Sheila Bair shares news of the College’s progress in meeting its strategic priorities, and provides glimpses of her life as a busy college president.
In the inaugural issue of Bair Mail, I outlined eight strategic priorities that are propelling the work of the senior administration, with the promise to expand upon each of those priorities in future issues. I offer here some details about our focus on retention — our commitment to graduation for every student who matriculates.
While it’s very hard to predict what 18-year-olds will do, we know that our vigilance and our responsiveness to students having difficulties making the transition to college can make a real difference. Retention of the Fall 2015 cohort stands at 86.4%, a marked improvement over the previous year’s number. Our hope is to move that number to 88% for the Fall 2016 cohort. Here’s what we’re doing to help make that happen.
Student Success Coordinator
As Patrice DiQuinzio’s responsibilities have expanded with her assumption of the role of interim provost, we’ve hired some help for her to continue her important work leading our retention efforts. Victoria Finney, the former assistant professor of German, is helping to work directly with freshman students in early academic trouble, as well as those with risk factors associated becomes their lifeline. She supports them in their efforts to improve academic performance, helps them engage in student clubs and activities on campus, and resolves any problems they have encountered to help them have a successful experience at Washington College.
Ladder to Success
Targeting international students on academic probation, this program mobilizes staff in the Global Education Office, Student Affairs, and the academic resource areas of the Provost’s Office to ensure that these students are taking advantage of the opportunities available to them for academic support. Andrea Lange, our interim associate provost, directs this program, which recently incorporated boot-camp sessions on writing and quantitative skills and workshops on improving reading skills. We’re also training student tutors to better prepare them to work with students for whom English is a second language, and offer an information session specifically for international students on the processes for course registration and declaration of the major.
Retention Working Group
Interim Provost and Dean of the College Patrice DiQuinzio, Interim Associate Provost Andrea Lange, VP of Student Affairs Sarah Feyerherm, AVP of Student Affairs Candace Wanamaker, and Associate Director of Admissions Cindy Childs comprise the Retention Working Group. They meet with me periodically and monitor retention efforts and data, as well as ensure regular communication and coordination of retention work among all staff and faculty. This group is developing written objectives to guide faculty advisors, peer mentors, and resident assistants in their retention work. We are also committed to increase diversity among faculty and staff to better reflect the student body. This group is also putting in place a “feedback loop” to make sure admissions recruiters and faculty advisors are informed when a student with whom they have worked has not been successful at Washington College. We try to help every student succeed, but when that doesn’t happen, we want to learn why.
Funding Secured for Eastern Shore Food Lab A state program that targets higher education innovators in science and technical fields has, for the second time in as many years, granted Washington College nearly $1 million for a new endowed chair, this time for the Eastern Shore Food Lab. Bill Schindler, chair of the Department of Anthropology and associate professor of anthropology, will be the first chair in sustainable food systems. A behavioral science expert in primitive technologies and foodways — food production, dietary health, and cultural meanings of food — Schindler is especially interested in how the ESFL can work as a catalyst to change modern Western perceptions of food.
The Maryland Department of Commerce grant, part of its Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative (MEI), is coupled with gifts of $1 million from private donors — a pledge of $1 million from Daryl Swanstrom ’69, a member of the College’s Board of Visitors and Governors, with transitional funding by board members Edward P. Nordberg ’82, Ann Horner ’80, and Patrick W. Allender P ’11, who helped meet the immediate grant requirements.
Swimmers Perform Splendidly
The Shorewomen swim team won 10 medals and broke six school records during the Centennial Championships earlier this month. Junior Jenni Clune won three individual medals, including one gold in the 100 breaststroke, and three relay medals. The team took a fourth-place finish overall.
New Faces, New Spaces
Victor Sensenig, Washington College’s institutional research guru, has become the vice president for planning and policy and chief of staff. Vic succeeds Joe Holt, who has transitioned to the Office of Advancement as executive director of institutional and government giving — this, after his service as interim vice president of finance and administration for the College. Rahel Rosner, who holds an MBA from Carnegie Mellon and who most recently served as director of finance and operations at Georgetown Day School, has stepped in to lead the College’s finance office.
50 Years of Sophie
This year marks the golden anniversary of the Sophie Kerr gift, which has underwritten the nation’s largest undergraduate literary prize and fostered a culture of writing on campus. Be sure to check out the series of clever posters on display in the Casey Academic Center, depicting Sophie through the decades. Congrats to Marie Thomas, visual arts director in the Office of College Relations & Marketing, for her work on this project. And mark your calendars now for the Senior Reading, scheduled for April 20 at 7 p.m. in the Rose O’Neill Literary House.
