Aug. 18, 2011
Fall Convocation 2011: Webster University President, Provost Outline Steps to Enhance Global Academic and Operational Excellence
Academic programs, human resources, infrastructure, financial vibrancy and global partnerships are five key areas that Webster University has focused on over the past year and will continue to address as it takes steps to set a distinct standard for global education, President Elizabeth (Beth) J. Stroble and Provost Julian Z. Schuster told faculty and staff attending the annual back-to-school "state of the university" convocation address today.
Through the years, Stroble noted, Webster University has made the choices necessary to identify and meet the unmet needs of its students. "Those who preceded us took responsibility for making bold and courageous choices in response to need, circumstance and their own philosophy and mission," she said. "So shall we, and the Webster that will continue to flourish in the next 100 years will be an expression, in large part, of choices we accept the responsibility to make."
Stroble said she believes leadership must be about results and process. "We are achieving results as we improve our processes and continue to establish mechanisms to measure our progress and report on outcomes in all of these strategic areas."
Efforts to strengthen Webster's academic programs and ensure its curriculum remains relevant in a changing world took an important step forward with the development of the Global Citizenship Program, a new undergraduate core curriculum that will permeate the academic experience at Webster across the board. The program will launch in fall 2012.
"We have developed an integrated plan that replaces our general education program and guides each Webster student through a path of exploration and discovery that will prepare them with the necessary skills to be engaged citizens of the 21st century," said Schuster. "This is not merely another general education plan; it is a carefully designed pathway to make our students better graduates after they leave Webster, and better students as they immerse themselves in their majors."
In the area of human resources, the University recruited 17 new full-time faculty members for the 2011-2012 academic year. Webster remains committed to investing in human resources in a manner that ensures the University attracts, develops and retains the highest quality faculty and staff who are committed to student success, Stroble said.
A compensation study this past year by global consulting firm Mercer was another important human resources achievement for Webster and a significant example of how faculty, staff and administration can work together. Mercer helped the University establish and update its market definitions, benchmark current pay practices relative to market peers, assess geographic pay differentials and update salary ranges accordingly. Implementation of many Mercer recommendations is under way and will continue in stages in the coming years.
"Compensation is a topic that can divide faculty and staff, but for us, it was a chance to unite as one to achieve what is best for the Webster community as a whole," said Schuster.
Facilities and technology infrastructure investments, along with building a sustainable environment, are key to defining a pathway for Webster’s long-term success. Webster has contracted with the internationally known firm, Sasaki Associates, to develop an integrated campus master plan that will guide Webster Groves campus planning for the next 15 years and beyond. The project begins officially in September and will encompass four stages: assessment, exploration, master plan development and community engagement.
"The study will assess current uses of our property and space and identify possible future uses," Schuster said. "It will identify how current space needs can align with future enrollment plans and opportunities."
The master plan will address such subjects as managing foot traffic, parking and vehicular traffic, as well as bringing a coherent look and brand to the campus, including the grounds. A priority in the plan is a modern-day facility for biological and health sciences.
"Regardless of how our campus master plan takes shape," Schuster said, "a major part of it – the new academic building, future home of the George Herbert Walker School of Business & Technology – is being erected just a few hundred feet from where we have gathered here today." The 90,000-square-foot building, slated to open for classes in spring 2012, will include 40 general-purpose classrooms and serve as a signature icon on campus.
Schuster said Webster has made great progress in maintaining and enhancing the institution’s financial vibrancy. The University recently earned rating upgrades from both Moody’s Investor Service and Fitch Ratings. “This is the second bond rating upgrade that Webster has received since 2009 – a significant achievement in higher education,” Schuster said.
The increases reflect a better understanding by both agencies of Webster’s unique and stable financial strengths, and resulted in bottom-line savings of approximately $1 million in Webster’s recent $61.4 million bond offering, with additional savings in the millions from the re-financing of existing bonds.
Creating meaningful global partnerships represents another way Webster has worked over the past year to remain relevant and expand its reach, Schuster said. The University has initiated and facilitated new memoranda of understanding that are either signed or in progress around such topics as a master of arts degree in Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, internships in China, international student recruitment in India and collaborations with institutions in Italy, Ukraine, Germany and China. Webster also has been awarded the AsiaNetwork-Freeman Foundation Student-Faculty Fellows grant for Collaborative Research in Asia.
The University's WebsterWorks campaign has raised about $51 million of its $55 million goal in gifts and pledges to support scholarships and academic endeavors. Stroble noted that of that total, $9.1 million has been raised for the University endowment, including 45 new endowed scholarships. Support for annual student scholarships also continues to increase, with 103 being awarded to students this academic year.
Webster also received several notable recognitions over the past year, Stroble said. They include being named one of the best colleges to work for, by The Chronicle of Higher Education; providing an environment in which diverse graduate students can be successful and earn degrees, by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education magazine; one of America’s best colleges, according to Forbes; and a military-friendly school, by GI Jobs and Advanced Military Education magazines.
"Together, we are fulfilling our worthy and singular mission as a worldwide institution – to ensure high-quality learning experiences that transform students for global citizenship and individual excellence," Stroble said.
With its home campus in St. Louis, Webster University is the only Tier 1, private, non-profit U.S.-based university providing a network of international residential campuses. Founded in 1915, Webster University’s campus network today includes metropolitan, military and corporate locations around the world, as well as traditional campuses in Asia, Europe and North America. The University is committed to delivering high-quality learning experiences that transform students for global citizenship and individual excellence.
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