Category Archives: IWU

IWU Alum Receives Milken Award: ‘Oscars of Teaching’

No IWU graduate has yet won an Oscar — not the movie actor kind at any rate.  But “the Oscars of teaching,” now that’s a different story.

In a moment, I’ll tell you more.

Not long ago someone just getting acquainted with IWU asked me, “Who are the most distinguished IWU alumni?”

IWU counts among its alumni corporate CEOs, college presidents, a Tuskegee airman, researchers, doctors, humanitarians, global executives, professional athletes, and legislators.  I shared some of these names with our visitor.

I can’t think of any more important and treasured IWU alumni, though, than the graduates of our teacher education programs. Let me tell you the story of Melody Coryell, one such alumna who just won a Milken Award — “the Oscar of teaching.”

Indiana Wesleyan University Transition to Teaching certificate formally paved the way to Melody Coryell’s successful career as a high school teacher, but she says the path to her job started in second grade when she was accepted into an educational program that opened a world of learning.

“That program in Kokomo, Indiana, taught me that education can change lives, and as an adult I’ve sought ways to offer the same kind of experience to students,” Coryell wrote in a biography posted on the website of Shortridge High School where she teaches English and coordinates the International Baccalaureate program.

A few months ago, Coryell was one of 40 educators nationwide who received $25,000 Milken Educator Awards, which Teacher magazine describes as “the Oscars of Teaching.”

Coryell received a Transition to Teaching certificate from IWU in 2003.  The accelerated program enables adults with a non-teaching degree to become licensed teachers.  More than 1,400 students have completed the TTT program since it was launched in 2002.

Before enrolling in the IWU program, Coryell received dual bachelor’s degrees in English and history from Ball State University. She also received a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Butler University in 2015.

“Melody Coryell developed a passion for education at a very young age. Today, she is changing the lives of teachers and students every day,” said Dr. Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards.

“At Shortridge High School, Melody opens students’ eyes and minds to the world of learning from the diverse thoughts of literary greats around the globe. Because of her instruction, students not only enjoy a rich education but also hold a deep understanding and respect for others that they will carry through life,” Foley said.

Coryell has taught at Shortridge since July 2014 after more than a decade as the International Baccalaureate coordinator and English teacher at Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis.

Foley said Coryell’s students are exposed to the diverse thinking of international authors and writers. Through her own experiences with international travel – having studied at Oxford University – she instills the importance of cultural awareness and understanding through dialogue and literature.

In addition to teaching and facilitating the International Baccalaureate program, Coryell is the mentorship coordinator through which she leads weekly professional development sessions for all faculty members at Shortridge. She also is a member of the senior school leadership team, coaches speech and debate, and organizes excursions and initiatives.

Making connections between school and parents is a top priority, Foley said. Coryell cultivates relationships through organizing conferences, meetings and other events.

My Testimony

Several people have asked if they could see my testimony at the Senate hearing.  Here is the text of my testimony.  Time was severely limited so I was not able to share all of this.  I have provided this written text to the Senate Committee.

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM/CIVIL RIGHTS TESTIMONY

January 27, 2016

Indiana Statehouse

It is a privilege to be able to contribute today to the deliberation that might lead to the creation of the laws that govern our common life.

My name is David Wright.  I serve as President of Indiana Wesleyan University, a private university owned by The Wesleyan Church, a denomination of about 800,000 adherents headquartered here in Indiana.  IWU is one of five colleges and universities owned by our Church in the United States and Canada.

IWU serves a student body of about 15,000 students at our main campus in Marion, at our 17 regional education centers in the Midwest, and in over 40 states and 26 foreign countries.  We have over 80,000 alumni and 1100 full-time employees.  We serve a student body that is highly diverse in race, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, faith, nationality, and political persuasion.

IWU is a Christ-centered university that pursues the best traditions of academic inquiry and teaching while remaining grounded in the rich intellectual and spiritual tradition of the historic Christian faith.  For 95 years our university has served the public good of our state and region by graduating exceptional citizens who serve as some of our region’s best teachers, nurses, counselors, business people, pastors, and scientists.

We do not exist for the purpose of proselytizing people to our denomination though we are happy when our students find their faith strengthened and made more meaningful in their lives as a result of studying with us.  Instead we exist to serve the public good.

