. Cochran Professor of English. Fields has focused attention on academic planning, implementing recommendations from last year’s Higher Learning Commission assessment and establishment of the MAT program.
- New department chairs Dr. Bill Hicks in biology, Dr. Larry Fontanarosa in education, and Dr. Steve Carelli in the Department of History and Political Science. And M.E. Yancosek Gamble has moved from acting chair to chair of the Department of Communications and Media Arts.
- The following professors, who earned tenure and were promoted to the rank of associate professor: Dr. Brooke Deal in religious studies, Dr. Bob Spangler in physics, Melanie Sinclair in social work, and Tracie Duncan in theatre.
- Dr. Lisa Reilly, who secured a state science equipment grant.
- Dr. Wiley Cash, who signed a two-novel book agreement with William Morrow/HarperCollins publishers.
- Dr. Wilf Csaplar, who succeeded Randy Cooey as the endowed John F. & Evelyn Casey Steen Professor of Economics.
- Professor Cooey, who retired after 45 years on the College faculty in business and economics and in whose honor was given $11,000 in an endowed award by an anonymous donor. Two other donors have recently launched a $100,000 challenge in honor of Professor Cooey and retired economics Professor John Davis to recognize their years of service and to launch a new experiential fellowship for students in business and economics.
- Dr. Albert “Jay” Buckelew, longtime professor of biology and a Faculty Merit Foundation of West Virginia Professor of the Year finalist. Dr. Buckelew retired this spring.
President Miller also noted that Bethany faculty were responsible for the following key initiatives on campus:
- Implementing Outcomes Assessment and tracking of learning objectives across programs using Major Field Tests.
- Developing an equine-facilitated therapy concentration as a collaboration between equine studies and social work.
- Developing interdisciplinary minors in non-profit marketing and non-profit management.
- Developing “dual major” pathways in social work and psychology, economics and math and business and computer science.
- Proceeding with plans for 2 + 2 agreements in psychology and exploring a three-year degree pathway.
- Through Fulbright FLTA, delivering Arabic language and culture courses.
- Marketing on-line courses.
- Developing global opportunities leading to a requirement no later than 2013.
- Expanding the use of technology in classroom learning and pedagogy.
Bethany successfully completed the Assessment Academy of the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association and made significant curricular revisions to communications and media arts, Spanish, and equine studies.
The College is undergoing the NCATE re-affirmation process, developing Core Curriculum assessment, focusing on improving academic advising and retention, responding to a grant invitation in science research from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and expanding “mini term” offerings.
Bethany is also a signatory to the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, joining 667 other institutions in an effort to make sustainability and energy conservation on our campuses feasible and affordable.
The College welcomes a number of new faculty members with the start of the 2011-2012 academic year:
- Dr. Jennifer Franko as assistant professor of biology. Dr. Franko previously worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety in Morgantown, W.Va.
- Dr. David Youngberg, who completed his Ph.D. at George Mason University, where he was the Marcia Whitney Scholar and held a Humane Studies Fellowship in the Institute for Humane Studies, as assistant professor of economics.
- Dr. Sherri Theaker as associate professor of education. Dr. Theaker brings more than 10 years of full-time teaching experience with Ohio University and is also experienced with assessment issues.
- Dr. Edward Shepherd as assistant professor of education. Dr. Shepherd comes to Bethany from East Tennessee State University.
- Dr. Jessie Janeshek joins the Bethany faculty as Renner Visiting Scholar. She has authored more than 30 poems published in national journals and arrives from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she was co-director of The Brian M. Conley Young Writers’ Institute in March 2011.
- Alumnus Aaron Anslow as visiting assistant professor of art.
- Dr. Eric Reynolds as visiting assistant professor in physical science.
- Matthew Payment as visiting assistant professor of physical education.
- Raymond Dick, an alumnus and visiting professor of mathematics and computer science.
- Ms. Muna ALMerri of Bahrain as a Fulbright Scholar in Arabic language and culture. She will instruct elementary Arabic 1 and 2 as well as a course addressing topics in modern Arabic culture and society.
Special thanks went to Dr. Kathleen Gaberson of Pittsburgh, the mother of the late alumnus Matthew Quay Ammon who, as a result of a generous memorial gift, made possible the Matthew Quay Ammon Endowed Professorship in Mathematics.
