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  • Brian Freiberger

State of the college, Spring 2017

Topics of discussion:

  • Spring 2017 Semester

  • 2020 Plan

  • Campus Safety

  • Academics

  • Enrollment

Spring 2017 semester:

  • How have you prepared your staff for the spring semester, are there any new techniques that you are encouraging professors to use?

  • While I’d like to take credit for the work of our faculty, and preparing them, I’m pleased to say that our faculty are first and foremost committed to the success of our students, are highly reflective about their own work and what’s necessary to achieve that goal, and come prepared each semester to tackle the challenge. With that said, some of the things we’ve been talking about recently is the importance of what we call “high impact practices” for the success of students. What I mean is, research shows that students who engage in high impact practices have greater success in college and greater success beyond college. For us, this includes things like internships, research projects, other experiential activities and projects outside the classroom, service learning, and international study abroad. Recent surveys of our students indicate that we’re in the top 25% of private liberal arts colleges in the country in terms of student engagement in internships and service and we want to be even better. International study abroad is also a high priority and we’re working to make sure that every student has a real opportunity to study internationally and gain a real global perspective in preparation for the globalized economy and society we’re living in today and the decades ahead.

  • What are the top three things that you want to achieve throughout this semester?

  • First, last year we had extremely high levels of student retention from last year to this year and we need to repeat that again. So, focusing on ensuring students have a quality experience and are fully supported is a key objective for us. Second, a lot of students have heard of the 2020 plan and have seen the improvements made around campus and the number of new programs started over the past few years. This has taken a lot of resources to make happen and I’m pleased to say we’ve raised over $20 million in the last few years. This trajectory has got to continue if we’re going to be successful over the long run. So a second goal is to continue to engage with our alumni and friends to continue to secure the resource to make Olivet College the best it can be. A third personal objective for me is to continue to support two key presidential initiatives around leadership development, the President’s Leadership Institute and the Cultivating Women Leaders initiative. These two programs are rare for colleges and college students and we’re setting a high bar for leadership development programming for students where Olivet College students are exposed to leadership development well beyond students at most other colleges.

  • During the fall semester we saw the square get a face-lift with those lights added. Are there any projects like this going on in the spring that would improve the landscape of Olivet?

  • Absolutely. The spring and summer will likely see several projects undertaken. The Gruen Engagement Center, a total renovation of the historic Gruen House (the yellow house on Yale Street), will likely get underway. When done, the Gruen Engagement Center will provide a residential setting for faculty and students to gather outside of the classroom. It will also provide guest accommodations for visitors to campus. Another project which may start this spring is the renovation of the Hosford House into a new history center and college archive. This will involve the complete historic renovation of the Hosford House, the house built by one of the Olivet College founders, Ormel Hosford, as a history center and a new construction annex for a modern state-of-the-art archive. We’ll also see continued updates at the dorms with renovation of the common areas. It’s also possible that we’ll see construction begin on the new Gillette Village Phase II student housing complex, bringing another 150 beds for students in a suite-style living environment by fall 2018. We should also see continued improvement in campus lighting and upgrades to sidewalks and lawn areas on a continuous basis over the next several years.

2020 Plan:

  • In the year 2017 what does Olivet have to do to achieve its mission of the 2020 plan?

  • Continuing to grow the enrollment, particularly the on-campus residential enrollment is a must. The fall 2016 entering class was the second largest in college history with the number of freshmen representing the largest freshmen class in college history. We’ve got to continue to attract strong entering classes and help those students persist to graduation successfully. This also means we’ve got to continue to grow and develop our programs that fully engage students on campus, such as athletics, band, gospel choir, and others. We’ve also got to continue to strengthen and grow our academic programs, including making progress in considering several new academic programs such as nursing.

  • During the fall homecoming football banquet there were animated pictures of what Olivet wants to build and improve during the upcoming years. Are these plans any closer to becoming a reality?

  • Definitely. Raising the funds to continue our progress is one of the highest priorities for me and others. We’ve already been able to make updates in Mott, the Conservatory, the Roznowski Learning Commons, the Welcome Center at Dole Hall, the Pyne Pavilion and other athletic improvements, to name a few. Additional work throughout campus, including the new student center and upgrades in athletics, remain priorities and are on the horizon.

  • What about Mott? Are there any significant changes coming to our main academic building?

  • Mott Academic Center has been updated over the years and is about 60% completed. It will take another $1.75 million to finish updates to the classrooms and common areas and install a new exterior main entrance on the west side facing the college square. The plans have been completed and a major donor is considering making this gift now. Hopefully, this will be underway sometime soon.

  • It’s pretty obvious to know from a student point of view that Olivet is nearing capacity. Olivet has already announced that they want a new residential building in previous Shipherd’s Record Alumni Magazines. Is Olivet any closer to breaking ground for a new residential building, perhaps Gillette 2.0?

  • We’ve gone from about 440 students living on campus in 2011 to 720 students living on campus in the fall of 2016. The only way we’ve been able to accommodate this growth is by adding a couple of houses and, of course, the addition of Oak Hill Apartments. This year, we only had about 11 beds empty when we started classes so for all practical purposes this is full occupancy. Next year, we’re expecting 25-65 students we won’t be able to house if we don’t figure out how to add more beds and it only gets worse from there. So, it looks like new campus housing is in order. Gillette Village Phase II is the next step. This project will add 150 beds in a suite-style living environment. There will be four students to a suite where each student will have their own private bedroom and share a bathroom with one other student. Each of the suites will also have their own living room and kitchenette. Right now, it’s possible that construction may begin later this spring with the new facility opening in the fall of 2018.

  • Now let’s talk about parking, it’s clear to see that this place is pack during the week besides the side-lot by Gillette. Are there any plans to create a new parking space to better accommodate for students, faculty and visitors?