Here is our mission:  Indiana Wesleyan University is a Christ-centered academic community committed to changing the world by developing students in character, scholarship, and leadership.

So I come today to offer you reflections on the current intersection of civil rights, public and private moral values, and religious freedom from the perspective of a deeply religious, conservative, yet irenic and hospitable university community.

First, I wish to call our legislators to safeguard the right of Indiana’s many religious institutions and social service providers to continue serving the public good while maintaining the deeply held religious convictions that give us our unique identities and out of which we serve the public good of our state and country.

We believe that the quality of life and the economic competitiveness of our state are greatly enriched through the many services provided by Indiana’s rich network of faith-based organizations – including hospitals, child service providers, community development organizations, and universities.  The right of these organizations to maintain their unique identities has long been recognized through religious protections afforded by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and Executive Order 13279, which amends Section 204 of Executive Order 11246.  We believe that any law passed by our state legislature must align Indiana’s religious protections with those long established constitutional protections also upheld in federal law.

Second, I wish to commend those of you who, under exceedingly difficult and contentious circumstances, are seeking ways to wisely balance the civil rights of all of Indiana’s citizens, while also safeguarding the religious freedoms we enjoy as Americans.

We are in the midst of a time when our social fabric is stretched close to the breaking point over these intensely contested questions of sexual orientation and gender identity. As a university president I am afforded an unusual perspective as I listen to the concerns of our students, faculty, trustees, donors, and friends.

I am struck with how often fear and anger are the subtexts of the conversations.  Fear and anger are present on all sides of these debates.  Unfortunately, when we are fearful and angry we easily forget our better selves.  Our debates become centered on the question: How can I be sure to win?  We use the metaphor of warfare to describe our interchanges with our fellow citizens.

If we are intent on following the metaphor of warfare to its conclusion, this means we will be locked in combat until one side dominates or destroys the other by force.

But I ask you, how can we embrace a trajectory of warfare that leads us to seek the destruction of our enemies when our enemies are our neighbors?

Should we not at least entertain the question: How might neighbors who hold strong and divergent convictions create a framework in which to live together peacefully?

With that in mind, please allow me to be transparent about both the convictions and the desires of our community.

We do not believe that gender and sexuality are self-defined human constructs.  Instead, we believe that human beings are created in the image of God.  God took great delight in creating human beings as men and women.  We may choose different ways to live with our gender and sexuality, but we are not and never will be anything other than women and men intended by God to live in fruitful and enjoyable partnership with each other.  We believe that we will find our greatest personal satisfaction, and social well-being, when we accept and live according to our God-given identities and relationships.  It is our sincerely held belief, a belief that we have held generation after generation after generation that encouraging one another to view our gender and sexuality as fluid and self-defined constructs will ultimately lead us to experience confusion, isolation, and unhappiness.  We cannot be in favor of any legislation that would require us to capitulate, abandon, or be silent about these things we hold to be true.

In America, it is our right to hold these convictions, to speak about them, and to participate in public life while holding such sincerely held beliefs.  Indeed, we believe that any society that takes away its citizens’ right to the religious freedom that informs these convictions ultimately will remove all other rights as well.

By the same token, our religious convictions also call upon us to honor the dignity and worth of our fellow citizens who, for their own good reasons, disagree with and choose to live in ways contrary to our convictions.  In fact, in this intensely conflicted debate about sexual orientation and gender identity, most of us who hold the religious convictions I have described know, care for, serve, and associate with persons who are either uncertain about their sexual orientation or have come to the settled conviction that their personal happiness lies in the pursuit of a life different from the one we would choose.

What do we want for these friends and neighbors of ours?  We are not at war with them.  We are in conflict with their understanding of the pathway to personal and social well-being.  But we do not view them as enemies to be ridiculed, bullied, punished, or persecuted. They are the neighbors whom Jesus has called us to love as we love ourselves.

They are men and women just like us who are doing their best to find their pathway to well-being and happiness.   Our love for them means we cannot affirm a pathway that we sincerely believe is mistaken, but neither do we want them to be denied the basic human rights that are their due as fellow citizens.

