BETHANY, W.Va. – Continuing a tradition he initiated eight years ago, Bethany College President Dr. Scott D. Miller hosted his fall semester "President's Roundtable for Student Leaders," Dec. 8 in the elegant parlour of historic Phillips Hall.
The topics for the "Ask Me Anything" session, based on students' own questions submitted via email and social media to Dr. Miller, ranged from the College's increasing emphasis on global learning and expansion of learning technology to ongoing assessment of Greek life at Bethany and campus parking.
For the second year, Dylan Blaschak, a senior communications and media arts major from Pittsburgh, PA, served as the moderator. The Bethany Broadcasting Network served as sponsor of the event.
Joined by members of the senior administrative staff, Dr. Miller touched on a wide variety of timely subjects of importance to Bethany College and all of higher education, including college costs, Title IX, and efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions. Students also asked about his active presence on social media, high visibility on campus, and thoughts on accelerating the college experience to a three-year model.
"It's a great opportunity to speak directly with President Miller and to hear firsthand from him and Bethany's leaders," said senior managerial economics major and Student Government Association President Ruben Jared Roque. "President Miller shows great dedication to bettering each student's Bethany College experience by hosting discussions like this one. My Student Government team works diligently to provide students with an enriched college experience, and we have enjoyed the opportunity to work with President Miller to better our campus."
In addition to providing an update on recent progress at West Virginia's oldest degree-granting institution, Dr. Miller noted that a recent national feature in "The Chronicle of Higher Education" profiled Bethany's commitment to student-centeredness, reflecting the College's initiatives during the past seven years to serving the changing needs and expectations of today's college students and their families.
Dr. Miller said the College has expanded student-support services, earning national recognition. He led a Council of Independent Colleges national conference session early last spring on the career focus of liberal arts colleges. The theme of the session was "Building Value: Linking Classroom to Career."
Dr. Miller also discussed the importance of The Bethany Plan, which aids students in identifying with and becoming a part of academic, co-curricular and extracurricular activities. Students can take advantage of global study-abroad trips, career-focused internships and research opportunities. Senior capstone projects and comprehensive examinations round out a student's education at Bethany.
"We all have 168 hours in a week," he said. "A typical student will devote 18 hours per week to classroom activities and sleep between 42 and 50 hours per week. At a residential liberal arts college, we partner with students for learning activities for the remaining 100 hours. This might be athletics or recreation, a campus job, a fraternity or sorority, or service learning."
On the topic of institutional growth, Dr. Miller outlined plans to grow the residential population of Bethany College by about 100.
"Ideally, we'd like to maintain 1,100 total students and expand our residential population to 925. In this challenging higher education environment, we can't rely on doing things the old way," Dr. Miller said. "We can't just pass the cost on to students. Expanding the residential population will create a larger critical mass, greater diversity and increased resources. Such trends are also attractive to alumni and donors who support Bethany's mission and strategic direction."
He closed with comments about the College's "golden past and bright future," noting that Bethany celebrates 175 years in 2014-15.
"We're proud of our heritage as West Virginia's oldest degree-granting institution. We trace our origins to the founding of Buffalo Seminary at what was then Bethany, Virginia, in 1818. However, we count 1840 as our founding as a degree-granting college." The College reports over 22,000 alumni.
Now in his 24th year as a college president, Dr. Miller noted that today marks the start of his eighth year at the College. He provided a variety of updates on a number of topics:
"Over 3,200 individuals and organizations – including 38 percent of our alumni -- have contributed to the largest fundraising initiative in Bethany history," Dr. Miller said. "To contribute that amount during two of the most significant economic downturns in our country's history is a major statement of support for the people and programs of Bethany College."
He also announced major speakers for the 175th year, noting that all are Bethany graduates:
When asked what the biggest issue facing Bethany is, Dr. Miller said it is keeping college affordable and accessible during difficult financial times in this country. Dr. Miller indicated that neither issue is unique to Bethany.
Dr. Miller also spoke of the Bethany Alumni Caravan in which he travels to 36 chapter events around the country speaking to groups about Bethany College and its programs. He recently returned from visiting alumni and friends in major cities in California.
"I always look forward to our Alumni Caravans," Dr. Miller said. "Bethanians love their College. As I travel the country visiting with alumni and friends, I am impressed by the passion that our graduates have for their alma mater. Bethany College is – without a doubt – a lifetime experience."
He said the various off-campus gatherings the College holds throughout the country enable interactions with large numbers of Bethanians who live far from campus. Events held in the recent past include those in California, Florida, Texas, Georgia, Colorado, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, DC, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and many more.