President Anderson shares logic behind campus changes
The world is a constantly changing place. In order to ensure that St. Olaf experiences continual progress, the 2011 Strategic Plan was created. Many improvements the plan addresses are already underway and can be seen in everyday life here on the Hill.
The purpose of forming a Strategic Plan is to focus on specific areas in which the college merits change and to form concrete goals. President David Anderson ’74 explained that the 2011 Strategic Plan focuses specifically on incremental changes that can be implemented during the next five years, with areas of change ranging from establishing new revenue streams to increasing first-to-second-year retention rate to above 95 percent.
One way the Strategic Plan’s effects are already evident this school year involves the goal of enhancing student participation in, and experience of, high-impact educational practices. The Strategic Plan highlights objectives such as offering more student research opportunities, expanding St. Olaf’s signature conversation programs and increasing the percentage of students who have internships during their St. Olaf career. These are just a few of many goals of the plan that have already made notable progress.
The Piper Center for Vocation and Career is one area with great potential for expansion. Previously known as the Center for Experiential Learning, the Piper Center has undergone dramatic changes which have increased the programs offered and has implemented new ways to prepare students for life after St. Olaf.
“We have a responsibility to help students get launched,” Anderson explained. With a new director, Branden Grimmett ’03, at the helm, the Piper Center now offers even more opportunities to network and gain experience.
The Piper Center’s programs are advertised through the Piper Center Weekly, a newsletter emailed to all students that contains pertinent information about upcoming employers and graduate schools on campus, job and internship fairs, skill-building workshops and deadlines for internships, jobs and fellowships. Upcoming events that the Piper Center has created for the month of October include Ole Biz and the New York City Externship.
In addition to the high-impact educational practices offered through the Piper Center, Anderson explained that there are many other improvements that the Strategic Plan includes. One is increasing the percentage of students who study abroad at least once during their four years here from 75 to 85 percent. Although St. Olaf currently sends more students abroad than any other liberal arts college in the nation, the Strategic Plan involves making the program even stronger.
Anderson explained, “We want to remove barriers to off-campus study, and one of the biggest barriers is financials.” In order to combat this dilemma, in the near future, the goal is for more students to be able to apply for grants and scholarships to have these experiences.
Another high-impact experience the Strategic Plan has made more accessible to Oles involves St. Olaf’s signature conversation programs. This year, there is an additional section of the Asian Conversation program, and administrators are discussing starting an Arts Conversation program as well.
An integral component to the Strategic Plan involves “increasing the racial, ethnic and geographic diversity of St. Olaf students, faculty and staff in their full range of college activities,” Anderson said.
In order to accomplish said task, Anderson explained, the plan entails increasing domestic minority student enrollment by at least one percent each year.
Furthermore, the plan entails ensuring that diversity of the student body is reflected in participation in co-curricular activities.
For example, the wall separating the Multicultural Affairs and Community Outreach office and the Office of International Studies has literally been removed. Soon the wall separating this space from the Student Activities Office will also be removed. By eliminating these literal barriers, student interaction between members of the various groups will be able to increase exponentially.
On a different note, yet another area of the strategic plan where significant progress has already been made is the residence halls. Ellingson and Hoyme having already experienced major renovations. The bathrooms will be done during the summer of 2013, at which time either Kildahl or Kittelsby will be redone.
Anderson explained that renovations to the residence halls are just beginning. “The plan is to go through and renovate all of our existing residence halls, one by one,” he said. Another aspect that is a priority is ensuring that new projects are as green-friendly as possible. “Everything that we build now, we build with an eye towards sustainability,” he said.
There might even be an unexpected change to Ellingson and Kildahl when the bathrooms are renovated. There is a possibility that the space where the current bathrooms are located would be completely torn out and turned into multi-floor study lounges. An addition to the dorms would house bathrooms. Regardless of the outcome of the decision about bathroom renovations, it’s clear the dorms will be seeing significant improvements.
In addition to renovating current dorms, the Strategic Plan involves adding 200 more beds to campus with the addition of one or two residence halls.
“The main goal with adding 200 beds is to add more variety to the kinds of living situations that we can offer on campus and to give us more flexibility in renewing the existing residence halls,” Anderson explained.
More living spaces would make it possible to close down a dorm or a large part of a dorm and renovate it. This would allow larger dorms such as Mohn Hall and Larson Hall to be renovated; students could live in the new residence hall or halls while the towers undergo change.
The process of adding 200 more beds to campus is at a standstill because the initiative is awaiting funding which will hopefully come through gifts to the school. Once funding is secured, they are prepared to move forward with the project.
Although St. Olaf is a remarkable institution, there will always be room for improvement. Anderson explained that a Strategic Plan is a way to give focus, discipline and clarity to goals for how the institution can move forward.
“There’s no limit to the amount of good things we could do,” he said.
To view the full 2011 Strategic Plan, visit http://www.stolaf.edu/president/strategicplanning/strategicplan.pdf.