While we are still working under the shadow of the pandemic, I am proud of our university’s ability to deliver on its academic mission despite the many challenges we face as a community and as a country. Our faculty and staff continue to provide exceptional instruction, mentorship and support to our students as we all navigate these difficult and fast-changing circumstances together.
Part of the reason I think we have been so successful as a campus is increased communication – through virtual town halls, division- or department-level meetings and frequent messaging. Along those lines and to keep campus better informed, the University Communications team is launching a new monthly faculty and staff e-newsletter, which will be a valuable source of information on a whole range of activities, happenings and achievements of our campus community.
I hope to provide frequent updates on the strategic plan and other items of interest to our employees in its “pages.”
Despite the limitations of the pandemic, our institution is still moving forward with our strategic plan, Tradition & Transformation, and I am pleased to say that we are making good progress. The plan, as you may recall, is divided into three main pillars, with a focus on student success, academic distinction and employee success. The individual pillar steering committees and support members have been working hard to execute the plan.
For example, in Pillar 1, the team has focused on improving student retention. We have seen an increase in student numbers from fall semester to spring semester last year, which is being supported by the implementation of a new software system to assist students in their academic progress. In addition, we created the Second Year Experience (similar to our First Year Experience programming) and we are conducting focus groups to improve students’ sense of wellbeing and belonging on campus. Under Pillar 2, the College has launched several new majors and academic programs and has also created the new Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, which is being led by Professor of Teacher Education Margaret Carmody Hagood. As for Pillar 3, the College has been able to expand employee benefits through the Employee Tuition Assistance Program and has also provided cost-of-living raises above and beyond state mandates and executed a strategic merit raise program.
While this important work is happening, the business of the College continues to hum along, thanks to the efforts of our dedicated faculty and staff. While it would be impossible to list all of our achievements and successes here, I do want to highlight a few records our teams have set from the past fiscal year. This fall, we welcomed the largest class of freshman students in school history and also set a record for freshman applications (a jump from our average of 12,000 just two years ago to more than 20,000). This past recruiting cycle represents a 29% increase over 2020 and a 65% increase over 2019! This is the result of everyone’s hard work across campus.
In similar fashion, we saw a jump in philanthropic commitments to the College – again, a testament to our entire campus community. We set a record for seven-figure gifts in one year (6), we set a new high watermark for the Charleston Athletic Fund ($2.6 million), our alumni giving percentage increased to 5.4% (which represents a jump of 27% from the previous year) and we set a new record for overall donor commitments at $20.2 million.
Momentum continues to build for our institution, and it is because of our faculty and staff’s dedication to our students, our graduates and their colleagues. Great things are happening at the College of Charleston, and we must all continue to work together to keep that positive trend going. I know we can and I know we will – because that is what we do at the College of Charleston!
Andrew T. Hsu, Ph.D.
College of Charleston