We believe all of us who live together as law-abiding citizens of this state must enjoy the basic protections of the law.  To deny one person the protections of law is ultimately to lay the groundwork for denying all persons the protection of law.

In summary, then, we believe that our laws must honor the fundamental rights of freedom of religion, of conscience, and of peaceful coexistence granted us in the constitutions of our state and our nation.  If we abandon or curtail the right to sincerely held religious convictions, peaceably pursued among fellow citizens, we will in time deny all other rights as well.

We commend you for attempting to find wise ways to protect the legal interests of all Hoosiers.  Above all, we call upon you, in the midst of this intense moment of social conflict, to safeguard the right of Indiana’s many people of faith, and of Indiana’s many excellent religious institutions and social service providers, to continue serving the public good while maintaining their deeply and sincerely held religious convictions.

Thank you.

Religious Freedom Testimony

As Christians, we live in a fallen world and deciding how best to navigate that reality and live out our convictions, is one of our greatest challenges.  That task is made harder by an administrative state that continues to push into every dimension of our lives.

Yesterday I took part in testimony at the Indiana Senate regarding a bill that would seek to safeguard the religious freedom of institutions like ours.  Let me explain why I testified.

IWU, like all religious institutions in our state, faces a constantly increasing gauntlet of regulations and administrative actions from local governments, from the state, and from the federal government.  The bill discussed yesterday in the Indiana Senate is an early version and may change (hopefully it will be amended to have even greater protections for religious freedom). The reason it may be helpful is that it seeks to provide strong and reasonable religious freedom protections for the Christian schools, social service agencies, adoption agencies, churches, and universities of our state.

As it stands, the bill gives religious organizations assurances about how to proceed in a world where the courts and private litigation have created considerable risk.  In many instances, when a state legislates and includes exemptions and a court later imposes a new civil right, the state that legislated has more protections than its sister states who waited–precisely because it included protections for religion in its positive law.

It is not inconceivable that the courts will force a sexual orientation nondiscrimination regime on our state.  But the very real possibility that they might means that there is prudential value in setting the terms of that legislation.

Religious exemptions in state laws also give faith communities protections that municipalities have not given.  Nearly 40% of Hoosiers live under a checkerboard of local ordinances that already give civil rights protections to members of the LGBT community without granting religious freedom protections.  The bill put forward in the Senate would bring those ordinances into line with any state protections, including religious freedom protections.

My understanding from the hearing is that this measure would give unprecedented protection to small businesses open to the public to refuse to do wedding services when doing so violates a religious conviction.  No other state has done that in its public accommodations law.   This law would have protected our IWU alumna who was sued because her conscience would not let her provide photography for a gay union ceremony.  Where conflicts do arise the bill would provide protections against frivolous or unfounded accusations of discrimination.

The bill would align Indiana law with federal law by allowing religious organizations to contract with the state without having to abandon or deny their sincerely held religious convictions.  This is a crucial provision for any religious institution that contracts with the state, including private Christian schools whose students benefit from school vouchers.

As president of a Christian university owned by a church that holds very traditional views on sexuality and marriage I find that we are increasingly under pressure from legal, regulatory, and administrative actions that threaten our identity and  our values.

We serve a diverse student body with respect and good will.  We serve all of our students with the love Christ as we provide a high quality university education. There does not appear to be any perfect way to create the legal space we need to remain true to the values and convictions that shape our identity while respecting those who disagree with us.  Nevertheless, I believe it is imperative for us to do whatever we can today to provide safeguards for the religious freedoms that we have enjoyed for generations.

Student Support Services: Your Federal tax dollars put to good use

The next time you’re looking for a reason to feel good about paying your Federal income taxes, check out a program called Student Support Services (SSS) that is a vital part of campus life at Indiana Wesleyan University.

SSS spends your Federal tax dollars on real people with real needs, all of which produce real results that help change lives.

The program provides a multitude of services to college students who have educational or financial challenges. Specifically, SSS students must be a first-generation college student, come from a low-income family, or have a documented disability. Almost half of the 160 IWU students served by SSS meet more than one of those criteria.

IWU, which has provided SSS services for 35 years, is one of just three private colleges in Indiana to participate in the program. IWU recently received a $1.398 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to continue the program for another five years.

