A Message from President S. Georgia Nugent
2011-12 A Message from President S. Georgia Nugent
As I write for this annual report, I am naturally very conscious that this will be my final annual report for Kenyon. Stepping down after ten years as president continues to feel like the right decision-for the College and for me. Yet it also means that this becomes a year charged, in a certain way, as I inevitably reflect on what has been accomplished, what remains to be done, what will be missed, and what new opportunities await.
First, I want to say that I have absolutely loved having the opportunity to serve as Kenyon's president over this past decade. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve at the helm of this extraordinary College. I am proud of the accomplishments of these years. These will be detailed in other venues-but will certainly include the physical transformation of the campus, the success of the "We Are Kenyon" campaign, the great increase in diversity of students and faculty, enhanced support for faculty and for financial aid, and greater national recognition of the College. These were objectives that meant a great deal to me and that I believe will continue to strengthen the College in the future.
It seems that all of us who are a part of the Kenyon family feel that the most significant and enduring aspect of our Kenyon experience has been the relationships we form on this Hill. For me, as president, this has been no different. It has been a tremendous pleasure to come to know the students, faculty, alumni, parents, staff members, and friends of the College who are a part of the Kenyon community. As I travel to a number of gatherings across the country (a "victory lap" or "farewell tour"), it has been very touching to realize how many Kenyon friendships have been forged over these ten years-and how they have enriched my life. I am truly grateful.
In the context of this report, I want especially to recognize and thank the many, many donors to the College who made the "We Are Kenyon" campaign such a success. That we were able to realize-and exceed-our goal in such a difficult financial climate is an amazing testament to the loyalty and commitment of the Kenyon community. All around us we hear concerns about the health of American higher education. Do students learn anything? Is the degree worthwhile? Can graduates find jobs? At Kenyon, we have very positive answers to those questions (answers, by the way, that we are now highlighting more than ever in our publications and online). The data are absolutely clear: a Kenyon education is an investment that pays lifelong dividends. The outpouring of support in the campaign seems to me to illustrate clearly how well Kenyon alumni, parents, and friends understand that value.
My successor at Kenyon will face very difficult questions. How can small liberal arts colleges cope with the increasing need for financial aid? How can they hold down tuition increases? How will the new developments in online education affect the residential liberal arts college experience? I don't believe these issues are intractable, but I do believe they will require creative thinking and innovation.
We sometimes think that the liberal arts college has remained consistent from time immemorial; but that is not true. It has evolved over time, and I believe it will continue to evolve to meet the demands of a new era. That evolution will certainly involve identifying the ways in which new technologies can best enhance our educational model and advance the intellectual exploration at the heart of our enterprise. It is an exciting prospect to imagine how we may harness these opportunities. As well as new modes of pedagogy, we may also see new forms of the curriculum. Interestingly, as liberal arts education is poorly understood and increasingly under-valued in America, it is increasingly valued abroad. In China, the Middle East, and in the former Soviet republics, American-style colleges are finding favor. They definitely model themselves on the American college system, but they look somewhat different-graduates may attain a degree in computer science or business, for example, while firmly grounded in the intellectual traditions of the liberal arts. Possibly the future of the liberal arts college in America may draw on learning from these international experiments. At the very least, I believe my successor will need to be curious and excited about exploring new models of liberal arts education. These may involve new modes of instruction, new types of "non-traditional" students, new fields of study, and more.
I believe Kenyon is well-positioned today to explore these possibilities for the future. With the continued support of us all, this will be an exciting time, for a great College to become even stronger.