Dear W Community,
Hello and welcome to a new academic year at The W. The fall semester is off to a great start, and we have much to be proud of.
Achievements and honors
The good works of our students, faculty, and staff continue to receive national recognition. The university is ranked by U. S. News and World Report as a top 20 public master’s university in the South and, for the second year in a row, Washington Monthly magazine ranked The W among the nation’s Top 100 master’s universities. Again in 2013, the commitment of the university community to service was recognized on The President’s Higher Education Service Honor Roll. In late July, The W was one of only 42 universities across the country named by The Chronicle of Higher Education as “A Great College to Work For.”
While I celebrate these acknowledgments of our university’s excellence, most important to me is a single number: 817. Students earning their degrees and stepping into the world prepared for their lives and careers is our core mission. This past year, our university awarded 817 degrees, the most conferred in a single year in our university’s history. Of these, 453 degrees were awarded to students in the College of Nursing and Speech Language Pathology. Awarding 24 degrees for every 100 full-time equivalent students, The W degree completion ratio leads Mississippi’s public university system.
Our fall enrollment is 2,635, which includes a nine percent increase in transfer students and 60 additional graduate students. Last year The W’s total annual enrollment was 3,300 students, or a 13 percent increase since 2008, and, most important, the number of students taking a full academic load (FTE) is up 24 percent in the same period. For our university, fall semester enrollment is only part of the story and I am pleased our enrollment remains steady.
The past year saw the university achieve several important academic milestones. On November 14, 2013 we will celebrate the 40th year anniversary of The W’s nursing program. Today, the nursing program in the College of Nursing and Speech- Language Pathology is the largest nursing program in Mississippi and last spring enrolled the first students in the Doctorate in Nursing Practice, the university’s only doctoral program. The College of Education and Human Sciences saw our teacher education programs fully reaccredited, as were the art and design degree programs in the College of Arts and Sciences. Graduate education returned to the College of Business and Professional Studies this past summer when the Master’s of Global Commerce enrolled its first students.
Looking to the future
I have spent much of my time in the past year listening to our students, faculty, staff, friends, and alumni. This has been great fun, as well as informative. Our history is distinctive and distinguished; it inspires us as we consider the future. The present, particularly the potential of our students, provides us with a sense of purpose we can trace to our very founding as a university. Imagining our future during this time of great change in higher education, along with that of the world that will soon embrace our graduates, calls our university to dare, to dream, and to achieve. We have accomplished much, and we have much to do.
Academically, the university is strong and our academic programs are well respected. In the past year our fine programs in art and design and teacher preparation have been reaccredited and work continues on the 2014 reaffirmation of accreditation for the university. We have an outstanding faculty! Over the next ten years, a significant number of our faculty will be eligible to retire. A long-term priority is to ensure our degree programs and curriculum meet the needs of our students and that we have the faculty in place to teach them. While this planning is in the very early stages, it is among our most important work.
Building a strong brand is fundamental and a long-term process. This past year saw our entire university community engaged in thoughtful discussions about our core values and strengths, our aspirations, strategic focus, and brand identity. During the coming year our students, faculty, and staff will further refine the strategic direction of The W.
A focus on students
Student life at The W is a priority, regardless of whether students live on campus or study online, and raising the quality of the student experience for all of our students is underway. These changes are already visible in residence hall programs and in campus-wide student activities. Included in this focus are improvements to residence halls and considering our return to intercollegiate athletics to complement our outstanding intramural sports programs.
Work has already begun to assess physical improvements to our residence halls, as well as to evaluate their financial feasibility. State funds are not available for residence hall improvements, with the result that these costs must be passed along to those students who live in them. Our goal is to provide the best campus living experience possible, while meeting the needs of today’s students.
The university’s process to evaluate a return to intercollegiate athletics continues and the next report is expected by the end of the calendar year. The university committee is at work analyzing this opportunity, including its contribution to student life and, most importantly, to growing our enrollment.
Last fall’s Campus Dialogues reaffirmed the university’s commitment to leadership development for all students. I am pleased to tell you the university has much good news to report on these efforts. Last May the inaugural Mississippi NEW Leadership program was held on our campus involving undergraduate women from public and private, two- and four-year institutions across Mississippi. We are developing additional academic programs that hold great promise for our university.
For a number of years, The W, with external financial support, sponsored a leader scholar program. Earlier this year this funding ended, and I saw this as an opportunity for the university to thoughtfully redesign a leadership framework that can benefit and engage even more of our students.
This process is underway. The university has been fortunate to engage a nationally recognized leadership educator to guide us. This fall a representative group of employers of our graduates has been assembled to help us understand what skills, both in leadership and ethics, our students should receive to be successful in the workplace. Early next year our faculty and staff will begin the redesign of leadership opportunities for our students.
I am excited by the prospect of aligning all of these leadership program elements into a single strategy for the university. I hope an emphasis on lifelong learning will also emerge from this work.
Our university is blessed with outstanding alumni and great friends whose support of The W enables a very bright future. An important goal for our university is to achieve advancement excellence, and I am grateful this goal is shared by both the MUW Alumni Association and MUW Foundation.
This fall, a shared planning process began to strengthen the link between university advancement and the strategic goals and objectives of the university. I am excited about the benefits this process will bring to the university.
I have asked the MUWAA Board of Directors to focus their attention on three areas this year: growing paid membership; encouraging chapter development; and referring potential students to the Office of Admissions.
Our university is very fortunate to have the support of a loyal group of donors—alumni, faculty, staff, students, and friends whose generosity enables excellence on our campus. Among other things, your financial contributions help to provide scholarships to deserving students. We appreciate your support.
In the past year, we have seen an increase in the number of donors and in dollars raised. The MUW Foundation continues to do great work to increase private giving to enable the university to achieve excellence.
While the impact of scholarships on the lives of our students is obvious, I wanted to give you a few examples of how The W Fund resources have been used. These and other university funds have been used to improve landscaping along Serenade Drive and Carrier Chapel, as well as to improve the look for public spaces such as The W Room in the Hogarth Student Union and the adjoining patio.
I would like to thank Cheryl (Sherrie) Cooper, president of the MUWAA, and Ruth Petty Jones, president of the MUW Foundation, and their boards, for their hard work and dedication to the university.
I am in love with the future of our university and am pleased to report the university is doing well. Exciting work is underway, and it’s being accomplished through the commitment of all members of the Long Blue Line.
Until next time,
Jim Borsig, Ph.D.
Mississippi University for Women