Pages From my Calendar
1 - Interview with The Elm
2 - Rehearsal for Horizons Dancing with the Stars. My new nickname: “Dancing Bair.”
3 - Conference call with marketing firm finalist for our campaign. Exciting stuff!
Lunch with Kay King to discuss the needs of our international students
Faculty Council meeting
Dress rehearsal at Worton Community Center. Where did the prop master find the great Washington College banner?
4 - Horizon Dancing with the Stars. Raised $$. Thank you to everyone for buying tickets, purchasing tables, and voting for Team Bair! Great event to help disadvantaged kids.
5 - Day after the big dance contest. Not even stiff or sore. Lost an undisclosed number of pounds — collateral benefit of all the rehearsing.
6 - Telephone conference with former Senator Barbara Mikulski regarding her upcoming visit to campus March 3.
9-11 - Advancement road trip to Florida. Had a chance to share stories about former students’ success and current students’ passion projects.
13 - Pizza with the Prez. Great fun decorating cookies with the students.
Lunch with Prof. Melissa Deckman
14 – Valentine’s Day
Market Watch interview about George’s Brigade. 150 nominations for next year.
Lunch with Prof. Carol Wilson
15 - Hosted Michael Calhoun, President of Center for Responsible Lending. He visited with students in the Brown Advisory Student-Managed Fund program, attended the sustainable finance class, and toured our beautiful campus.
16 - Dinner with The Hodson Trust’s Eileen Dickey in Wilmington
17 - Wall Street Week interview
Faculty Council meeting
Met with Aundra Anderson to learn a line dance for Birthday Ball. Thanks, Aundra!
20 - Presidents’ Day
21 - Day at the Maryland General Assembly in Annapolis with students meeting legislators. Experience exceeded expectations.
Good one-on-one meeting with President of the Maryland Senate, Mike Miller. Optimistic news regarding Chestertown marina funding. Even better news that Miller’s granddaughter is probably going to attend Washington College.
Feb. 22 – The goal for Day of Giving: Raise $100,000 and engage 285 new alumni donors. Started the morning with a personal question: Will she or won’t she dye her hair maroon and black for Birthday Ball? Only our donors know for sure.
Toast at the Fish Whistle with the Kent and Queen Anne’s Alumni Chapter to George Washington. Huzzah!
Goal of $100,000 exceeded by nearly 10% ($109,254). Hair dyed. Washington College gets first punk president, at least for Birthday Ball.
24 - BVG meetings. See the video Shane Brill put together for them. https://youtu.be/Prh_eD_AsFc
George Washington Convocation. It was my honor to shake hands with staff who have dedicated 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 years working at Washington College. Also thrilled to pay tribute to Convocation speaker Lonnie Bunch, our honorary degree recipient. His remarks were inspirational.
25 - Board announced that we’ve reached our fundraising goal for the boathouse. Groundbreaking scheduled for Sept. 13.
The Sheila Smoothie Shakeup contest — say that five times fast! My daughter Colleen and son Preston helped me judge 26 entries, and the winner was unanimous.
27 - Chesapeake Bay Foundation dinner with BVG Chair, Larry Culp. Opportunity to talk up Washington College with Bay supporters.
28 - Appearance on NYC Fox News Liz Claman Show regarding higher education issues including access and affordability, hubbub over Dodd-Frank, and the likelihood of a repeal of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
In the Wings
Looking forward to several upcoming events throughout the spring semester. I hope you’ll join me!
Harwood Lecture Series Event – Former U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski and Cokie Roberts, Political Commentator for ABC News. Decker Theatre, Daniel Z. Gibson Center for the Arts, 5:00 p.m.
George Washington Leadership Series Talk – Mary J. Miller, Former Undersecretary for Domestic Finance and Former Acting Deputy Secretary of the Treasury. Hynson Lounge, Hodson Hall, 4:00 p.m.
Chestertown Spy-sponsored Event – The Future of Chestertown and Washington College: A discussion with Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino and President Sheila C. Bair. Decker Theatre, Gibson Center for the Arts, 5:00 p.m.
Save the Date for a big announcement, and get ready for some evening festivities.
Sophie Kerr Prize announcement. Hotchkiss Recital Hall, 7 p.m.
Washington College’s 234th Commencement Exercises – Distinguished Guest and Speaker Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF
Campus Lawn (weather permitting), 10:30 a.m.