Bethany President Recognizes Challenges, Opportunities and Competitive Advantages in State of the College Address
BETHANY, W.Va. — Bethany College welcomes a new academic year that will continue to position the College to serve the needs of a highly competitive marketplace, President Scott D. Miller said in his annual State of the College Address Aug. 21 to a crowded Commencement Hall and online viewers worldwide.
his fifth speech as Bethany’s 19th president, Miller credited “strategic planning consistent with Bethany’s history and tradition” as the main reason that the College has maintained its leadership as a residential, liberal arts college committed to student success. He said Bethany has succeeded as a place where academics and student life complement each other with recognition that learning takes many forms, inside and outside the classroom.
“As we enter our 173rd year, Bethany’s plans will enable the College to focus on meeting unprecedented challenges within our marketplace and within higher education itself while we seek new opportunities and possibilities consistent with our core values,” remarked Miller. “Bethany looks forward to a new academic year in which we continue to position the College to meet the needs of a highly competitive marketplace,” said Miller.
He said this summer 33 students were actively enrolled in the College’s first online summer session. In addition, Miller addressed an agreement with Carnegie Mellon University for six dual-degrees which offer accelerated bachelor’s-master’s programs. That is in addition to three other dual-degree programs also in place: two in engineering with Case Western and Columbia Universities and one in law with Duquesne University. At the May 12 Commencement, the first seven degrees in the new Master of Arts in Teaching program were awarded, the first accredited graduate degree in the history of the College.
“These initiatives offer Bethany College considerable potential for future growth,” Miller continued.
President Miller also highlighted other recent significant developments and achievements that included:
- Bethany College ranked solidly among first-tier national liberal arts colleges, the only West Virginia institution to be included in the first-tier listings. Bethany is one of just five national liberal arts colleges in the Appalachian College Association, according to the ACA and the Carnegie Foundation. Further, Bethany holds a graduation rate of 64 percent, which rates in the top 28 percent against a national average of just 40.1 percent for all institutions.
- The College will enroll approximately 330 new students this fall, including an estimated 280 freshmen, 40 transfers and 10 graduate students. Miller said the incoming Class of 2016 is among the strongest in over 30 years, the third-largest since 1977. He also mentioned the enrollment team has expanded recruiting to New England, the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States.
- Miller stated that benchmarking against similar institutions is one way in which the College seeks to strengthen the overall educational experience. Miller demonstrated Bethany College's success as a small campus of academic rigor, strong student engagement and outcomes, by noting that Bethany freshmen and seniors outperformed selected peers in key benchmarked questions. Data from the National Survey of Student Engagement for the 2010-2011 academic year validated the College's reputation as a highly effective undergraduate institution of national distinction.
Miller recognized the difficult times being faced as a pure liberal arts college, mentioning that such colleges have dropped from 212 in 1990 to 137 in 2010, according to a recent study. He said most have added professional and graduate programs to increase revenue, and that Bethany remains the only pure national liberal arts school in West Virginia.
“Last spring, I was invited to attend the Lafayette Group, representing 60 of the most prestigious liberal arts institutions in the country. I am deeply grateful to our host, Dr. Daniel H. Weiss, president of Lafayette College, for suggesting several areas of challenge and opportunity as America’s best liberal arts colleges advance into the 21st century,” said Miller.
Miller continued, “Dr. Weiss notes that while the enrollment and fundraising outlook for community colleges, regional publics and the nation’s top 50 universities is ‘strong and stable,’ the future is more uncertain and challenging for selective liberal arts colleges and national universities ranked below the top 50. He adds that some of the nation’s more than 4,000 universities, primarily smaller privates and perhaps some regional publics, will not survive. On a positive note, however, he points out that liberal arts colleges, with genuine effort and the capacity to change, possess a special opportunity to lead the nation and the world in providing innovative, enduring and relevant education for the 21st century.”
Miller said Dr. Weiss mentioned six areas of distinction on which to continually build upon:
- A formative educational and liberal arts experience.
- A comprehensive learning, environmental and residential experience.
- Engaged faculty.
- High-impact learning practices.
- Outstanding post-graduate outcomes.
- Powerful alumni network.
