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The New Year at Transylvania

Dear Transy Family,

Happy New Year! 2010 was a busy year at Transylvania and the coming year promises to be even more exciting. Please allow me to recount some of the many things going on around campus as well as some of the splendid opportunities we will soon embrace.

During the fall term we welcomed the class of 2014, the most academically talented class in Transylvania's history, highlighted by their impressive average GPA of 3.79 and average ACT of 27. The class includes 34 Kentucky Governor's Scholars and Governor's School for the Arts participants and six National Merit Finalists. International students in the class hail from China, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and Zimbabwe.

Speaking of academics, we received the good news that our application for a Phi Beta Kappa chapter met the selection criteria of this renowned national honor society. In February we will host representatives of the Committee on Qualifications on our campus, the next step in what we hope will become a prestigious recognition of the quality of our academic programs.

In October we formally dedicated the renovated and refurbished laboratories of Brown Science Center. This $9.2 million project has transformed nine of the 11 labs into completely modern, state-of-the-art facilities that give our students and professors the kind of environment they need to ensure the continuation of Transylvania's very distinguished science programs.

The quality work being done on a national level by Vice President and Dean of the College William F. Pollard was spotlighted in November when the Council of Independent Colleges selected him for its 2010 Chief Academic Officer Award. The award recognizes his contributions to colleagues at independent colleges and universities across the country.

Looking to the future, a faculty task force completed its review of the core elements of the curriculum and has handed over its proposed changes to the faculty at large, which is charged with reviewing those changes and fleshing out the particulars of the plan. This is one of the more far-reaching and stimulating exercises Transylvania has gone through recently in its academic area. 

An important initiative in student life last fall came from the President's Advisory Council, which recommended significant changes to our alcohol policy. Now implemented, these changes carry a clear message that if the tiny percentage of students who abuse alcohol continue to do so, there will be new consequences for this behavior. It includes a strong message of support for the majority of students who make good choices in this area. The council also formed a task force to create a code of conduct that articulates the values we consider fundamental at Transylvania.

In athletics this past fall, our men's and women's soccer teams, along with the volleyball team, won Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference titles. Both soccer teams went on to play in the NCAA Division III national tournament. We also learned that our women's sports programs had won the HCAC All-Sports trophy for the 2009-10 season for the first time since joining the league in 2001.

In 2011 we will continue to build upon our commitment to diversity, sustainability, technology, globalization, and community outreach. Many colleges and universities in America have set goals similar to ours. Let me expand on the ways in which Transylvania is pursuing these objectives.

The admissions staff is working with a consulting firm, Noel-Levitz, to identify the most promising locations for us to recruit out-of-state students. With only slightly more than 10 percent of our students currently coming to Transy from outside Kentucky, a state where the college-bound population is dropping rather significantly, we need to attract students from elsewhere around the country. We also want to increase the number of foreign students on campus, while at the same time improving our ethnic and racial diversity.

We are working to internationalize our campus in several ways. Although our faculty includes 12 professors from other countries and a number who specialize in foreign cultures, and while approximately two-thirds of our students study abroad, the number of foreign students at Transy is well below the average for top-ranked liberal arts colleges. This past term we formed an international task force of faculty, staff, and board members, chaired by Spanish Professor Veronica Dean-Thacker, that will be considering various ways to expand the global perspective at Transylvania. Along with more foreign students at Transy, we also hope to expand the number of international courses and activities available. In an overall sense, we want to engender a feeling that we are all part of a larger global community.

Our sustainability efforts on campus include a goal of becoming a paperless institution. We have made significant progress through such means as converting paper applications for student life activities as well as purchase orders to online, installing duplex printers, and generally monitoring our use of paper much more closely. I am pleased to give you our first bottom-line result-during fall term we reduced paper consumption by 347,000 sheets, a 31 percent reduction worth 42 trees to the environment. That's a notable achievement, but only a step along the path we intend to follow.

Transy is becoming more technologically savvy with every day that passes. Just recently, we installed "thin client devices" in four of our general purpose labs in place of traditional PCs. We are one of the first schools in this region to be rolling this innovative system out. The use of thin clients saves power while making lab spaces cooler and quieter. We have also launched a mobile application that allows anyone to have Transylvania information at their fingertips via their cell phone or other mobile device.

Finally, we are making efforts to further strengthen our ties to Lexington while encouraging our students to enjoy all that this city has to offer, including the prospect to complete internships across a wide spectrum of endeavors.

Given the widely held view that higher education will undergo a profound transformation in the coming decades-as a result of technology, globalization, sustainability, and other trends-the willingness of faculty, students, staff, and alumni to embrace change will ensure that Transy stays relevant and at the cutting edge of college education and teaching. 

In order to realize those goals, we will clearly face significant financial challenges. Like all colleges, Transylvania has two primary sources of funding: tuition revenue and charitable contributions. We will be taking steps to increase both, the former by adding about 50 new students, the latter by hiring new staff in the development office. With roughly 1,100 students at Transy currently, we are 100 students below capacity. At the same time, while our alumni, board members, and parents have been very generous to the college over the years, we will need to find additional sources of support.

On a personal note, it is a joy and honor to serve as president of this historic institution. It has also been a privilege to sit in the seat occupied by Charles Shearer for 27 years. Charlie is a man of extraordinary integrity and unimpeachable commitment to Transylvania. He has been an invaluable adviser to me over the past many months, and my wife Jennifer and I are very pleased to have Charlie and Susan as friends.

I am grateful for the wonderfully warm welcome into the Transy family. During our first few months, my family and I have been made to feel as if we are part of something truly special, for which I thank you all.

All the best for the New Year,

Owen Williams

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