Thursday, Oct. 11, members of the College of William and Mary community came together to describe and discuss their plans and hopes for the College’s future. The conversation was made up of faculty, staff, administration, alumni and students all interested in how the College will continue to prosper in the years to come. The discussion was designed to highlight individual ideas among the community’s and facilitate group agreements on what the College should work toward to improve its role for its students and the world.
The event was led by linguistics and Africana studies professor Iyabo Osiapem and Executive Director of the Alan B. Miller Entrepreneurship Center and leader of the Entrepreneurship Initiative at the Mason School of Business Graham Henshaw.
Osiapem and Henshaw began the discussion alongside College President Katherine Rowe with an online survey available to audience members. The survey asked attendees what they would like to see in the College’s future.
“I was hoping very much for a mixed conversation,” Rowe said. “Mixed in the sense that it was a conversation that gathered many different roles and kinds [of] expertise.”
The survey questions focused on ideas of if and how the College can increase its diversity, what should be prioritized for the College’s future and where it should be headed. Attendees then chose a table with an assigned discussion question similar to those featured in the survey.
The resulting conversation focused on what the College can do to create a more dynamic and inclusive environment as it expands its role for the students. Ideas such as creating campus-wide diversity and teaching students career adaptability were discussed and agreed upon by those in the room.
In one table’s discussion about ways the College can become more dynamic and diverse, Associate Director of MBA Admissions Joshua Lustig ’05 shared thoughts about getting comfortable with the uncomfortable and pushing boundaries.
“Testing and measuring new ideas, asking what if and why not and not being afraid to do that, pushing the boundaries but embraces our history tradition and prestige here but again not being afraid to push it and to expand on our tradition,” Lustig said. “Looking dynamic by getting comfortable by the uncomfortable so again really pushing ourselves to embrace the tradition here but really take it to another level.”
English professorSuzanne Hagedorn spoke on behalf of Hispanic studies professor John Riofrio.
“We need joy — joy in learning and rediscovering it in students and faculty,” Hagedorn said.
“We need joy — joy in learning and rediscovering it in students and faculty,” Hagedorn said. “We want to be historically innovative, not just historic, and embrace our identity as a liberal arts university.”
Capital Budget Analyst Abby Houser ’05 said the College should become a more inclusive and diverse community in the options and experiences that it provides for students.
“We think that means access to opportunity for all students and staff and continuous support for those folks here,” Houser said. “Being genuine about inclusivity, so not just saying we’re inclusive but actually doing it, walking the walk. ”
Overall, the room largely agreed on working to become an increasingly diverse community that learns to adapt to the times without losing the things that make the College what it is. Other thoughts from the room included the idea of identifying and overcoming barriers for non-traditional students, improving collaboration throughout the College and building strong financial foundations.
Toward the end of the event, Osiapem and Henshaw shared the results of the online survey that was taken at the beginning on the projection screen. The results showed a mix of responses, but each question generally had a clear majority.
Thirty-five percent of the room voted yes to whether it should be the College’s job to prepare students for specific careers, and 65 percent voted no.
An overwhelming 99 percent of the room voted that the school should be more accepting of and accessible for non-traditional students.
Finally, when asked to vote for which department the College should prioritize, 34 percent voted for science and technology, 10 percent for applied science, 10 percent for arts and entertainment, 19 percent for social sciences, 4 percent for medicine and 23 percent for business.
While there was some dispute as to why this poll did not include any humanities departments, a majority of the room agreed that the STEM programs at the College should be prioritized.
At the end of the event, Rowe, who took part in the conversation by moving among the tables, spoke to the room.
“My biggest takeaway was just how ambitious this room was,” Rowe said. “This was the beginning of a conversation.”
Many attendees had ideas in mind about the College’s future. Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Public Affairs Henry Broaddus said the event was a great open conversation, which was reflected by the smiles and laughs as the room cleared out. This event allowed the administration to have to opportunity to hear about a different viewpoint’s new goals for the College’s future.
“We are in the business of helping to cultivate the essential capacity that will provide our students with the ability to be transformative citizens and professionals and where their ability to think about the changes that they experience and navigate them is going to be an enormous success factor,” Rowe said.