Continued funding is based on previous results, and, by any measure, IWU’s performance over the past five years has been outstanding. Here are the standards for SSS students at IWU:

  • Required persistence rate:  70 percent. IWU’s rate: 89.37 percent. (The rate is based on the numbers of students who return to campus each year.)
  • Required good academic standing: 80 percent. IWU’s rate: 99.37 percent. (Based on grade-point averages.)
  • Required graduation rate: 50 percent. IWU’s rate: 55.55 percent. (Based on students who initially enrolled at IWU in 2009.)

IWU - SSS

“Some people may not consider a 55 percent graduation rate to be a significant achievement” says Karen Newhard, the SSS program director. “However, many of our students have financial and educational challenges that place them at a higher risk for leaving college before graduating. We are proud of how our students face these challenges and persevere.”

Heather Allen, assistant director of the program, notes that a portion of their students are among the highest-risk students at IWU for educational or financial reasons.

“In addition to the three main criteria for being admitted to the SSS program, our students also have to demonstrate a need for support, which is measured in a variety of ways such as low admission test scores, need for support to raise a grade in a required course for their major, or lack of educational or career goals,” Allen says. “We have several pre-declared students in our program who may otherwise be academically prepared.”

Some of the services offered to SSS students include one-on-one tutoring, study skills training, time management training, conflict resolution, personal encouragement, academic major exploration, disability support and interpersonal skills training. Students also are required to take an online course in personal finance to learn tools to manage money and school debt effectively.

“Many of the students we serve don’t know how to get their questions answered or don’t know what questions to ask,” Allen says. “One of our jobs is to help them navigate college.”

Newhard, Allen and other staff members at IWU’s Center for Student Success work diligently each day to be good stewards of your Federal income tax dollars. The results they are producing in the lives of at-risk students indicate they are worthy of your trust.

Local students benefit from Community Foundation and IWU scholarship support

We have the will to make Marion and Grant County better places to live and work.  It isn’t easy to know where to start.

I’ve become convinced there’s no better place to start than by investing in our children and young people.  For this reason I am excited about a new collaboration between The Community Foundation and Indiana Wesleyan University.

Grant County does a great job graduating our young people from high school.  As reported by the Indiana Youth Institute Kids Count, Grant County has an above state average graduation rate of 91.7 percent.

Now we need to make sure they can go to college.  If we can keep them close to home through college, chances are they will stay and invest their skills close to home when they graduate.

Providing Grant County students an affordable, local education for the purpose of cultivating and maintaining a healthy community is a goal both the Community Foundation and IWU share.  Together we’ve identified scholarships that will combine to provide local students the opportunity to receive a quality college education at a lower cost.

IWU - Community Foundation

The Community Foundation is committed to connecting people, resources and causes to promote a better Grant County. One of the ways the Community Foundation does this is by providing Grant County students with more than 130 donor-funded scholarships totaling over $500,000 every year.

“Our hope is that by students attending a local university like IWU, they will get a local job and continue to better Grant County,” said Cassie Fleming, grants manager at the Community Foundation. “It really gives students an opportunity to succeed and pushes them to pursue higher education.”

In addition to the Community Foundation’s opportunities, IWU provides a variety of scholarships dedicated to local students. The Triangle Scholarship provides each recipient between $2,000 and $4,500 annually, and the Emerging Leaders Consortium ensures each recipient’s tuition is fully paid. Grant Count students and their parents can also benefit from IWU Near You, a pre-college program that helps participants navigate the college search environment successfully.

I am glad to partner with the good folks at the Community Foundation.  I’m even more excited to pool our resources to invest in Grant County young people.

The Community Foundation scholarship application deadline is Jan. 31, 2016. Apply here. Application deadlines for IWU scholarships vary. Call 765-677-6507 to speak with an IWU Admissions counselor for more information.

Dr. Ravi Zacharias chosen as IWU World Changer

Indiana Wesleyan University has chosen author and Christian apologist Dr. Ravi Zacharias as the 2016 inductee into the IWU Society of World Changers.

