President Kent Trachte
With the 2015-2016 academic year behind us, I feel a refreshed commitment to deepening Lycoming College’s identity as a college in the liberal arts tradition. At a time when many colleges have abandoned the liberal arts, I am proud that Lycoming College remains strongly rooted in this venerable educational tradition. We can celebrate the fact that we have made great progress on our Strategic Plan, which laid out a set of strategies for advancing our institution as one of the finest liberal arts colleges in this country. We are crafting an exemplary liberal arts education for the twenty-first century.
This 21st century liberal arts education combines the intellectual prowess of the traditional liberal arts with the power of experiential learning. Lycoming graduates will continue to develop critical thinking skills, cross-cultural understanding and strong communication skills through exposure to our distribution and major requirements. But a new curricular emphasis on enhanced academic experiences — experiences that include internships, study abroad and research with faculty will also hone, deepen and test that same understanding. To facilitate this new emphasis, this fall we opened our Center for Enhanced Academic Experiences.
In building an education for the 21st century, we are also making investments in new academic programs that explore some of the most important questions of the new century. The faculty are expected to approve new majors in neuroscience and Latin American archaeology. In addition, although he has retired from full-time teaching, we have retained Mel Zimmerman as Director of the Clean Water Institute, with an eye toward raising the profile of the CWI. We are also moving forward with our Center for Energy and the Future, as well as a chair in entrepreneurship.
Taken together, these initiatives arguably will position Lycoming as a place that explores the most important questions of the twenty-first century. How does the human brain work? What can we learn about our multicultural society by understanding the story of Mesoamerica? What are the implications of the choices that we make about energy? How does innovation occur and how do we encourage an entrepreneurial spirit? What is the future of humankind and the environment that we inhabit?
Our Strategic Plan also includes initiatives designed to improve life outside the classroom. The intellectual affinity housing program in Wesley Hall is now in its second year and involves more than 70 students and six faculty members. In its first full year of operation, the Outdoor Leadership and Education program has cultivated a growing student interest and will offer opportunities for students to explore the Pennsylvania Wilds and learn without boundaries.
Even as we enrich the learning environment on campus, our plan also focuses on preparing graduates to compete even more successfully for employment and admission to graduate and professional school. Anchoring this emphasis is the new model of career advising “clusters,” in which one career adviser is dedicated to each of the following groupings of academic majors: management studies, social sciences, sciences, and arts and humanities. Each respective career adviser works with the support of cluster faculty to guide students toward post-graduate choices and focus on resume writing, interviewing skills and networking.
We took a significant step toward becoming a truly national college this fall when we enrolled a freshman class where half of our students come from outside of Pennsylvania. Students from California and Texas, the two most populous states in the nation, composed 8.5 percent of the Class of 2020.
The membership of the Class of 2020 also suggests that we are successfully adapting to the dramatic change in the ethnic composition of the college-going population in the United States. One-third of the Class are domestic students of color. Fifteen percent come from a Hispanic or Latino background, and this fact positions us well to compete for talented students from the fastest growing segment of the college-going population in America.
We also continue to recruit from the global market interested in American higher education. Almost five percent of the incoming class are international students who represent 10 different countries, including five from China and four from Mauritius. New exchange agreements at international universities in Grenoble, France, and Puebla, Mexico, complement our direct enrollment efforts and create opportunities for Lycoming students to study in those countries.
Closer to home, we have enhanced our presence in the Williamsport and Lycoming County. Building on the very successful move of the art gallery to West Fourth Street, the College signed an agreement with the Community Arts Center and the Pennsylvania College of Technology that will provide our performing arts programs greatly expanded access to the magnificent facilities of the CAC. As an indicator of the community’s growing appreciation of the College’s contributions to the community, the Williamsport Sun-Gazette named Lycoming College its “Person of the Year” in January 2016.
Most recently, we built upon our momentum to launch the public phase of our Campaign for a Greater Lycoming. With an announced goal of $65 million, the Campaign is a critical element of our efforts to propel Lycoming College to a place among the very best national liberal arts colleges. For more information on the campaign, I refer you to campaign.lycoming.edu.
Finally, I’d like to note that for the second consecutive year The Chronicle of Higher Education has recognized Lycoming as a “great place to work.” The results of the Chronicle survey indicated that our faculty and staff have strong confidence in senior leadership, and have a high degree of satisfaction with their jobs and teaching environment. The positive feelings embedded in such results are the foundation of the culture of personalized attention that activate for our students the power of the residential liberal arts experience. That culture and the people who build it — students, faculty, alumni and friends — are the foundation for our aspirations.
I remain honored to serve as your President and grateful to all who are contributing to our collective efforts to become a Greater Lycoming.
Kent C. Trachte, Ph.D.