“Thanks to the success of our campaign, which is helping us to maximize these strengths, many positive developments are underway. A partial list includes facility renovations, expansion of technology and improvements to the library, including full implementation of our involvement in the William G. Bowen Central Library of Appalachia, a virtual library of 30 of the member institutions of the Appalachian College Association,” said Miller. “We continue to extend campus academic technology through our participation in a unique consortium entitled the Independent College Enterprise (ICE), a group of eight like-minded colleges in five states.”
Miller continued, “The greatest area of need, of course, is to ensure that a solid liberal arts education in a comprehensive, residential setting such as that offered by Bethany remains accessible to all who can benefit from it.”
“Teaching and learning form the mission of Bethany College. Central to this broad purpose is providing a liberal arts education for students, including the preparation of professionals, in an atmosphere of study, work and service,” Miller said.
Miller mentioned other academic highlights including:
- Dr. Gary Kappel, who will transition back to the faculty as professor of history and the Perry E. and Aleece C. Gresham Chair in Humanities. He will teach at Harlaxton College in Grantham, England during the fall semester, and will return to Bethany College in the spring.
- Dr. Katrina Cooper, who will succeed Kappel as associate vice president for academic affairs, will facilitate and lead several academic initiatives during the coming year.
- Dr. Jason Hartz, a 2000 graduate of Bethany College, who will join as director of institutional research.
- Dr. Joseph Lovano, long-time professor of world languages and cultures, has become chair of the department of humanities, while Dr. Lisa Reilly, assistant professor of chemistry, will chair the department of physical science and mathematics. Reilly was the recipient of this year’s President’s Award for Faculty Excellence in Performance.
- Professor Kenneth L. Morgan and his appointment as The Jennie Steindorf Renner Chair of Fine Arts, and Dr. Brooke L. Deal as The Thomas W. Phillips Chair of Religious Studies.
President Miller also acknowledged the promotion of seven faculty members which include:
- Mark Affeltranger and Katrina Cooper to the rank of associate professor of psychology; Steven Carelli to associate professor of history; David Rudari to associate professor of music; Marc Sable to associate professor of political science; Amanda Stewart to associate professor of biology; and Virgil Thompson to associate professor of accounting.
He said that Bethany had done “a remarkable job of recruiting exceptionally well-qualified candidates to join the next generation of stellar teachers and scholars (at Bethany).” He welcomed seven new members to the ranks of Bethany faculty:
- Scott M. Brothers, assistant professor of chemistry, who holds a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from Texas A&M University.
- Angela Icard, assistant professor of education, who holds a Master of Science in reading and literacy and is an expert in 21st century learning strategies and assessment.
- Holly Hillgardner, Renner Visiting Scholar in Religious Studies, who will soon receive her Ph.D. in philosophical and theological studies from Drew University. She holds a Master's in theological studies from the Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University and has received the Micah Courage Award and the Micah Fellowship from the New York Theological Seminary.
- Brandon Lamson, assistant professor of English, who holds a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing from the University of Houston and an M.F.A. from Indiana University. He recently was awarded the Juniper Prize, which includes publication of his book, Starship Tahiti, by the University of Massachusetts Press.
- Jason K. Smith, assistant professor of communications and media arts, who holds a Ph.D. in communications and research theory from Florida State University and a Master’s in mass communication from the University of Hartford.
- Joseph Walsh, assistant professor of mathematics, earned his Ph.D. in mathematics from SUNY Stony Brook. His specialties include mathematical physics and quantum field theory.
- Dr. Carolyn A. Kitchens, visiting assistant professor of chemistry, received her Ph.D from the University of Pittsburgh and her Bachelor of Science degree from Appalachian State University. She just completed post doctoral work in the Department of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology at the University of Pittsburgh cancer Institute and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Miller went on to recognize a few other recent developments he felt underscored the strength of the College’s Mission:
- In cooperation with four partners from the Independent College Enterprise (ICE), Bethany will soon begin an experiment in shared faculty, thanks to a grant of $150,000 from the Teagle Foundation.He noted that Dr. Darin Fields, Vice President for Academic Affairs, and his colleagues at three partner colleges have developed several shared faculty classes using new technology.
- This year the inaugural student recipient of the John R. Taylor Award in Liberal Arts was senior Valerie Flatley, and this week at Faculty Workshop the first faculty recipient of the award will be announced.