Zacharias, an Indian-born American citizen, is a renowned evangelical speaker and author. For four decades, he has spoken at scores of universities and international prayer gatherings. His venues have ranged from the White House to the Lenin Military Academy in Moscow, and he is an advisor to key leaders in American government. Zacharias has appeared on CNN, Fox and other international broadcasts. He is the author of numerous Christian books including the Gold Medallion winner “Can Man Live Without God,” and his weekly radio program, “Let My People Think,” airs on nearly 2,200 outlets worldwide.

Zacharias is also the founder and president of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM). Passionate about theology and evangelism, Zacharias founded the Atlanta-based organization with the mission to reach and challenge those who shape the ideas of culture with the credibility of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Dr. Ravi Zacharias is one of the world’s most respected voices for Christianity”, said IWU President Dr. David Wright. “We are thrilled to honor Dr. Zacharias, whose name adds great distinction to the Society of World Changers.”

Zacharias’ induction will take place at the 13th annual Society of World Changers Convocation on March 30, 2016 at 10 a.m. in the Chapel Auditorium.

IWU established the Society of World Changers in 2003 to recognize role models who have exemplified the concept of being a world changer and whose lives can serve as an inspiration to future generations. Previous inductees include television producer and author Robert Briner, neurosurgeon Dr. Benjamin Carson, author Frank Peretti, Hobby Lobby CEO David Green, founder of Joni and Friends Joni Eareckson Tada, gospel musicians Bill and Gloria Gaither, and former U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole. The most recent inductee is John Maxwell, New York Times bestselling author, successful businessman and speaker.

Students at IWU Say Thank You

Happy Thanksgiving! As we approach this Thanksgiving season, my heart is filled with gratitude for your financial support of Indiana Wesleyan University. It is making an IWU education possible for today’s students, students who will become tomorrow’s world-changing alumni. Thank you!

But I am not the only one who is grateful. Our students are, too! Many recently took an opportunity to express their gratitude, which we captured in the following video:

I thank God for our students. They each bring unique gifts to IWU. But one common gift I see is their recognition that people like you make a difference in helping them become the man or woman God wants them to be.

Washington Monthly magazine recently published an article entitled, “A Bitter Pell,” which recognized IWU for having the third-largest increase of Pell Grant-eligible students in the nation. The financial need of our students is real. Your giving enables us to serve them with a quality, Christ-centered education.

Thank you again! May you have many blessings to count this Thanksgiving season. I sure do!

National Science Foundation Scholarships Will Directly Impact Grant County Area

When I took office as President of Indiana Wesleyan University in July of 2014, one of the first goals I announced was to expand the footprint of the University in the Marion and Grant County community.

My commitment received a major boost earlier this year when we learned that IWU had received a $623,337 grant from the prestigious National Science Foundation to provide scholarships for students interested in the STEM disciplines: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The grant will be used to provide four-year scholarships to 18 academically talented but financially needy students to pursue undergraduate degrees in biology, chemistry and physics. While the scholarships are open to all IWU students, special effort will be made to recruit minorities, women and under-represented groups in the greater Grant County area.

In coming months, IWU representatives will be working with science teachers and guidance counselors at area high schools to begin identifying and recruiting candidates for the scholarships.

The first nine scholarship recipients will begin their studies at IWU in September of 2016. Five of the students will receive $9,000 annually, and four will receive $6,000 annually. A second group of nine students will start classes in September of 2017 with the same financial assistance.

IWU - Natural Sciences

IWU also will offer a Science Spotlight Day on November 20 to give prospective students an overview of the IWU Division of Natural Sciences. The program will include a special information session geared toward potential candidates for the National Science Foundation scholarships.

Click here to register for the Science Spotlight Day. The registration period ends November 19.

This is not the first National Science Foundation grant that IWU has received, but it is by far the largest. Almost as important as the money is the fact that IWU has joined the ranks of some of America’s top research universities.

The simple title of the grant proposal, “Scholarships for Boosting the Scientific Workforce in Rural Central Indiana,” doesn’t quite capture the excitement of what it means for IWU and the greater Grant County area.

Here’s how the owner of a high-tech business, located just a few blocks from the IWU campus, reacted to the announcement of the grant: “This means that someday I may be able to hire the kind of people I need just down the street and keep more Grant County students living and working in Grant County.”