Miller also recognized the generosity of those who continually give their time, talents and resources to Bethany:
- Bethany Board of Trustees Vice-Chair Bob McCann and his wife Cindy, whose funding support the McCann Learning Center and the McCann Family Student Investment Funds. The Center was recognized by the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) as one of eight innovative programs nationally to assure student success.
- The late Professor Emeritus of English John Taylor, who left most of his estate to the College, including books, music and significant endowment funds. In memory of this exceptional faculty member who loved Bethany, alumni have created the John R. Taylor Award in Liberal Arts.
- The late Bethany alumnus John Keresty, whose estate funded a lecture series in journalism now entering its third year. This year’s speaker is Michael Christman ’88, CEO and President of the Fort Wayne Newspapers.
- Dr. Rod Hurl, recipient of the 2011 Alumnus of the Year Award, who donated 2,500 volumes from his personal collection to the Phillips Library.
- The late Mary Cutlip, former librarian and 1935 graduate, who donated $4.5 million that is currently being used to upgrade technology on campus.
The College welcomes new staff members Gerald E. “Jerry” Stebbins, who is serving as dean of students. Stebbins worked as associate dean of student affairs at Washington & Jefferson College since 2001. Sheila Nelson-Hensley, who has worked for more than two decades as a financial aid professional and as a director for 12, has been named director of financial aid.
In May, the College dedicated the Thomas P. Johnson, Jr. College Center in recognition of his lifetime of service to Bethany. The Center houses the offices of Enrollment Management, Student Services, the Department of Communications and Media Arts, and the Renner Art Gallery. Renovations continue on a number of other facilities, including the Ogden Dining Room, Berkman Room (Bethany Club), Boomer’s and Agostino Room, as well as the Renner Art Gallery.
Dr. Miller also applauded a recent overhaul of all institutional marketing materials, which includes approval to accept applications for the official Bethany license plate given by the West Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.
Bethany continues to make progress in the area of athletics program enhancements and successes with the completion of the Goin Locker Room and plans for the future construction of a new baseball complex.
Bethany College volleyball won the ECAC Championship. Men’s soccer advanced to the PAC and ECAC Championships. Men’s basketball earned another conference championship and NCAA tournament berth. Softball finished 29-16, advancing to the NCAA National Tournament after winning the PAC regular season and PAC Tournament. Track and field had several stellar athletes advance to the ECAC Championships.
In 2010-2011, Bethany added men’s lacrosse, with 23 students on the roster, and will be starting women’s field hockey in fall 2012. The College plans to add women’s lacrosse in 2013.
The Pegasus Farm Equestrian Center, home to the riding program, has created a strong recruiting niche, with more than 20 declared majors and 11 minors and an Equestrian Club that boasts 42 members.
Dr. Miller noted the excellent service of staff member Rebecca Rose, director of communications, who earned the 2011 President’s Award for Excellence in Performance. He also thanked Board of Trustees Chair Greg Jordan for his service and support, as well as the 2011 student graduates and recipients of the College’s prestigious honor awards.
Priorities for the 2010-2011 academic year include:
- Complying with 15 U.S. Department of Education findings on campus facilities to bring Bethany into full compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and with the Americans with Disabilities Act with regard to accessibility.
- Addressing recommendations from the Higher Learning Commission and strengthening finances and assessment.
- Continuing to emphasize operational efficiency, control spending, forge synergistic partnerships and focus on cost containment.
- Continuing to strengthen graduate and undergraduate enrollment and foster retention.
- Continuing to focus on capital fundraising by securing at least $5 million in new gifts and pledges.
- Continuing to emphasize strategic planning and image building to enhance Bethany’s leadership as a small college of national distinction.
“If all this seems like a tall order,” Miller concluded, “remember that Bethanians have always been resilient pioneers and innovators, building a campus in the midst of rural farmland and surviving just a few years later through a Civil War that closed many colleges permanently. It is this spirit of ‘grace and grit’ that will carry us confidently into the future.”
Bethany College is a small college of national distinction located on a picturesque and historic 1,300-acre campus in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Founded in 1840, Bethany is the state’s oldest private college.