- A new fellowship, the Cooey-Davis Experiential Learning Fellowship honoring Emeritus Professors Randy Cooey and John Davis and their combined 82 years of service to the College, has been established to fund research, internships, conferences and travel for business and economics students in their junior year. A total of $109,440 has been raised to fund this special endowed fellowship.
- The McCann Learning Center, funded by alumnus Bob McCann and his wife, Cindy, is filling a major support role in the academic area. The center has been recognized nationally by a number of organizations for assuring student success.
- The McCann Student Investment Fund, set up through a $1 million contribution in November 2009, serves as a student-operated endowment fund which sees half of the proceeds going to the McCann Learning Center and half going back into the fund. The first CEO of the fund, honors graduate Kelly Sofka, finished her MBA from Carnegie-Mellon University this summer and has been employed by UBS in New York.
Miller then turned his attention toward new enrollment initiatives meant to offer a “wow” factor to prospective students, which he feels is a critical component to recruiting success. He mentioned the launch in June of an iPhone, iPad and Android app for Bethany College, which provides “an enhanced online experience for faculty, staff, alumni and prospective students.”
On campus life, Miller mentioned continued ties with the College’s sponsoring denomination through Buffalo Seminary, which is now entering its third year serving the continuing education needs of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in this region.
The growth of the equestrian program has led to a new relationship with the stables at Oglebay Resort and Conference Center, according to Miller. He also said that because of the College’s new all-weather track, Bethany was able to host the PAC South Quad meet for the last three years and the PAC Championships in the spring of 2011. The improvements at Bison Stadium have enabled the addition of lacrosse and field hockey as well, which expands recruitment reach into Mid-Atlantic and New England states.
Last spring the academic quadrangle was renamed the “Pennington Quadrangle” in tribute to John Pennington, Class of 1969, and his now deceased parents, noted Miller. He then talked about going green, mentioning a partnership with Constellation Energy for a comprehensive review of campus facilities in order to properly plan for a more energy-efficient campus.
“A high percentage of our newly-matriculated students are scholar-athletes and express an interest in continuing to participate in sports at college. Bethany competes in 22 NCAA-sanctioned sports and the equestrian team. We can be proud that our young men and women continue to excel both in the classroom and on the courts and fields,” Miller said.
Miller said that to date, Bethany student-athletes have won 91 PAC titles, the third-highest number in PAC history. The women’s volleyball team, coached by Courtney Kline, boasted three academic All-Americans and two graduates with above 4.0 GPAs, while the team won a second consecutive ECAC championship.
Men’s basketball finished with a record of 25-4 and captured its second-straight PAC title and its third in four years. Point guard Anne Wilson of the women’s basketball team, a 2012 communications and media arts alumna, is the PAC’s nominee for the prestigious NCAA Woman of the Year.
In addition, the President’s Awards for Excellence in Performance were received by Dr. Lisa Reilly, assistant professor of chemistry and chair of the department of physical science and mathematics, and Courtney Kline, head women’s volleyball coach.
Miller outlined his priorities for the 2012-13 academic year which include:
- Extending Bethany’s visibility and reach, especially in the areas of enrollment management, and further diversifying the student body to include more students from the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and New England states.
- Remaining affordable to a growing student population.
- Upgrading and expanding technology.
- Improving the quality of valued educational experience through enhanced student assessment.
- Reaching important milestones in our fundraising efforts.
“Those of you who are Woody Allen fans may remember his recent film, ‘Midnight in Paris,’ in which the main character, Gil, a Hollywood script writer vacationing in that city, experiences time travel where he ‘meets’ his literary heroes, including Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. If our College’s founders could travel forward 172 years in time, no doubt they would be amazed at being transported from the days of horse and buggy to the modern age. I believe, too, that they would be proud and gratified that their vision for a progressive college has been carried into a new century, and that modern Bethanians share their mission and values,” said Miller.
He continued, “Like that time-traveling Woody Allen film character in Paris, we may often find it tempting to reflect on an earlier, less complex ‘golden age’ of higher education. Ultimately, though, the movie character decides to return to modern times as he wisely realizes that men and women have always looked to earlier ages as superior to their own. The true ‘golden age’ is the present.”
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.