A Time to Soar
President's Report on the State of the College, 2009
The College at Its Centennial: A Time to Soar
Two of the most challenging and exciting questions that Keene State College has engaged during 2009, its centennial year, have been:
What has the College accomplished during its first 100 years?
Since 1909, Keene State College has been a learning-centered institution. Its mandate: to foster learning through teaching, scholarship, research, and service. Even more, Keene State engages in learning as an institution, generating new knowledge about itself and its role in the community and using this insight to drive and continually renew its vision. Learning in this manner is transformational and impacts those being served and the very institution through which it is promoted. The evolution of Keene State College over the last century bears witness to this fact, and developments in recent years reveal major institutional growth and the beginning of a new era for the College.
Rooted in a Proud Tradition
Keene State College first emerged as Keene Normal School, dedicated to educating the best New Hampshire teachers for service to their communities. According to Keene State emeritus faculty member James Smart, Keene Normal School's purpose was to heighten intellectual growth in schools and in the community by educating quality teachers. Under the direction of academic and administrative leaders steeped in the progressive values of a liberal education, the normal school at Keene was part of a larger international movement to educate a new generation of teachers. In Keene, faculty with doctorates and extensive experience adapted the curriculum to focus on subject matter competency as well as on teaching and the development of character – two hallmarks of a liberal education. Soon, Keene Normal School educators realized that a two-year program was no longer sufficient for the education of teachers, and like other normal schools, moved to embrace a more comprehensive four-year program and become a college. In 1939, only 20 years after its founding, Keene Normal School was formally recognized as Keene Teachers College.1
Striving for Quality
As Keene Teachers College, the institution pursued, under the leadership of newly appointed President Lloyd Percy Young, accreditation by the New England Crediting Association, becoming the second teachers college in New England to be fully accredited as a four-year institution. The pivotal moment in the young College's development, however, came in 1963 at the initiative of students who marched from Keene to Concord to demand greater breadth in the College's academic offerings, enhanced facilities, better salaries for faculty, and transformation from a single-focus college to a “multipurpose institution.”
In 1963, the College took on a name that reflected its evolved and expanded scope
This organic surge toward institutional change was emblematic of the college's pioneering spirit, its penchant for introspection and action, and its insistence on nothing less than the highest standards of academic excellence. Buoyed by students' initiative, the faculty expanded the liberal arts and sciences by developing full majors in these areas, enabling students for the first time to pursue degrees in non-education fields. Inspired by its students, Keene Teachers College became a more comprehensive institution, and in 1963 the College took on a new name that better reflected its evolved outlook and expanded scope: Keene State College.
Today, Keene State College continues its tradition, engendering within students a thirst and capacity for lifelong learning, promoting student and faculty scholarship, and applying what it learns collectively as an institution in accordance with and in anticipation of the needs of its broader community. The College is fortunate that, over the past century, leading educators and dedicated members of the campus community have laid a strong foundation upon which the College is obligated to build. The work of our predecessors is the College's heartwood, a sturdy core around which we grow and branch out.
When I arrived at Keene State College in 2005, it was clear that I had joined a vibrant, principled community that had grown and undertaken new challenges in its evolution from a normal school, to a teachers college, to an institution serving the diversified needs of New Hampshire and New England. It was also clear that this was an institution poised to accomplish even more – the dynamic progression to a new level of academic excellence. As a community, the College immediately began charting a course for its future and agreed on five ambitious goals for achieving academic excellence. In order of priority they are:
Keene State College is becoming a national academic powerhouse
Within five years, Keene State College has made significant progress on all fronts. Chief among the College's accomplishments has been the adoption of a comprehensive academic plan that provides a dynamic and unifying vision for achieving academic excellence and advancing each of the College's strategic goals. Sweeping in its scope, the academic plan is the outcome of collaboration between faculty, staff, students, and other stakeholders, and in the words of Provost Emile Netzhammer,
“touches all corners of campus life and all members of the campus community.”Through its implementation, Keene State College is becoming a national academic powerhouse and a model public liberal arts institution.
The academic plan, however, is not without precedent. It builds upon a number of major developments within and beyond academic affairs. Already, the faculty has embarked on significant curricular enhancements, including the replacement of the standard general education requirement with an integrative learning program, the introduction of a four-credit curriculum, and the creation of a service-learning initiative. The College has also developed a successful residential honors program that attracts and challenges exceptional students with advanced course work, mandatory study abroad, and opportunities for creative and critical inquiry. In response to the changing needs of students and society, new and cutting-edge academic programs abound, including
With the support of the University System of New Hampshire Board of Trustees and the leadership of Vice President for Finance and Planning Jay Kahn, Keene State has invested in its physical plant, creating a sustainable and vibrant environment reflective of our mission and values. Outdoor areas and new and renovated buildings have been designed to maximize student-faculty interaction. New facilities have been built specifically to reduce energy costs and establish harmony with nature.
The newest residence hall, Pondside III, has earned Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver certification, and a newly constructed co-generation heat plant is expected to reduce energy costs by more than $120,000 a year while reducing greenhouse gases caused by campus electrical consumption by more than 500 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year.
