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Strategic plan update February 2015

Linfield College continues to make strides forward on its 2012-18 Strategic Plan. Recent activities include the renovation of two buildings to create more effective spaces to better serve students, faculty and the community; an increase in the freshmen to sophomore retention as a result of a focused effort to improve on the prior year results; the restructuring of the Division of Continuing Education; and continued planning for new science programming and facilities that will foster interdisciplinary collaboration and meet the needs of all students.

Renovation projects completed in Walker, Melrose

Two major renovation projects were completed last fall to create more effective spaces in which to serve students, faculty and the community.

Melrose Hall has been reorganized and remodeled to create Student Central, bringing together a variety of offices in one location to serve students, faculty and the community more efficiently and effectively.  The new space, on the lower level, provides a one-stop location that includes financial aid, registrar, student accounts, career development, academic advising and learning support services.

The first floor of Walker Hall has been renovated to better align political science, international studies and the international programs office. The Anthropology Museum exhibits will now be featured in display cases throughout the ground floor atrium area in Walker.

With the Melrose renovation, the Office of Institutional Advancement moved to the top floor of the building and the Department of Religious Studies was re-located to Pioneer Hall.

Retention hits all-time record

Thanks to the efforts of faculty, administration and staff, retention reached an all-time high this year, with 88.1 percent of last year’s freshmen returning.

For two years prior to the fall of 2013, retention had been on the rise, so it came as a surprise when Linfield’s rate dropped significantly last year. As a result, the college made a conscious and comprehensive effort to explore why students did not return and what could be done to keep students enrolled and successful.

Students who did not return were surveyed to gain insight as to why they left and to learn what steps could have been taken to better meet their needs.  Faculty were given more and better detailed information on how they can impact retention. In addition, staff and administrators were called upon to consider how they could focus on students in ways that would enhance the student experience. The progress of students was monitored and those at risk of not continuing were identified and offered assistance with academic planning and other enrollment-related needs.

A concerted effort was made to establish better communication with students last summer. Because we are keenly aware that our students’ financial circumstances are a factor in whether they can stay, financial aid awards to continuing students were issued to many of the continuing students earlier than in prior years. In addition, Linfield had the lowest percentage increase in tuition since 2004 (3.06 percent) and the smallest dollar amount increase since 2005.

Expand science programs, facilities

Linfield has long been committed to excellence in sciences. However, science and science education have changed; in order to responsibly educate our students, it is crucial that they understand the interdisciplinary role of science in our complex world.

Initial planning for new science facilities began in 2005 with a Science Feasibility Report. Several faculty attended a Project Kaleidoscope workshop in 2007, and they began to explore how to integrate better teaching and research, and how to create more interdisciplinary opportunities among the sciences. In January 2012, the mathematics department was relocated from Graf Hall to updated facilities in Taylor Hall. In turn, their space in Graf was reconfigured to accommodate improved spaces for the physics department and improved spaces for the biology department.

A vigorous planning process was launched in 2013 to determine the best steps for updating the 2005 report and to explore how Linfield can develop science facilities that will foster interdisciplinary collaboration to meet the needs of all students. In May 2014, Dr. Jeanne Narum, a national expert on science education and science facilities, came to Linfield to lead a workshop on science programming. Building upon that effort, several working groups made up of faculty, staff and students, convened over the summer to explore directions and identify possible options for enhancing and expanding the sciences. The culmination of that work was a second visit by Dr. Jeanne Narum and a team of experts to help devise a plan for construction and renovation of science facilities at Linfield. Two full days of meetings resulted in significant conclusions. In addition to improving opportunities for science majors, it is important to ensure that all Linfield graduates have educational experiences to enhance their scientific literacy. A new science facility will strengthen education for all students, not just science students. And because science truly is interdisciplinary, it is critical to create facilities that enrich multidisciplinary study and research. The new and renovated facilities must be adaptable for today’s – and tomorrow’s – faculty and students.

Following the approval by the Board of Trustees last year, an architect has been engaged and planning for the new facilities is moving forward.

Revitalize the Division of Continuing Education

Significant strides have been made in the reorganization and revitalization of the Division of Continuing Education, leading to more integration with the rest of the college. After a national search, Laura Brener was hired as the new director of online and continuing education. Many of the DCE functions are now integrated into the existing administrative structures of the college, including the registrar’s office, academic advising, admission, student accounts and information technology. Tighter relationships are being developed between academic departments and the courses offered by DCE.

Ellen Brittan has been named director of wine education at Linfield. She will work with DCE to develop a wine education program that could include a variety of courses offered online or during the summer. The program will be beneficial to the Oregon wine industry and could encompass a variety of programs related to the business and marketing aspects of wine.

The DCE program attracts a unique student, an adult learner who is often working full-time and is seeking the flexibility that online education provides. Some are seeking to complete a bachelor’s degree and others to broaden their knowledge of a specific subject area.  

Work is under way to increase enrollments in DCE, which provides critical revenue to the college. In addition to courses and majors in traditional fields, plans include developing innovative certificates, programs and experiences, including new opportunities for providing educational workshops, and seminars or travel opportunities for individuals who are interested in learning more about wine and the wine industry.