Update from January Board of Trustees Meeting and President’s Town Hall

Dear Oglethorpe Community,

After each Board of Trustees meeting, I am committed to conducting a town hall and
reporting on the substance of our discussions and the Board’s action. In addition to
speaking about the Board meeting at the February 15 town hall, I also shared more of my
vision for how I want to move forward.

First and foremost, we will continue to focus on the Strategic Plan. It gives us continuity and stability, and the Board holds me and the Senior Administrative Leadership Team (SALT) accountable for the following strategic initiatives for this fiscal year:

  • Retention
  • Satisfaction & Belonging
  • Enrollment & Net Tuition Revenue Targets
  • Program Review Process
  • Alumni Participation
  • Advancement Funds toward Operations
  • Website

From a financial standpoint, Oglethorpe is in good health, thanks to the responsible
spending of our budget managers and promising revenues. Through the first six months of
the fiscal year, we’re in a solid position with a net positive from operations. Similarly,
Advancement is on pace to reach its goal for the year.

As we all know and appreciate, Oglethorpe’s revenue picture is heavily dependent on
student revenues of housing and tuition. Right now, we have admitted 1,573 students,
roughly on pace with last year. We have reasons to be optimistic, but the Department of
Education’s late release of the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and
delayed release of information submitted by families is creating quite a bit of uncertainty.
Enrollment Management continues to communicate heavily with potential students and
their families about FAFSA, but until they begin to get information on the true cost of
attendance, many are reluctant to put down a deposit. We will continue to be creative and
push hard to build trust with potential students and their families so that when the
information becomes available, we can work closely with them to facilitate applications
and deposits.

Retention continues to be a top priority, and our enrollment stands currently at 1,358
compared to 1,317 for this time last year. I am grateful for the work of Dr. Vivian Medrano
and her team in Student Success as their efforts ensure our students remain enrolled, find
academic success, and make progress toward graduation.

In additon to these key metrics, I am interested in moving beyond the year-to-year
planning and beginning to look a little bit longer term. I devoted attention in my report to
conveying what I see as the future for Oglethorpe. For me, it always starts with our
mission: Being “committed to teaching excellence in an inclusive learning environment”
and “preparing students for success in professional endeavors as responsible and
productive contributors to a global society.” From there, I am looking to Oglethorpe’s
Bicentennial in 2035 as a meaningful milestone to build toward. It’s far enough into the
future to give us time to work, yet soon enough for us to see an impact.

By 2035 I want Oglethorpe University to be known as Atlanta’s premier undergraduate
learning experience. There are two components of that vision: “being the premier
undergraduate learning experience” and “being known as premier undergraduate learning
experience.” That’s why I will continue to focus on our mission and lean on the marketing
and communications efforts to help increase awareness of Oglethorpe in Atlanta and
across the Southeast.

The areas of the premier undergraduate learning experience I want us to continue to focus
on include the course of study at Oglethorpe – the majors; the Core; academic program
review and development informed by the Strategic Enrollment Plan; campus life such as
belonging and leadership opportunities; career preparation through internships,
competencies translation skills for students, and career communities such as pre-law and
pre-medicine groups; and service to the community through engagement opportunities. I
still very much believe in our motto: “Make a life. Make a living. Make a difference.”

While the national higher education discourse around liberal arts swirls, I believe we need
to double down on the liberal arts. I want to marry the classic liberal arts of oral and
written communication skills, critical thinking, and problem solving with the new liberal
arts of digital fluency, climate awareness, multicultural competency, and high stakes/high
conflict situation skills.

Finally, I believe these commitments rely on Oglethorpe maintaining a sustainable
affordability. We provide financial aid to 99% of our students, and 90% receive merit
scholarships. Thanks to the HOPE and Zell Miller Scholarships, the Flagship 50 program,
and other financial aid arrangements through TheDream.US and Achieve Atlanta, we can
continue to make higher education accessible and reduce the amount of student debt our
alumni carry with them after graduation.

To do this, I need all of you. Our students need all of you. It will take the kind of effort I
saw last week for OU Giving Day. The Advancement Team set new records for OU Giving
Day by securing more than $65,000 in gifts and engaging 140 alumni. Their efforts inspired
giving that unlocked three of four matching gifts and gave us incredible momentum for the
second half of the year for our fundraising efforts. This is what we can do. This is what
Oglethorpe can do when we focus our efforts and work together.

Thank you for your hard work on behalf of the students. I am energized by what lies ahead
this semester with our many enriching events, including academic, athletic, and
community events. I encourage you to invest yourself in Oglethorpe and help me by
providing feedback. I genuinely want to hear from you.
We are only going to be get traction on these priorities as we are able to tackle the
challenges and opportunities together.


Kathryn McClymond, Ph.D.