By Benjamin Pontz, Editor-in-Chief
Bob Iuliano gave the clearest public indication yet of his early priorities as President of Gettysburg College at Thursday afternoon’s faculty meeting, outlining seven areas in which he hopes to make strides ahead of a more formal strategic planning process that he plans to begin next fall.
1) Continue to get to know the Gettysburg College community
Since the beginning of the fall semester, Iuliano has been on a tour in which he will meet with each department and program on campus, and he has been working to meet with students, administrators, and support staff as well.
“I am doing that to make sure that I have a very clear view of the place before I begin to have my own thoughts about priorities and the like,” he said.
Iuliano added that he anticipates a strategic planning process beginning in the fall of next year. The college’s current strategic plan, titled “The Unfinished Work,” lasts through 2021.
2) Lead three high-profile searches to successful completion
Iuliano is currently chairing or co-chairing searches to fill two vacancies on the President’s Council and one in the Academic Division: the Vice President of Development, Alumni & Parent Relations (DAPR), the Vice President of Enrollment and Educational Services (EES), and the Executive Director of the Eisenhower Institute (EI).
The search for Vice President of DAPR is the “furthest along,” Iuliano said, and sources familiar with the matter said that candidates for the position have visited campus within the last couple of weeks.
Of the search for a Vice President of EES to succeed the retiring Barbara Fritze, Iuliano said, “In an increasingly competitive market, finding the right person who is going to help us to break through the noise and remind students why this is such an exciting place to study is awfully important.”
3) Develop strategies to compete in highly competitive higher education landscape
Consistent with trends on the demographics of college-going students that the faculty have discussed at previous meetings, which suggest that, particularly in the Northeast, fewer students will be going to college over the next decade, Iuliano said that the college needs to comprehensively prepare to compete in that challenging marketplace on the horizon.
The faculty will spend time in future meetings on the matter later in the academic year so that “the faculty have a full and proper understanding and to work as partners as we move forward,” Iuliano said.
Iuliano also announced that he has convened a working group “to help us assess how we are reflecting this distinctiveness in our curricular, co-curricular, and extracurricular activities” with respect to the college’s place in American history and proximity to urban centers, most notably Washington D.C. Director of the Civil War Institute and Fluhrer Professor of History Peter Carmichael and Executive Director of Communications and Marketing Jamie Yates are co-chairing the group, which also includes:
- Professor of History Michael Birkner
- Professor of Political Science Caroline Hartzell
- Professor of Environmental Studies Sarah Principato
- Associate Professor and Interim Chair of Africana Studies Hakim Williams
- Associate Professor of Music Avner Dorman
- Associate Professor and Chair of Chemistry Tim Funk
- Associate Provost & Dean of Public Policy Programs Robert Bohrer
- Assistant Professor of Management Marta Maras
“It is work that I very much hope will help differentiate us in the increasingly noisy environment in which prospective students are trying to figure out where they might like to study,” Iuliano said. “This is obviously really important work.”
4) Develop new streams of revenue
Iuliano said that it is “clear to me” and “not really arguable” that the college needs to develop sources of revenue and become less dependent on tuition to remain on strong financial footing. He floated the idea of professional certificate programs including in information technology as possibilities, though he stressed that he did so in the spirit of having “more ideas on the table” and that nothing has been decided. The President’s Council (which consists of each of the college’s vice presidents) is currently considering the matter, and Iuliano pledged to consult the faculty before making any decisions.
“Let me be clear. We are simply exploring this at this point, trying to understand basic questions of feasibility,” he said, adding that all new sources of revenue must have the values and the mission of the college “squarely in mind.”
“We are thinking about this expansively,” he added.
5) Improve first-year retention and six-year graduation rates
Nine percent of students do not complete more than one year of study at Gettysburg College, and 16 percent do not graduate within six years. Both numbers, Iuliano said, are too high and lag behind leading liberal arts colleges.
In the spring of 2017, Vice President of College Life and Dean of Students Julie Ramsey, Provost Christopher Zappe, and Fritze charged the Student Success Task Force to issue a report on the matter, and they did so in the spring of 2018, urging greater “systematic engagement” by the faculty and the adoption of a technology platform to provide “a coordinated, campus-wide approach to student success.”
Iuliano said in the meeting he has charged Ramsey, in conjunction with that task force, to “study this in a systematic way and come forward with recommendations for how we can be better.”
6) Improve the intercultural competency of Gettysburg students
Earlier in the week, Iuliano sent a message to the campus community after he became aware of incidents in which racial slurs have been used against Gettysburg College students.
“This is our College, and we alone are responsible for the culture we create,” his email said.
At the faculty meeting, he built on that thought and said the incidents represented “a call to us as educators” to reinforce the values to which the college aspires.
Later in the meeting, at Iuliano’s request, Zappe asked faculty members to take time to reinforce those institutional values in classroom conversations.
“We have a collective responsibility and an obligation to create and sustain a truly inclusive environment where each and every person can do their best work and be their best selves,” he said, adding that students “need to hear this from us.”
7) Facilitate civil dialogue ahead of the 2020 election
Iuliano announced that he has asked the Eisenhower Institute to facilitate a series of conversations about civil dialogue ahead of the November 2020 election. The first of these events will be a workshop by the organization Better Angels next weekend.
“This is the first step in what I hope will be a conversation that will help our students figure out how to talk constructively about hard issues,” he said.
News and Notes
- Iuliano also announced that four members of the faculty have been awarded tenure:
- Ricardo Conceicao (Mathematics)
- Sahana Mukherjee (Psychology)
- James Puckett (Physics)
- Karim Samji (History)
- Zappe led the faculty in a moment of silence to honor the memory of Associate Professor of Music Yeon-Su Kim, who died last weekend.
- Associate Professor of Physics Jacquelynne Milingo presented a pair of motions on behalf of the Faculty Grievance Committee that sought to amend the Faculty Handbook to remove from the expectations for department chairpersons a clause that charged them to “set the example for personal professional behavior.” The motion’s rationale stated that the revision was “aimed at removing inconsistencies in the FH [Faculty Handbook] with respect to statements of behavior expectations,” and Milingo added that, if the faculty handbook is to contain behavioral expectations, they should apply to all faculty, not just chairs.
The second motion sought to add a clause to the expectations for all faculty promoting collegiality. The latter motion, in particular, drew concern from faculty members who expressed concern that perceived lack of collegiality might prevent someone from receiving tenure, that the motion’s language was overly prescriptive, and with various aspects of the motion’s wording.
The faculty did not vote on either motion after it became clear that unanimous consent would not be obtained and that, therefore, it would need to return at another meeting regardless.
- Executive Director of Health and Counseling Services Kathy Bradley presented to the faculty on identifying advance warning signs of school violence, targeted shootings, suicide, and domestic violence. She noted that more than 50 suicide attempts occurred among Gettysburg College students last year, a figure she admitted she had to double check before the meeting because she thought it seemed too high but was, in fact, consistent with the college’s data.
“I just encourage you all to watch and to be mindful,” she said.
- The faculty’s next meeting is on Thursday, Nov. 21 at 4:00 p.m.