Stetson administrators discussed their feelings about Stetson’s future. While stressing that it is not yet finalized, they also discussed some of the strengths and weaknesses of the newest strategic map draft.
Rosalie Carpenter, Dean of Students
Thoughts about Stetson’s future: Since Dr. Libby arrived, our pace of change has been unprecedented. It is unbelievable what she has already done and the standards she has set for this university for many years to come. I think in two years we will continue to expand our reputation nationally and internationally, and I think we will continue to be a values-driven institution and I am proud of that fact. We always make decisions on what is in alignment with our values, not what is cheaper. I think career development and exploration will continue to become a focus and that life after graduation will continue to be an emphasis in a different way, and I think that is something we will see in years to come. In five years I hope we will complete our capital campaign for a goal of a $150 million endowment and be able to add buildings like a new union building, an admissions welcome center, a new resident hall, an academic building and maybe another house to fraternity row and close the circle. I think by then our enrollment will be steady at a little north of 3,000, as well as hiring more faculty and staff to accommodate for the increase in size. Our standards are high and we hope the students know that, and also know that we have their best interest at heart. The students need these improvements and deserve them, and it nice to see us on the precipice of reaching our full potential. It is really rewarding.
Strength of the map: I appreciate the diversity of the topical areas of the [campus life and student success map]in terms of academics, values, life after Stetson, and professional goal fulfillment. I appreciate that the map talks about life not only at Stetson but after graduation. I think one of the biggest things that students will get from the map that they might not even realize is the box about eliminating administrative barriers. We know how hard it is to plan an event on this campus. You have to get permission from so many different departments. It is too many hoops to jump through and it is something we are definitely working on to change.
Things that are missing from the map: The whole mission is about fostering an integrative learning environment as well as supporting students to lead a life of significance. What may be missing in here is how we are going to make that integrative with the faculty and the students as well as alumni. What is not really mentioned is how we can partner with faculty and alumni to create that integrative learning environment. I think it will happen naturally, but if I had to say something was missing it would be an intentional connection of faculty and alumni to really stimulate the learning environment we want to foster.
Stetson’s strengths: I think the faculty and staff really do care about the students. People who work here do it because they want to be part of a community. We have a culture of care that is genuine and sincere that you really don’t get at a bigger state school. I also think we take student opinion well, we take the time to meet with students and listen to them very well. If students want an organization we say “Okay, let’s get it done.” We have a culture of “yes” here where as many other schools have a culture of “no.”
Stetson’s challenges: I do not think things geographically make sense. Our curriculum doesn’t have a lot of flexibility for students to dabble in many other academic areas. Our computer infrastructure in terms of different logins for different things makes things unnecessarily difficult. I think some of the pedagogy as far as using learning technologies could really be amplified. That is why students love being a part of Rolling George so much: it is the hands-on opportunity for students to do what they love to do. We need to create more of that in the classrooms, it is moving in that direction right now, but I think we could do more things like that. I also do not believe our residential facilities, our union, as well as our Hollis Center are large enough to accommodate student size. I think we need to do more as far as when the union expands what we are going to offer here. I do not think there are enough times for students to eat and we definitely need to expand dining options. As well as creating more fun things for students to do on campus whether it is a movie theatre or a bowling alley that may be included in our union to help maximize the student experience on campus.
Dr. Karen Ryan, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences
Strengths of the map: To me, as Dean of the academic program of a college, the idea of really infusing everything we do with academic rigor is key. I think a theme that runs throughout the various boxes you see is interdisciplinarity. When we begin to envision the future, it’s not about students taking courses in a particular department, a particular discipline or a major in that discipline. It’s really about this holistic education that we have to offer. So it’s got to be interdisciplinary in terms of the academic program where programs interconnect and strengthen each other; it’s got to be about community engagement; and it’s got to be about a lived education so that the education that students are getting on campus connects to the wider world.
University weaknesses addressed by the map: [IT infrastructure] turns out to be a really important logistical obstacle that we have to smooth out. It has to be highly operational because everything else it turns out, really does kind of turn on that. If we’re going to really internationalize the university effectively, then we need to be able to put our students virtually into classrooms in other countries so that they can participate in what’s going on in other countries and we can bring in speakers from all over the world to our classes. I wouldn’t say that it’s a weakness but it does need to be improved.
Things that are missing from the map: The map is a very high-level project. Faculty can look at it, and I’m sure students can look at it and say, “Where am I? I don’t see me there?” But in fact, I don’t think we’re supposed to see our individual disciplines or even schools there. I’ve certainly looked at it and said, ‘Where’s the college?” But I think it’s at a metalevel, and it really has a vision for the entire institution that isn’t broken down that way. Now when we start operationalizing it, then we’ll start talking about, “How do we make this happen in our unit,” whatever that unit is, whether it’s the college, the history department or a course within the history department. But I think it’s capacious enough now to really encompass pretty much all aspects of a Stetson education.
What’s the Stetson difference? The student-to-faculty ratio is really, really key to what we do. Being able to have a true discussion-based, conversation-based course experience is really key to what we do. We say that we educate our students to think critically, to communicate, to write. Well, you can do that much better in a classroom in which there are 20 students than a classroom where you have 200. The ability to communicate, to defend a point of view, to argue, to articulate what you think about an issue is something that you develop here in a way that is very difficult in much larger courses.
Dr. Lua Hancock, Assistant Provost for Student Success
Thoughts about Stetson’s future: I think there’s already been good movement. For example, there’s been an ability to hire some new faculty and a lot of those faculty are coming in with very forward, interdisciplinary interests. They have done a lot of work across disciplinary fields and they’ve done a lot of community engaged work, which is, I think, what a lot of students and faculty are drawn to about Stetson: the academic mission and the rigor that’s specifically focused on the core of the value statements for social responsibility. And I think the university is just living more into that mission. So what I think is exciting about the strategic map is it fits the mission and vision that Stetson has always had, but it’s a map to move it forward into action.
Strengths of the map: One thing that turned out is really cool that very few people mention is if you look at the map, the center square right in the middle of the map is something about the holistic development of the student. And everyone’s been commenting how it’s kind of cool that it ended up right in the middle of the map and everything else is kind of around it, and I like that as well. That wasn’t intentional, but it kind of turned out to be really neat to have what we believe is true–which is that the student is at the core–so it kind of turned out really neat.
Things that are missing from the map: I think that the consultants go through a process with the community where it’s shared with groups of students and shared with faculty, it’s shared with staff, and then it’s drafted kind of over and over again. So by the end, I think it does a really good job of balancing the business side of some things that we need to do, as well as the chief educational purpose that we have. So I think it’s a really good, holistic map.