Volume 17 • Issue 2
Southwestern @ Georgetown
The Strategic Plan for 2010 is focused on academics and student life.
Southwestern @ Georgetown
Study abroad is increasing on all fronts: more students are studying abroad, and they are traveling to a broader set of destinations than they did previously.

This photo is from senior Narda Hernandez’s study abroad in South Africa.

Taking Stock

— Ellen Davis
Where Southwestern stands five years into the Strategic Plan for 2010

In 1997 and 1998, inspired by Built to Last by Stanford University business professors James Collins and Jerry Porras, Southwestern developed its core purpose and core values. It also stated its envisioned future:

We believe we should strive for no less than making Southwestern University an inspiration to other preeminent liberal arts colleges because its innovative programs are transforming liberal arts education.

With these guiding principles in place, Southwestern focused on its next challenge: developing a strategic plan for the years 2000 to 2010.

“Once we had articulated our core vision and core purpose, that began to shape our thinking about the strategic plan,” says Provost Jim Hunt, who was asked by then-president Roy B. Shilling Jr. to coordinate development of the plan beginning in the fall of 1998.

While the previous strategic plan for the University focused more on needed facilities, the Strategic Plan for 2010 is focused on academics and student life. It reads that by 2010, Southwestern University will have:

  • Achieved the goal of fostering a liberal arts institution of the highest rank and quality.
  • Developed a self-critical, tough-minded community of scholars that maintains rigorous academic standards.
  • Actualized our core values at both a personal and an institutional level.
  • Developed an increasingly diverse community of scholars that fosters perspectives which enrich the well-being of humanity.

The plan included 22 initiatives to help reach these goals and was approved by the Board of Trustees on April 3, 2001.

Mid-decade report

So where does Southwestern stand five years into this plan? While some of the programs initially proposed have not materialized, progress in other areas is ahead of schedule.

President Jake B. Schrum ’68 is particularly proud of the progress Southwestern has made toward the fourth goal, which is related to diversity.

One of his first actions after becoming president in July 2000 was to invite Ron Swain, former president of Wiley College (an historically black college in Marshall, Texas), to be his senior advisor. Areas he was charged with included increasing diversity, as well as strategic planning and assessment.

“I cannot over-emphasize the positive influence Ron has had in helping us focus on the important challenge of increasing diversity,” Schrum says.

In 2001, Southwestern received a president’s discretionary grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Schrum chose to use this grant to host the first diversity seminar involving all of the institutions in the Associated Colleges of the South and to conduct a diversity climate assessment at Southwestern.

The University has since received two other grants from the Mellon Foundation related to diversity initiatives. Last August, the foundation awarded Southwestern $100,000 to support a three-year collaborative faculty and student exchange project involving Dillard University in New Orleans, Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Morehouse College in Atlanta and Rhodes College in Memphis.

Last November, the foundation provided Southwestern an additional $160,000 to work with Dillard University, which was severely impacted by Hurricane Katrina. Thirteen faculty members from Dillard spent three weeks at Southwestern in December learning new technologies and working to recreate course materials lost in the hurricane. Southwestern received national publicity for this program, including a four-page story in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

During President Shilling’s tenure, Southwestern partnered with the Texas Methodist Foundation to create the Dixon Scholarship Fund. This fund, which is named after the late Bishop Ernest T. Dixon Jr., provides merit scholarships to qualified African-American, Hispanic and Native American students. The program began in the 1999-2000 academic year with 17 students receiving either full or partial Dixon awards. This year, owing to increased emphasis on diversity, 56 students are receiving either full or partial awards. Graduates of the program include Manuel Buitrago ’04, who is working on his doctorate in economics at The George Washington University; Amani Farid ’04, who is attending The University of Chicago Law School; Ana Alcaraz ’03, who is completing a doctorate in computational chemistry at Emory University; and Daria Russell ’02, who will graduate from Harvard Law School in June and has a position waiting for her with Fulbright and Jaworski in Houston.

“The Dixon Scholarship allowed me to be free of undergraduate loans, which enabled me to feel more comfortable making the financial commitment to Harvard Law School,” Russell says.

While minority representation at the University has increased from 17.7 percent in 2000 to 21.7 percent in 2004, attracting minority applicants continues to be a challenge for the University because of its location in a non-urban area.

“The minority students we attract have to be willing to take a risk and try a different type of environment,” says Tom Oliver ’89, vice president for enrollment services. This year, however, Oliver and his admissions team are on track to have more minority and out-of-state applications than ever before in the University’s history. His goal—shared by the University—is to eventually have a student body of which at least 25 percent of the students are minorities and 25 percent are from outside Texas.

Oliver says two things will define the University’s progress toward those goals—its ability to provide financial aid and its ability to get its message to targeted audiences.

“This is a great school,” Oliver says. “Unfortunately not enough people know about it.”

Southwestern is working to change that by embarking on a comprehensive integrated marketing campaign. The University is working with the Art & Science Group, a national marketing consulting firm, to assist with this effort.

The project began last fall with a survey of alumni and is continuing this spring with a survey of prospective students. The University hopes to have the results by this fall. Those results will guide the development of key messages for the University.

“Once we have specific data regarding what people know and think of Southwestern University, it will allow us to strategically position ourselves,” says Cindy Locke, associate vice president for university relations.

In January, President Schrum announced that Southwestern had joined The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), which represents more than 400 colleges in the United States, Puerto Rico, Latin America and Spain that are dedicated to improving educational opportunities for Hispanic students. Representatives from Southwestern plan to attend HACU’s Annual Conference that will be held in San Antonio this October.