In coming months and years, I look forward to seeking additional ways to expand IWU’s involvement in our local community.

Third Year Questions: Focus for Year Three

For the past two years we’ve focused on leadership structure, finances, and enrollment.  What will be our focus for year three and beyond?

Year three is all about giving concrete definition and action to our shared vision of greatness as a Christian university.

After two years of working on “nuts and bolts,” I’m energized by the challenge of making Indiana Wesleyan University a truly great Christian university.  When I say this, I don’t mean to imply that IWU isn’t already a great university.  But I’m intrigued with the prospect of being faithful to the opportunities of this moment in our history.

Here are five areas of focus that capture my imagination and energize my work.
IWU - Third Year Questions

CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY

A truly great Christian university will be a faithful, gracious, engaged Christian academic community.  A university is, at heart, a community of scholars.  The uniqueness of our university lies in the kind of community we create with each other.  In a day when so many would like us to be “issue-oriented” I’m convinced a great Christian university will be Christ-centered.  The issues we engage, and the way we do it, must be defined by the One who gives us our identity.  Nothing less will see us through these turbulent times that threaten the core of our academic community.  In a day when the purpose of the academic enterprise is so often pared down to the barest notion of “learning for earning,” we must daily reaffirm our belief that the rich pursuit of learning ultimately finds it meaning and purpose in the imago dei.  In a day when the scholarly pursuit is fragmented and cynical, we must reaffirm our conviction that any pursuit of truth that is not founded on the enduring principles of God’s Word will ultimately come to emptiness.

TRANSFORMATIONAL SCHOLARSHIP AND LEARNING

A truly great Christian university cultivates a pervasive culture of transformational learning, scholarship, and holistic personal development.  At the heart of the university is the sacred task of the discovery and application of knowledge, conducted by and presided over by our faculty.  Personally, I am inspired when I listen to Phoenix-Park Kim play a carefully researched, coherently assembled, and brilliantly performed recital, knowing that her ability to do this enriches our understanding of the arts, and provides transformational learning opportunities for her students.  This is but one example.  I could give examples from the School of Nursing, School of Educational Leadership, School of Physical and Applied Sciences, the School of Health Sciences.  These are not, or at least should not be, sterile bureaucratic structures.  Instead they are living communities in which deeply committed, brilliant faculty and students shape and are shaped by the disciplined pursuit of learning.  Our university will never be greater than the excellence we enable in these pursuits.

KINGDOM DIVERSITY

A truly great Christian university cultivates and sustains a community culture that values, challenges and supports all of its members.  The work of becoming a community that reflects and promotes the diversity of God’s Kingdom is personally rewarding and enriching.  More importantly, a truly great Christian university will not be diverse as a matter of duty, or simply as a happenstance of changing demographics.  Instead, a great Christian university will recognize that diversity of experience, thought, and culture are the sin qua non of transformational learning.

GLOBAL INFLUENCE

A truly great Christian university is a community of engaged scholars and alumni learning and serving in the world’s most strategic places.  At a conference I attended in Washington DC last week, one of the speakers observed that our world is both more networked and more fragmented than ever before.  Today, I believe that no one can claim to be well educated who does not have a personal understanding of how their national life, culture, art, technology, financial systems, political structures, and religion impact and are impacted by the rest of the world.  A truly great Christian university will be a global Christian learning community.

AFFORDABILITY AND ACCESSIBILITY

A truly great Christian university will be accessible and affordable to the widest range of scholars and students who seek to work and learn in a Christ-centered academic community.  By virtue of our nature as a Christian community we cannot price ourselves out of reach of the people God calls.

The Roman philosopher Seneca once observed, “To the person who does not know where he wants to go there is no favorable wind.”

These are often confusing and turbulent times.  It seems our lives are filled with news of contrary winds, difficult terrain, threatening conditions, evil conspiracies.

Sometimes I wonder if we find no favorable winds because we have no clear conviction of where we are headed.

Even contrary winds can blow us to some desired destination.  It all depends on the set of our sails.

Being President does not give me the right to solely determine where IWU should go.  But it does give me the responsibility to ask about the dreams and aspirations of our community, to listen for the Holy Spirit’s still small voice, and then to set our sails accordingly.

