Dear Students, Alumni, Colleagues and Friends,
I send warmest greetings to you all, the students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of The W. It is an honor to serve this extraordinary university and be a part of the history that has been made here since 1884.
I want to begin by sharing with you good news about The W, as well as update you on some of the many efforts under way on campus. Since 2007, our full-time equivalent enrollment has increased 21 percent, and this is a remarkable accomplishment. The NCLEX-RN® three-year mean pass rates (97.5 percent) for our baccalaureate nursing graduates are the highest in the Mississippi Public Universities System.
Next month will mark the 24th annual Eudora Welty Symposium and Gala. The Oct. 18-20 Symposium will feature keynote speaker Sonny Brewer, as well as a distinguished slate of fiction writers, poets and scholars. For more about the events, which are free to the public, see www.muw.edu/welty. The Welty Gala, sponsored by the MUW Foundation, will bring Emmy-award-winning television journalist Byron Pitts to campus Oct. 19. Tickets are available at www.muw.edu/weltygala.
On November 2, 2012, we will celebrate the renewal of Poindexter Hall, and this fall we will break ground on the first phase of the expansion and renovation of Fant Memorial Library. Our fall semester enrollment includes an increase in both freshmen and transfer students, as well as an increase in the number of students living on campus.
While Mississippi ranks among states with the lowest percentage of young-adult degree attainment, The W has seen a 57 percent increase in the number of undergraduate degrees awarded in the past five years. This is cause to celebrate the efforts of our faculty and staff, as well as to invite a closer look at The W today. How can we contribute to degree completion in an even more meaningful way?
In the 21st century, The W continues to offer educational opportunity, helps drive our local and state economy, and improves the lives of countless women and men. Our goal at The W is a simple one: recruit, retain, and graduate students who are well prepared for their various roles in society, both professionally and personally.
Our quality and value have been nationally recognized by U.S. News & World Report, which in its recent “Best Colleges” guide ranked The W No. 18 in the top public Southern regional category. Our commitment to students, especially to that of sharing the importance of service, earlier was recognized by Washington Monthly magazine with a No. 15 ranking among master’s universities. These rankings are a tribute to the dedication of our faculty and staff, as well as the accomplishments of our students.
To strengthen our ability to serve students, we are undertaking major initiatives to allow us to enhance our contributions to our students’ lives and to the betterment of the State of Mississippi. In order to effectively assess areas in which we are achieving success and areas in which we need to hone our efforts, we are beginning to review internal data, our processes, and institutional organization.
The W’s economic impact on the local community alone is more than $43 million. As a major partner in the success of the City of Columbus and Lowndes County, we need to strengthen our ties to the community and work in partnership with area employers to provide them with the qualified labor force required for continued success.
More than 70 percent of our new students are transfer students rather than traditional incoming freshmen. Last academic year, more than 40 percent of our semester credit hours were delivered online. What does this mean for The W’s future?
This type of information and much more must be analyzed in order to properly guide our efforts and prudently allocate our resources for our students. Where to begin this review?
Already at work is a committee to determine whether a return to athletics is in The W’s best interest. We have hired a seasoned executive director of University Relations to coordinate our marketing and strategic communications efforts. We have hired a new webmaster to improve our digital presence. I have asked the MUW Alumni Association to focus on increasing paid members, particularly connecting with young alumni, and leading an increase in annual giving among alumni. The MUW Foundation is organizing itself for fund raising and building a culture of giving. And these steps are just the beginning.
This fall, a nationally recognized enrollment management firm is at work, alongside a campus-wide task force, assessing our recruitment, retention, and graduation efforts. Similarly, an advancement assessment will evaluate our alumni and development efforts in terms of building external support, financial and otherwise, for the institution. These two in-depth studies will provide us not only with crucial information and benchmarking details but also will give us the suggested steps to take on our path to become a more efficient and effective organization.
This week we concluded a series of campus dialogues facilitated by idgroup, a firm known for its track record of building strong brand reputations for organizations. We have had excellent participation from students, faculty, staff, alumni, community leaders, elected officials, and members of our Board of Trustees. These sessions will provide the foundation for aligning The W’s identity with its internal performance and external brand perception. This will help us to effectively reach and connect with our target markets and develop a clear strategy for building recognition.
There is no question that The W provides outstanding educational opportunities, and we all are aware of this fact. It is imperative to expand upon the reputation we have in order to reach even more potential students. I believe in the power of education and the promise of The W; I believe in our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends; and I also believe in our future.
As we continue to review our strengths and opportunities, I invite you to join me in supporting and giving the best of yourself to The W and to the students of today and tomorrow.
With warmest regards,
Jim Borsig, Ph.D.
Mississippi University for Women