A Look Back, A Look Ahead
Ventures (V): Looking back at the year 2016, what stands out to you as some of the more memorable moments/events/discussions?
Kevin J. Manning (KJM): It was a big year. A lot happened, and a lot of people worked hard to get us there. For one thing, we received the two largest private gifts in our history, the naming gifts for the Beverly K. Fine School of the Sciences and for the Sandra R. Berman School of Nursing and Health Professions. These are significant gifts in two ways. One, of course, will be supporting the academic programs, supporting our students and our faculty. But they are also a round of applause that you’re doing well. They say, “We want to invest in this institution, we want to help you keep growing.”
In athletics, we just hired Aldis Berzins, an Olympic gold medalist, to coach our men’s volleyball team. This brings a new excitement to the program. On a national level, our football team was nationally ranked for the first time since they started playing in 2011. That’s a pretty big accomplishment for a program that’s only five years old.
Also on the national level, we were recently recognized by the new Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education list of best colleges in America for our career preparation and student satisfaction with their educational experience. Stevenson is among the top 20 percent of colleges and universities nationally in average annual salary earned by its graduates and in the diversity of its student body. Rankings like this and the U.S. News and World Report rankings are really significant, when you think about it, because we’re on the same list as universities that have been around for 100-200 years compared to our nearly 60 years. I think that these results really testify to the value of a Stevenson education and the hard work and commitment of people throughout our campus community.
And finally, this fall, we opened a 200,000-square-foot stateof- the-art Academic Center housing our Berman School of Nursing and Health Professions, Fine School of the Sciences, and programs of the School of Design. This is a building significant to the University—it adds legitimacy and serves as a centerpiece for the campuses. We’re really excited about the possibility of this new space for years to come, both for our current students and for helping to attract and retain prospective students. It provides much-needed space and modern teaching and learning spaces.
V: In your opinion, how did we achieve these highlights?
KJM: Several years ago, we set some outcomes focusing on two strategies to support recruitment and admission: our distinctive career planning process, Career ArchitectureSM, and competitive Division III athletic teams. We know that career planning is of real interest to parents and students and that athletic teams account for more than 30 percent of the undergraduate enrollment.
Today, we’re seeing two major critical outcomes from this planning: improved academic ranking and student retention. Our strategies have helped move our admitted students’ average high school GPA from 2.93 to 3.10 in 2016. We have also seen average SAT scores improve from 998 to 1026, and retention has gone from 69.0 percent in 2011 to 75.5 percent in 2015. Those of us who have been in higher education for our entire careers understand the significance of these numbers.
V: As we approach your last several months at Stevenson, what are some things that the community should anticipate?
KJM: Looking ahead, there’s a lot going on. We brought in the higher education consulting firm of Credo, based in North Carolina, to help us create a state-of-the-art Student Success Center, which is now being completed on the Owings Mills Campus. The Center will include specialists in student coaching, veterans affairs, disabilities, and study abroad, to mention just a few.
We have to complete the Middle States report, and we have to do it well. This is crucial for keeping our accreditation, and without that, we can’t get financial aid from the federal government.
And of course, we must hire an exemplary leader, and the search committee is doing an exemplary job. This has been, and will continue to be, a very thorough, mindful process with many steps and many people involved. I have complete faith that the best person will be found to continue on as president of Stevenson University.
What we have achieved during the past 10 years—in academics, recruitment, and retention—has taken other institutions decades to accomplish. As we look toward the future with a new president and a reaccreditation on the horizon, there will always be challenges but there are also tremendous opportunities for the University. We can look to the years ahead with confidence and a renewed vigor because of the foundation that we have created together.