 

Third Year Questions: The Stuff Presidents Watch

You are now beginning your third year as President of IWU.  How would you characterize the first two years of your presidency and what would you say will be your focus in this tN1308C 057hird year?

Well, after two years Helen and I can now find our way around the President’s House without GPS, so there’s that.

The members of the Executive Council have stopped bringing their business cards to meetings to remind me of their names and position titles.

Seriously, here are seven top priorities I have pursued during my first two years as President – Leadership Structure, Enrollment, Financial Health, Kingdom Diversity, Religious Freedom Issues, Community Relationships, and Global Christian Learning Community.

Today, I’ll talk about three things for which every president has to be responsible. If we get these wrong, no matter what else we do, the institution can’t flourish. They only get exciting when things go wrong.

Next I’ll talk about diversity, religious freedom, and community relationships.  Then I’ll touch on my focus for the next couple of years.

LEADERSHIP STRUCTURE

I’ve been in leadership positions at IWU since 1994. I have had a ringside seat for our exceptional growth in size and complexity.  In recent years I became convinced that our leadership structure had not evolved along with our institution.  There are markedly different knowledge and experience bases needed to effectively lead the different parts of our university.  But leadership was concentrated in a small group of senior administrators who, no matter how brilliant they may be, just didn’t reach far enough out into the university.

I wanted to create a leadership structure that would push decision-making farther out into the university.  In looking for models to follow, I settled on a modified multi-campus university structure in which there is a system head (me), “chancellors” (our CEOs) and cabinets for each major administrative unit.  We now have what might be considered three “campuses” – Residential Education, Non-Residential Education, and Wesley Seminary.  Eventually we may find it advantageous to add a fourth – Global Education.  These last two years we have focused on installing, understanding, and implementing this leadership structure.

ENROLLMENT

Since about 2011 our enrollment patterns had become alarming.  Residential enrollment was shrinking.  Non-Residential enrollment growth was unpredictable and much more difficult to achieve.  Enrollment matters to us for two primary reasons.  First, our mission is to make the world a better place by developing students.  Without students, our mission falters.  Second, very pragmatically, our operations are funded almost exclusively through the tuition our students pay us.  Simply put, without students we go out of business.  I think this is entirely appropriate.  We don’t exist to take care of a bunch of nice buildings in Marion and across the Midwest.  Personally, I aspire for us to be more of a research university, but even so, we wouldn’t exist just for the creation and application of knowledge.  We exist for students.

We have spent these last two years pouring great energy and thought into turning around our enrollment trajectories.  The College of Arts and Sciences staff, faculty, and administrators have done stellar work in increasing retention and working together to recruit a larger incoming class.  Wesley Seminary just hit the 500 mark in enrollment, and is now a top-20 seminary in the nation.  Non-Residential Education had a very healthy year last fiscal year, but has faced some new challenges in the last few months.  I have every confidence that they will work through those challenges.  So, while enrollment will always be an interesting challenge, after two years of hard work I am beginning to gain some comfort that we have turned the corner on this challenge.

FINANCIAL HEALTH

Two things happened in 2008 that amounted to a perfect storm for our financial health.  First, we admitted the largest residential class in our history that fall – 100 more than any previous class.  Those who were here in the 2000s will remember just how lean we were.  In the mid-2000s we added more staff to ease the burden.  We ramped up even more after that huge class in 2008.  Second, the financial crisis of 2008 hit us.  Enrollment in both Residential and Non-Residential units started to decline and Residential financial aid costs started to climb.  We could not make up for stagnant revenue by increasing our tuition.  People were already deeply concerned about the cost of college attendance.  Meanwhile our bills were climbing.  Left unchecked, this pattern (stagnant or decreasing revenue vs. increasing costs) would soon become perilous.

For the past two years we have worked very hard to reverse this pattern.  No president likes to take things away.  It is a lot more fun to add benefits, raise salaries, and add personnel.  But for the last two years, I knew that we had to do the hard work that would lead to longer term financial health.  I am deeply grateful for the cooperation of our university community for helping us in this work.  We are now on our way to a much healthier future.

Whew!  Congratulations if you’ve stuck with me through those three.  Next, I’ll write about our diversity work, religious freedom issues, and our community relationships.