The final staff forum of the fall semester was held in the Bordy Theater and Auditorium on November 12. President Pelton invited new staff to introduce themselves before updating the attendees on the recent groundbreaking for 2 Boylston Place. He also announced that the Emerson Board of Trustees has formed an ad hoc task force to analyze the financial costs, benefits, risks, and options for Emerson College related to:
- Reanimating the Colonial Theatre through increased use and public access;
- Determining the scope of work and costs of Colonial repairs and renovations necessary to preserve the Colonial facility;
- Meeting Emerson’s student dining and social space needs; and
- Developing a retail and place-making plan for the College’s Boylston Street corridor.
The Task Force’s principal purpose is to support the Board of Trustees in carrying out its fiduciary role regarding the long-term development of Emerson’s campus, as it relates to the four items above.
Sylvia Spears (Diversity and Inclusion) then spoke briefly about the Million Student March that was occurring that same day. Students around the country participated in a virtual march to bring to light issues on education costs, living wages for student employees, and campus climates. She announced a meeting at the Cultural Center the following day and encouraged staff to inform themselves of the current events on the University of Missouri and Yale campuses. She reminded staff that, at Emerson, diversity was noted as the highest point of pride on the 360 climate survey and it was time to “bring our aspirations in line with our actions.”
Maureen Murphy (Administration and Finance) spoke next to clarify the reasoning behind the 90–day hiring freeze. She said that, on average, the hiring process takes five to six months naturally; so instead of asking departments to make additional cuts, the President’s Council decided to institute the freeze. She stressed that departments could apply for an exemption for a specific position to be exempt from the 90–day hiring freeze. These requests would be submitted by the overseeing vice president and would be approved on a case-by-case basis.
Sylvia Spears returned to the podium with Robert Amelio (Diversity and Inclusion) to report on the 360 climate survey. Over the summer, a campus climate committee met weekly to analyze the results and identify themes. Amelio and Spears have met with a number of groups across campus to discuss the survey results, including the faculty unions, academic and administrative departments, Employee Resource Groups, the Human Resources Advisory Council, and the President’s Council. The President’s Council is reviewing the recommendations provided by the campus climate committee and has established its own goals of creating a rewards and recognition program and improving communication and collaboration. A rewards and recognition committee is now being formed. Also, departments have been submitting their goals based on the survey results, which will be published online soon.
A team from Enrollment Management gave the next presentation. Eric Sykes (Enrollment Management) started off by sharing recent college rankings in which Emerson has placed. Emerson placed 10th in U.S. News & World Report’s regional universities for 2016, moving up thanks to an improved peer assessment, academic profile, and class size. USA Today named Emerson as the #1 journalism school for the second consecutive year. Longitudinal survey data of Emerson’s first-year students suggest that students are attending to these rankings in greater numbers when making their college choices.
Leanda Ferland (Graduate Admission) gave an overview of graduate enrollment. She noted that enrollment in some programs has been declining, while other programs have held steady. Declining enrollment in graduate programs has been a national trend and it will take more research to assess the cause of Emerson’s decline. As a result of her team’s initial internal assessment of the College’s 12 grad programs, they are working on a new digital marketing strategy; reducing application barriers; and increasing personal, proactive outreach to prospective students. A market research firm will help the department assess market demand and conduct a competitor program analysis. Ferland said that a few new programs are launching this year, including the College’s first online program in popular fiction writing and publishing and a low-residency program in writing for film and television.
Michael Lynch (Undergraduate Admission) gave an overview of the Class of 2019. It is the largest class in history, with 915 students enrolled. The students are from 42 U.S. states and 26 countries. This fall, Admission staff visited several hundred high schools and college fairs and held 45 road shows in 22 states. The department is increasing its digital outreach through social media and is using a new event management platform. Enrollment is also planning to invest in a new prospect system.
Alexa Jackson (Human Resources) announced that due to community feedback, HR is working on a number of initiatives, such as a vacation/sick time donation program, leave policies, and moving pumping room scheduling to the College’s event management system. HR will be meeting with the EmCares employee resource group to collaborate on the development of these initiatives. HR welcomes staff to provide feedback through email or by contacting a member of the HR team.
Nancy Howell (Creative Services)