Vibrant future for Iowa Wesleyan, region

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: February 2 2014 | 12:01 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:00 am in

By Steven Titus

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On a January day 172 years ago, the Iowa Territorial Legislature passed a bill “to incorporate a Literary Institute at Mount Pleasant.” That put into motion the creation of one of Iowa’s earliest and most pioneering institutions of higher education: Iowa Wesleyan College.

From its beginning, Iowa Wesleyan College was a pioneer, fostering bold and daring ideas and cutting-edge practices.

The college was among the first in the nation to admit minority and international students and led the way in diversity, acceptance and opportunity. In 1869, an Iowa Wesleyan College student named Arabella Mansfield became the first woman lawyer in the United States.

Supported by a caring community and centered on a faith-based foundation, Iowa Wesleyan College has continued to break new ground with innovative ideas influenced by strong-willed Midwestern sensibilities. Our pioneering academic philosophy still serves as the cornerstone of the mission we live into today: preparing students to succeed in a changing global environment. Never has that mission rung more true than it does today.

In today’s economic reality, colleges in Iowa and across the nation face a dynamic, competitive and challenging higher education environment. Iowa Wesleyan College, like many others, is impacted in this new environment and must respond to the challenges it poses and the opportunities it offers. And we are.

Since assuming office last July, we have been focused on stabilizing our enrollment to plan for growth. We have been examining our operations, academic programs, business practices and the allocation and alignment of our resources. We have launched a series of new initiatives. We steadfastly are committed to serving the region in new and relevant ways — growing to serve more students, a broader range of students, with a wide array of undergraduate and graduate programs offered in a variety of formats. This is our strategic priority and our institutional responsibility.

As a result, we recently took steps to significantly reorganize the college to ensure its long-term success. This included the reorganization of administrative departments and the closure and reduction of 16 academic program majors.

The programs are those with low enrollment or student demand and include studio art, philosophy of religion, pre-law studies, sociology, history, forensic science, general studies/liberal studies, communication and mass communication, and seven secondary education teaching majors.

Although our curriculum and faculty in those programs are excellent, demand has changed. It no longer is appropriate to fund programs with little or no student interest. However, the few students currently enrolled in affected programs will be able to finish their programs and achieve their goal of graduating with an Iowa Wesleyan College degree.

In addition to budget changes made last fall, the reorganization impacts an estimated 22 faculty positions and 23 staff positions and reflects a budget savings of nearly $3 million annually.

Changes such as these are always difficult because they produce loss and affect real people who through their honorable service, have made a real and enduring commitment to this wonderful institution. We offer our sincere gratitude and acknowledgment to them all. Changes such as these are necessary and are made with the best long-term interests of the college and the region in mind.

This reorganization will improve the quality of our programs and the efficiency of our operations. It is the first step leading to long-term stability and growth for the college.

Steven Titus is president, Iowa Wesleyan College, Mount Pleasant. Comments: http://www.iwc.edu/Contact-Us

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