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President Ditzler unveils strategic plan, campus master plan

Barry McNamara
In Mauri Ditzler’s special report to the campus community last week, the president unveiled a pair of plans that will guide Monmouth College through its next several years.

Monmouth’s strategic plan will be in effect for the next five years or so, while the campus master plan is a look at where the college hopes to be within the next 15 years, Ditzler explained. He also discussed the Center for Science and Business, which is currently under construction. The new academic complex fits into both short-term and long-term news, as it will be ready for use in the fall of 2013 and, said Ditzler, should be around “for the next 100 years.”

Ditzler opened his remarks by discussing the strengths of national liberal arts colleges, but also noted that only 2 percent of students currently involved in higher education come from such schools.

“It becomes important that that 2 percent not get any smaller,” he said.

To that end, Ditzler and campus officials have been working hard to address two major areas – the perceived value of a Monmouth College education and the overall excellence of the academic programs. Through faculty workshops, retreats and other planning sessions, the strategic plan, titled “Fulfilling the Promise,” was crafted to serve as “a guiding North Star,” said Ditzler. “It’s only useful if we pay attention to it, not put it on the shelf and let it gather dust.”

The four guiding principles in the plan are: build an environment that promotes active learning; inspire students to lead and serve society using democratic principles; prepare students to solve complex problems; and guide students to discover meaningful careers and purpose in life.

Although the strategic plan was publicly released only last week, Ditzler said administration and faculty have been relying on it in recent months to make several key decisions. Those include the upcoming switch to a 4-4 academic calendar and the push toward more integrated learning opportunities that will only be enhanced when the Center for Science and Business is completed.

“By promoting complex solving and integrated learning, we are providing the antithesis of the trend toward specialization in higher education,” he said.

While 100 percent adherence is anticipated for the strategic plan, Ditzler said there is some “wiggle room” when it comes to the campus master plan.

“They take longer to implement,” he said of such plans. “The other day, I picked up our last campus master plan that was done in the 1990s, and the college was able to do about 80 percent of what was planned. One thing that didn’t get done, for example, was a group of small residence halls east of Peterson Hall.”

In the new plan, the Center for Science and Business will anchor the western end of an “academic corridor” on campus, with a new structure being added between McMichael Academic Hall and Wells Theater to tie the fine arts together on the corridor’s eastern end. Planners have proposed that some existing structures such as Haldeman-Thiessen Science Center, Stockdale Center and the fraternity complex eventually be razed or replaced with new buildings.

A $25 million student center is planned for the space currently occupied by H-T but, said Ditzler, “it’s not first on our list. That’s the way our ‘North Star’ works for us. There are other elements of our campus we need to address first to keep us in line with our strategic plan.”

The president added, “I’m very excited about the way the Center for Science and Business fits into the plan. It is very much line with our principles of active learning and integrated learning.”

In response to an audience question about a naming opportunity for the building, Ditzler said, “I can’t make that announcement until it’s finalized, so we’ll have to leave that as a surprise.”

He also said that he had given his word to one of the building’s strongest proponents, the late chemistry professor Richard “Doc” Kieft, that Kieft’s name would be prominently displayed in the building. Kieft taught at Monmouth for three decades and served on the college’s board of trustees.