Centre College reports record student enrollment, increase in campus diversity at Fall 2014 Trustees meeting
The fall 2014 meeting of the Centre College Board of Trustees was guided by discussion and approval of the four key directions of the College’s refocused strategic plan, which articulates a bold vision as Centre continues to realize success in key areas such as recruitment, finances and positioning as one of the nation’s premier liberal arts colleges. The Board met on the Centre’s campus Oct. 23-24, the opening of Homecoming weekend.
Bob Nesmith, dean of admission and student financial aid, announced record student enrollment of 1,387 for the 2014-15 academic year, as the College welcomed its largest-ever first-year class. Numbering 386 students, the Class of 2018 is among the strongest academically and represents the most geographically and racially diverse group in Centre’s history.
According to Nesmith, nearly half of the first-year class consists of out-of-state students arriving at Centre from 36 states and seven foreign countries, led by China.
The Class of 2018 also includes 44 first-generation college students. This group, combined with marked growth among international students and those identifying as students of color, represents 30 percent of enrolled students from traditionally underrepresented populations. Nesmith projects that the growth among these demographics demonstrates one of the most significant trends in higher education enrollment in the next decade and beyond.
Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Stephanie Fabritius reported that, while Centre is ahead of pace to reach an enrollment goal of 1,425 students by 2016, the College remains equally committed to measured growth in faculty in order to maintain its attention to personal education with a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Discussion also centered on committee work aimed at the assessment of Centre’s general education curriculum.
Additionally, Fabritius highlighted strategic changes for the newly renamed Center for Career and Professional Development, including space renovations to accommodate strengthened and innovative programming guided by the center’s new director, Joy Asher.
Beyond campus, Fabritius emphasized Centre’s continued leadership in international education, with an average 85 percent of students studying abroad in one of 10 residential, semester-long programs, in addition to a variety of shorter programs during the three-week CentreTerm, for which 225 students will travel to 11 different countries in January 2015.
Fabritius also discussed expected growth for the College’s domestic “study-away” programs, reporting the fall 2014 launch of a new internship program in Chicago, complementing Centre’s existing Washington, D.C., offering.
Vice President for College Relations Richard Trollinger reported that giving to the annual fund at Centre remains strong, with record donations totaling more than $2.3 million for the fiscal year that began July 1, 2014. Membership in the Centre Associates giving society is also at an all-time high at 1,230 members, while alumni engagement continues to thrive, as demonstrated by the nearly 1,000 graduates returning for reunions and events during the Homecoming 2014 weekend.
Additionally, Trollinger shared news of several large gifts to fund endowed scholarships, with the Board voting to approve the Leo E. Knaebel Scholarship and the Mary Ann Holl Scholarship. The College also received significant support for student scholarships and need-based financial aid from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, the Margaret V. Haggin Trust and the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation.
Randy Hays, vice president and dean of student life, emphasized Centre’s continued focus on student leadership. Planning and promotion is well underway for the new Grissom Scholars Program, a groundbreaking full-tuition national scholarship opportunity aimed at high-achieving first-generation college students set to begin in the fall of 2015.
Hays also discussed the College’s ongoing dedication to service, demonstrated by a record number of students participating in the Bonner Community Service Program as well as the recent fall service plunge, which accounted for more than 400 students contributing 1,200 hours of volunteer community work.
As part of Centre’s commitment to student safety and well-being, Hays announced work to update the College’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, as guided by newly established Title IX Federal policy requirements. This important effort, led by Director of Human Resources and Administrative Services Kay Drake, focuses on campus education, including the launch of a sexual assault training module intended for use by the entire Centre community.
With Director of Athletics and Recreation Brad Fields, Hays announced recent athletic facility enhancements, including significant upgrades to the Buck Fitness Center, in addition to construction of the new indoor practice facility for baseball and softball, to be completed this fall.
Robert L. Keasler Jr., vice president for finance and treasurer, provided an overview of additional campus enhancements, including plans to relocate the recently acquired 124 North Fifth Street property to the corner of Maple and West Walnut Streets. Planned for November 2014, the move is in effort to preserve the protected, historical structure, while accommodating housing needs for increased student enrollment. Eight students will occupy the facility in the fall of 2015.
During the Board’s plenary session, President John Roush led a review of the College’s refocused strategic plan for approval by the Board. Dedicated research and formal campus sessions have guided an ongoing examination of the goals and priorities of the College, culminating in four strategic directions covering every aspect of Centre’s operations and experience that will guide the College into its third century of service.
In other business, the Board voted to approve sabbatical leaves for 10 faculty members.
The next meeting of the Centre College Board of Trustees is scheduled for Jan. 30-31, 2015, in Louisville.
by Amy Clark Wise