“Aligning ourselves with organizations that have a mission of ensuring educational opportunities for Hispanic students is a natural for us because of our location in a state with a growing Hispanic population,” Schrum says. “Becoming an active member of HACU will help us better serve our Hispanic students and faculty members.”

In January, University leaders also held a strategic planning retreat that focused in part on the issue of diversity. Among the speakers was Gary Orfield, who serves as director of the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University.

“Unless we change things, colleges will become part of the problem, not the solution,” Orfield said. “Private colleges need to use their prestige to make people think about these [diversity] issues. They need to try things on their own campuses and show what can be done on a broader scale.”

Orfield spoke about the need to diversify faculties as well as student bodies.

“When you have black or Latino professors, students will hear perspectives they haven’t heard before,” he said. “It is a powerful educational experience.”

Improving academics

Hunt says Southwestern’s new Paideia® Program (see Southwestern@Georgetown Vol. 17 Number 1) has helped accomplish several initiatives in the strategic plan, including increasing diversity in the faculty. Of the 10 new faculty members who have been hired as a result of the Paideia® Program, half are minorities. With a total of 14 new faculty members hired since 2000, Southwestern is ahead of schedule on the strategic plan’s overall goal of adding 25 new tenure-track faculty members by 2010. Recruiting and retaining African-American faculty members remains a challenge, however.

The strategic plan also provided the impetus to update Southwestern’s General Education Requirements, which had not changed in 20 years. Beginning this fall, the requirement that students take courses from seven Perspectives on Knowledge (POK) areas will be replaced with a requirement that students take two classes each in the Division of Humanities, the Division of Natural Sciences, the Division of Social Sciences and The Sarofim School of Fine Arts.

“The new system will give students access to a broader array of courses,” Hunt says.

Hunt says the University also is making good progress on the initiative related to providing “significant cross-cultural experiences for students.” In 2001-2002, 115 students studied abroad during the academic year. In 2004-05, that number increased to 187. During a four-year period, one half of the students at Southwestern will have studied in another culture.

Study abroad is increasing on all fronts: more students are studying abroad, and they are traveling to a broader set of destinations than they did previously, says Sue Mennicke, director of intercultural learning. Just as important, Mennicke says, is the fact that students returning from study-abroad programs have the opportunity to participate in an academic course designed to make sense of the education abroad experience within the liberal arts context. Southwestern also held its first Intercultural Symposium last fall, which provided students with a forum to present their experiences to the campus community.

“At Southwestern, we are finding ways to go beyond the catchwords often associated with study abroad and to challenge students to really take steps to build upon the incredible learning experience that off-campus study makes possible,” Mennicke says.

Last year, Southwestern was invited to join the prestigious Institute for the International Education of Students. This affiliation will provide additional options for study-abroad programs.

Southwestern also is achieving strong progress on technology initiatives. By the end of this summer, all the classrooms on campus will be “smart classrooms” that have permanently installed projectors, instructor podiums with computers, document cameras, CD/DVD players, VCRs, sound systems and projection screens.

“I use this technology in every class,” says Ed Kain, professor of sociology and University Scholar.

Kain says technology improvements at Southwestern have really enhanced students’ ability to do research, which is a hallmark of top liberal arts colleges. “I can be training students in research from the first day of classes when you have these kinds of resources,” he explains. For example, Kain says in-class access to the Internet enables him to show students in his classes how to download and work with data from the U.S. Census.

Most sociology majors at Southwestern now regularly present research papers at regional or national conferences, and many are getting into the top sociology graduate programs in the country. “That’s something you can’t do without good research programs,” Kain says. “We really are playing in a different league now.”

Kain frequently is asked to review other university programs and says Southwestern’s technology capabilities are “definitely something we can be very proud of.” He notes that the American Sociological Association also has selected the sociology curriculum at Southwestern as a model for other colleges across the country.

Swain says the University also has done well on the initiative calling for the University to develop programs that foster better relations with citizens and leaders of Georgetown. Last semester, students volunteered nearly 11,000 hours to community service work. This year, the University has taken on the challenge of building a house for Habitat for Humanity.

“Local agencies that welcome Southwestern University students as volunteers are teaching them about what it means to be stakeholders in a community, about the real, hard work of citizenship, and, ideally, about how to use one’s education to address social problems,” says Suzy Pukys, coordinator of volunteer resources and community-based learning. “In these scenarios, everyone wins.”

Faculty, administrators and staff also serve in leadership roles in a wide range of boards, commissions and nonprofit organizations in Georgetown.

Yet to be achieved

The major area for which the University needs new resources, Hunt says, is faculty salaries. While the 2010 plan called for faculty compensation to move above the 90th percentile among schools of its type, it is currently in the 80th percentile range because of the 2001-2004 stock market correction, which lowered the value of Southwestern’s endowment. The first steps toward improving faculty compensation were addressed in 2005 after the market stabilized. The plan also aims to move staff compensation above the 90th percentile for central Texas.

Work also remains for completion of an initiative to create more named scholarships for out-of-state students. A recent $2 million gift from The Brown Foundation of Houston, Inc. will support this initiative by enabling the University to increase the number of full-tuition Brown Scholarships awarded each year from eight to 12.

University leaders hope to be able to fund these and other priorities of the Strategic Plan for 2010 through a $125 million fundraising campaign that was launched in March (see page 20).

Thinking Ahead: The Southwestern Campaign is the key to completing the implementation of the Strategic Plan,” says Jim Walzel, who has served as chair of the Southwestern Board of Trustees since 2000.

Of the 22 initiatives in the original plan, University leaders now recommend that 13 be kept as written, seven be retained with changes and two be deleted. After faculty input, the Board of Trustees will make a final decision on these recommendations.

Visit www.southwestern.edu/plan-assess for more information on Southwestern’s Strategic Planning efforts.