  • Yes, new parking is planned for throughout campus, including expanded parking at the Cutler Event Center.

Campus Safety:

  • Can we expect any changes to our policies regarding an active shooter on campus due to the recent attacks on College campuses in recent years?

  • We’re fortunate that Olivet is one of the safest communities and that our campus has been somewhat immune to the crime seen on most other college campuses, including our other MIAA colleagues. With that said, we’re constantly working to improve the safety of the campus and prepare for those sort of unthinkable events that we hope will never come. I’m pleased that we have experienced leadership in Campus Safety Director Phil Reed and Dean of Students Linda Logan who, together with VP Jackie Looser, oversee our crisis response planning. Many students may not know this, but Olivet College is a designated emergency shelter for large scale emergencies so our relationships and work with state and county emergency response agencies is strong. We’ve developed detailed response plans and have had several “table top” drills over the past few years.


  • What is Olivet doing to ensure that the students here are getting the most out of there education?

  • The board just approved an exciting set of commitments that we’re now able to announce known as the Olivet College Advantage. The Advantage includes four key guarantees that will help set the experience that Olivet College students have apart from others. This includes: 1) guaranteed graduation in 4-years or the fifth year will be tuition-free; 2) guaranteed opportunity for an internship or research experience before graduation; 3) guaranteed opportunity for service learning; and 4) a guaranteed opportunity for international study abroad. While Olivet students over the past few years have largely been benefiting from these opportunities, the college will guarantee this advantage beginning with the incoming class of 2017. What we know is that the ability to graduate in 4-years is a distinct advantage over the 5.2 year average for students at public universities. We also know that students who engage in internships or research, service, and study abroad have much greater rates of success in both college and after graduation.

  • Are there any new majors coming to Olivet?

  • One of the most exciting programs under consideration is nursing, possibly coming available as early as 2018. The faculty are also considering programs in counseling psychology, social work, and advanced study in accounting, sports management, public administration, and business administration. It’s likely that a number of these programs will include opportunities at the masters degree level with the opportunity for undergraduates to accelerate through to the masters degree in a 4+1 or 3+2 year sort of format.

  • What is Olivet doing to understand their students, Olivet is planning to send out a survey to their students in late January, what do these surveys do to help Olivet in improving their academics?

  • The great thing about Olivet College is that we’re singular focused on students, not research, not technology, not economic development, but students. The feedback we get from students is critically important to our understanding of the experiences students are having and figuring out ways to continuously improve our ability to help students succeed in obtaining their goals. Faculty surveys are consistently reviewed to help faculty improve their teaching. Student life surveys make a real difference in how programs and services are designed and offered to support students. A new survey to alumni is going out in early 2017 to collect better information on the career and graduate school experiences and success so that we can use that information to make adjustments to the curriculum. A recent survey known as the National Survey of Student Engagement started last year helps us understand and compare the experiences and success of students related to their levels of engagement in academics, student life, and in their growth and development more generally. Some of the exciting findings from that survey are that Olivet College students are in the very top quartile when compared to other private liberal arts college across the country in terms of the advisement they receive from faculty, their undertaking of internships, and the levels of service that OC students perform. Research tells us that these three factors make a tremendous difference in the success of students both in college and after graduation.

  • What’s your message to your students to help them focus throughout the semester?

  • My main advice to students is to show up and get actively involved. Olivet College is all about the opportunity to get involved and make a difference. Any and every student has the opportunity to get as much as they want out of their Olivet College experience, in the classroom and out. The whole college is set up to provide that opportunity, students just have to grasp it and make the most of it. I guarantee, if you do, you’ll have success and you’ll be better for it.


  • What is Olivet doing to improve their retention rate of students during the spring semester and beyond?

  • Making improvements in the student experience has and will continue to be a major priority for the college and is something we believe greatly aids in retention. Things like adding apartments so that students have a better opportunity for an independent living experience as upperclassmen, for example makes a difference. Continuing to strengthen our athletic programs, the addition of marching band and gospel choir also add to the richness of the student experience. Stronger Greek societies also plays a role in providing a positive experience and anchoring students to the campus community in better ways. Student government has also been working on projects and programs that are helping to make a difference for students.

  • Are we expecting an even bigger freshman class in 2017 than in 2016?

  • The record-breaking freshman class of 2016 will be hard to beat, but we believe its possible. With the stronger and stronger programs being developed and offered, more students from across the state and now from out of state are finding Olivet College more and more attractive. The marching band, now at just less than 50 students is expected to grow to 100. Gospel choir just had their first entering class and is expected to bring in an even bigger class next year. Competitive cheerleading is also seeing a lot of interest and the new competitive dance program will launch with its first entering class in the fall of 2017. The back-to-back MIAA football championships are also driving a lot of positive buzz around the upper Midwest and we think that will have a positive effect as well. These are but a few of the positive things going on that we think will drive strong enrollment for the next several years to come.

  • What is the goal for Olivet enrollment wise, how many students should we have by the year 2020?

  • The Charting the Course to 2020 and Beyond plan calls for a strengthening of the residential culture on campus and a growing of both the number and percentage of residential students. We’ve had some real success, growing the on-campus residential number from around 440 in 2011 to 720 in 2016. Overall, the total enrollment has remained fairly constant these past several years. This has been a double edged sword, so to speak. Many other colleges have seen serious declines in their enrollments and we haven’t, so that’s a very positive thing. With that said, we do desire to increase the overall enrollment to somewhere between 1500 – 1800 as soon as we can. In this regard, we’ve still got a ways to go. This past year, we saw an entering class of 420 new students. Our goal is to steadily increase the entering class to somewhere around 500 or more which over a period of time should get us within that 1500-1800 range, with most of those students living on campus here in Olivet.

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