Last night, GSG sponsored an event in the MSC Main Room to start the conversation between Graceland’s administration and its students. In order to keep the questions appropriate and relevant to the conversation, questions were submitted to the GSG Office and required names attached to them. This way the event could be structured helpfully for the allotted time it was scheduled for and not having to go over with an onslaught of more questions and personal aggravations.
At the beginning of the event, there were about forty students in attendance, but that number grew to around 70 in the end. Matt Frizell, Lee Bash, and Rob Poulton were also there, as they are all Deans at the university, and Jen Abraham-White, Nicole Briell, Melanie Grimes, and Mindy Graham were also present.
The “presidents” at Graceland are, from the upper left and then clockwise:
- President Pat Draves, Ph – President of Graceland
- Kathleen Clauson Bach, PhD – VP for Institutional Effectiveness
- Scott Briell, MA – VP for Enrollment Management
- Claudia Horton, PhD – Interim VP for the Independence Campus
Dean, School of Nursing
- David Schaal, MA – VP of Student Life and Dean of Students
Adjunct Faculty – Student Life Leadership
- R. Paul Davis, MA – VP of Business Services
- Kelly Everett, BA – VP of Institutional Advancement
- Brian White, PhD – Interim VP of Academic Affairs
Interim Dean of Faculty
Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Due to her distance from the Lamoni campus, Claudia Horton, PhD was not in attendance. The questions throughout the Q&A were mostly focused on the Lamoni campus itself.
The three main topics of discussion were facilities, academics, and retention, and they were facilitated by Tim Brummer (IMs Director) and Taylor Warner (CHP President). New posed questions weren’t allowed during the Q&A, and everything asked had to be directly in conversation with one of the previously asked student questions that were submitted through the GSG Office.
This summer, there is going to be mortar replaced and reconstructed between the bricks on Walker Hall due to the age of the building,
Graceland claims that by summer 2019, there should be new renovations (or hopefully a new gym completely) with the Closson Center. The building is the last of one its kind in existence, so it seems fitting that we tear it down before it tears us down.
Air-Conditioning is going to be implemented into the Tess Morgan bathrooms and lounges, but the lounges are already air-conditioned, so hopefully, the money that was allocated for that can go to fixing something else in Tess – perhaps new lounge furniture for some halls or completing the zen garden outside the main lobby.
Kelly Everett, VP of Institutional Advancement, commented that there’s already $1 million set aside to complete some needed renovations in the MSC because when going to donors and asking for money, it’s important that the renovations are most helpful to the student experience.
Question: What about Briggs? Completing a full renovation of Briggs that stands up to code, as the building currently does not, and is handicap accessible, would cost about $9 million. Brian White, PhD, Interim VP of Academic Affairs, says that faculty members that work in Briggs and have been working on going in and cleaning up some of the space in order to make it more usable.
Question: What are Graceland’s current environmental goals? Kelly Everett states that a lot of money is spent on utilities at Graceland like heating or cooling buildings, so possibly when the construction and renovation projects are completed in the future, we’ll be able to decrease our carbon footprint as a university. We also currently have a lot of sustainability initiations, but perhaps not a lot of goals. In my opinion, the ultimate goal for everyone is to create a cleaner, greener earth, and by composting Graceland’s food waste, adding in the sustainability general education track, and beginning new projects like the Campus Kitchen Project with Sodexo, we are already reaching some of the goals.
Question: What about the swimming pool? In short, nothing for a while. The space isn’t safe enough to use it as what it was designed for, and there’s a lot of money required to turn it into anything else. There’s a lot of ideas what to use it for, but none of them have been implemented because there are more important renovations to be made – such as Tess Morgan and Briggs.
The reason to finally bring Winter Term to an end was made when looking at the student experience. Costs to travel were higher than most students were able to afford, and year after year the students that went on these service trips across seas, they were more affluent than the ones who stayed on campus, and it was less of a diverse crowd than it could have been. Dr. Brian White said that since around 2004, there had been questions about ending Winter Term, and it just so happened to finally take place when our current seniors were freshmen. Now that we have the opportunity to do projects in May Term, we can take trips to places outside of the equator, and since the 2016-2017 school year, the Graceland Student Development Club has been working in Guatemala on service projects, a project that used to be only at the Independence campus.
Last year, Graceland eliminate a handful of majors, and one of the major questions was when and if new majors would be added to the university. Graceland’s new Innovation committee has been here since around the beginning of the academic year, and it’s been reformed from older committees to be useful in its new purpose. They’ve been working on deciding new majors that can be added to the university and probably have around 43 new ideas, but it takes a long time to implement these new ideas.
Underlying question: why is it so low?
Dave Schaal, our Dean of Students, said that the university attempts to conduct interviews with students when they decide to leave. As students, the panel believed we should increase the amount of positivity we use when speaking about the institution and making sure that we reach out to students that might look like they’re not adapting to the culture.
Question: Why are we recruiting a lot of the time for athletics and not academics? When looking at non-athletic students and how they interact with athletic students, there is a minimal amount of time that the two can interact with each other that doesn’t interfere with academics or the athlete’s sports schedule.
Question: What are we doing to increase recruitment of international students? Scott Briell, VP for Enrollment Management, wants to recruit more students from the local area – e.g. Iowa. He claims that we have a problem if we have more students that hail from Florida than we do students born in Iowa, but I believe diversity is important in that we shouldn’t be looking specifically at Iowan high schoolers. There are about 50 international students attending Graceland currently, and the university wants to maintain that number instead of working on increasing it so that they can increase the numbers of permanent Iowa residents.
Question: Are we going to try and increase faculty retention? Apparently, the retention rate of our faculty and staff isn’t a problem as other universities face similar problems with their numbers in this way. It’s harder to recruit faculty to come to the middle of nowhere, where their spouse might not have a job and have to uproot their entire life. This is especially hard for more modern professions, like graphic design, where a designer would likely make much more as an actual graphic designer than moving to the middle of nowhere to teach it.
Question: Are we working toward hiring a more diverse professional staff? Currently, all of the full-time faculty/professors on campus that aren’t white are working in the Humanities. There is an underlying systemic problem that makes it easier for white professors to be hired, and it’s harder to hire non-white faculty to move in the middle of nowhere (especially in a predominately white area). That does not deter the need to hire more diverse faculty and staff members – especially if we want to increase our student diversity and appeal to more than the typical white Iowan.
At the end of the night, students, faculty, and staff communicated about further personal questions as the MSC Main Room transformed into a Karaoke night hosted by COSA in lieu of the Thursday Night Movie. The event seemed to be successful and created an open for a forum for students to ask questions they actually care about.
Hopefully, there are more panels like this. Last night shows how open and inclusive Graceland wants to and can be in the future.