Messiah’s President Discusses the College’s Strategic Plan
One of the remarkable things about Messiah is that, historically and today, its leaders and benefactors have been committed to academic excellence and spiritual vitality. There has always been the understanding that Messiah would need to change, grow, and respond appropriately to the world around us to remain relevant and vibrant. Messiah’s leaders have always understood that the College must thoughtfully nurture and deepen its roots of Christian faith—because that is the core foundation of a Messiah College education. For these reasons we have continued to establish new partnerships (while maintaining existing ones) with churches and community organizations, governmental agencies, and other institutions of higher education; to increase opportunities for students to participate in real-world experiences that enrich their classroom learning; and to enhance the College’s national and international reputation.
Challenging our students’ intellect, developing their personal character, and nurturing their Christian faith continues to be the central focus of a Messiah education and, thus, the key themes of the strategic plan speak to that mission. One key element of Messiah’s institutional plan is to foster an even stronger, more unified sense of community and purpose surrounding our core commitments. We will to do this by sponsoring campus conversations to deepen our understanding of our core theological commitments, shared foundational values, and common commitment to extend genuine Christian hospitality. The Provost and I have been meeting with employee and student groups to engage in these conversations, which will inform ongoing, mission-driven, campus-wide education—for students and employees.
One of the challenges faced by institutions of higher education in the 21st century is to maintain healthy student enrollment numbers while keeping tuition and fees affordable for students and their families. To connect with larger numbers of prospective students and potential supporters of the College who share our core commitments and values, we are diligently working to enhance our institutional visibility and profile by increasing awareness of the expertise and accomplishments of Messiah faculty, students, and alumni. We are developing a comprehensive institutional marketing plan with a strategic emphasis on student recruitment, which includes a significant church-relations component and a strategy to gain positive regional and national media exposure for the College. Several media “pitches” have been successful (and many more are underway). For example, American history professor John Fea’s editorial analyses of the 2008 presidential election received coverage in the Harrisburg Patriot-News, on Voice magazine’s blog, and in the Austin American Statesman—and he has been quoted on the same subject in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. In addition, we are integrating into the strategic plan a branding initiative—to communicate a distinctive “brand” for Messiah College—and new academic initiatives, including proposals for graduate programs in art education, music (conducting) and counseling as well as evaluation of and future plans for Messiah Online, the pilot program which offered Messiah’s first Internet-based courses this past summer.
Our nation’s uncertain economic times have only deepened Messiah’s longstanding resolve to be exemplary stewards of our financial assets and resources. We have undertaken a campus-wide effort to assess costs, are increasing efforts to efficiently maintain and improve our facilities, and have developed tangible goals to increase the non-tuition related revenue of the College. A strong financial foundation is essential to our ability to provide a high quality, holistic education to our students. As we make important decisions with the goal of increasing revenue and reducing costs, foremost in our minds is our commitment to our mission and to maintaining the highest educational standards.
Demonstrating Christ’s love in action through service, leadership, and reconciliation is at the core of how Messiah College students and alumni can bring positive change to difficult situations and complex problems. Messiah attracts educators and students from a wide variety of backgrounds who want to use their intellectual and creative gifts to make a difference. Our mission is to enable them to fulfill their unique callings.
One of the wonderful privileges of my position is the opportunity to observe the spiritual and intellectual growth of our students during their time at Messiah. It is my fervent hope that they learn to explore and understand what it means to pursue a vocation, a calling to serve God and others, by directing and nurturing their talents and interests toward constructive tasks and involvements. Their college experience should not be a process filled with fear and uncertainty, but one of challenge, expectation, and fulfillment. The college years bring many transitions and some uncertainty, but learning to navigate change with grace is essential to preparing our students to serve the church and society.