The College has also received recognition for its growth and innovation, being listed as a top college in the Northeast by the Princeton Review, and by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top 100 colleges (master's level) in the North. In athletics, the College recently won its ninth-straight Little East Commissioner's Cup, which recognizes an institution's overall performance in the 19 sports sponsored by the Division III Little East Conference.
These developments, while only some of the College's many achievements over the past five years, are indicative of transformation at Keene State College and allow it to close this first century having fulfilled an initial promise.
Soaring into a New Century
To have staying power, the achievements of Keene State College's first century must be matched with a bold new vision for the future. Like the faculty, administrators, and students who have come before, today's campus community must endeavor to make something new and unique from its rich legacy. This will be no small feat.
The world we live in today is vastly different from that in which Henry C. Morrison first advocated for the establishment of Keene Normal School. As Thomas Friedman has so aptly put it, over the last century, our world has flattened.2 With the advent of new information and communication technologies, economies have globalized and the opportunities and challenges before the College today are intricately linked to those of individuals, organizations, and systems all over the world. Keene State's community now extends far beyond the banks of the Ashuelot, and its impact is global.
Almost every aspect of our lives has been transformed in this new global era. Across the United States, neighborhoods and offices are more diverse. New technologies have transformed how, when, and where we work and play. Colleges and universities in this country alone educate more than 600,000 international students every year combined.3 A college degree has become a determining factor of life opportunity, while jobs relied upon for generations no longer exist. Economic crisis in one country can trigger global meltdown. The smallest of institutions must cultivate and convey a compelling message and image to disparate stakeholders around the globe. The environment is under distress. Exponential growth in access to information has necessitated the development of new tools for interpretation and application.
The College will play a greater role in driving economic development, and preparing students for global citizenship
We are living in a new world, and as an institution that learns from and adapts to its environment, Keene State College is prepared to respond with renewed commitment to its values and its community. So what is on the other side of the Keene State College centennial? A new global reality that calls for the College to play a greater role in driving economic development, preparing students for global citizenship, and maintaining fiscal balance in times of economic hardship.
In this global economy, the needs of our community are ever-expanding, as is the College's expected role as a partner. In its second century, Keene State College is positioned to be a major contributor to the economic vitality of our region and state, in terms of attracting investment, creating jobs, training a modern workforce, and promoting environmentally sustainable work. Already, the College has launched the Monadnock Biodiesel Collaborative, an innovative cross-sector partnership between the College, local business, and the city of Keene that will further sustainability and energy independence in New Hampshire while creating opportunities for learning and service in the community.4 The College has also helped to create the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing, a partnership with business, the Greater Keene Chamber of Commerce, Keene Community Education, and River Valley Community College, which will train new and experienced workers for the next generation of manufacturing jobs while spurring employment and business development in southwestern New Hampshire.5 In collaboration with business, government, organizations, and members of the community, Keene State College is marshaling its resources to serve as a catalyst for growth in the new economy.
Keene State College is also poised to take its place as a national leader
Through implementation of its academic plan, Keene State College is also poised to take its place as a national leader in integrative learning, advancing innovative, high-quality academic programs and experiences that align with the College's values of diversity, worldwide community, and service and prepare students for work and life in an interconnected world. The College has already begun developing new academic and service-learning opportunities and will document through assessment that these curricular models enhance student learning and citizenship at the highest levels. The College has also expanded its capacity to serve the global learning needs of students, faculty, and staff by building on the solid foundation of the former National and International Exchange Office. Now named the Global Education Office (GEO), it has a greatly expanded portfolio and is responsible for creating and supporting opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to learn in global settings, develop intercultural competencies and communication skills, engage with situations and questions that challenge their own assumptions and values, and develop the ability to articulate and learn from their cultural experience. In this era when the College's graduates will be expected to demonstrate comfort and competence in diverse and international settings, GEO will become a vibrant and essential campus center.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the College will need to develop a new model for fiscal sustainability, one that can withstand the storms of an unpredictable international economy and provide ballast in times of turmoil. With a new, sustainable fiscal model, Keene State will be able to assure access and support for deserving students regardless of their ability to pay, sustain student and faculty research during economic slow-downs, and ensure that all members of the campus community receive a Keene State experience of consistently high quality. Together, with the Board of Trustees and Chancellor of the University System of New Hampshire, we will seek and implement a new approach to college financing, one appropriate for a modern college in a global economy.
As Keene State College moves beyond its centennial year, it is prepared to draw upon a rich legacy to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world. Established to foster student learning at its highest levels, the College is equally adept at learning as an institution and adapting to the needs of its community. In today's global fiscal reality, it will be called upon to define a new level of academic excellence, to apply its resources beyond the halls of academe and deeper into the community. It will be looked to as an engine for economic development and as an incubator of principled citizens of the world. It will be relied upon for its permanence and stability owing to a sustainable and innovative fiscal model. All of this the College will do while developing more sophisticated approaches to communicating its vision, impact, and image to a global community.
For the past 100 years, Keene State College has been a beacon of learning, teaching, scholarship, and research. On the other side of 2009 lies a future that more closely links Keene State's mission to the critical needs of a changed world. Anchored in values that have endured for a century, the College is fully prepared to seize the opportunities of this new day and to realize its great promise. This is Keene State College's moment. This is our time to soar.