The first staff forum of the academic year was held on September 26. President Pelton welcomed attendees and invited new staff to introduce themselves. He then shared the good news that applications for admission have increased by 50 percent over the past five years and that the incoming class has the highest GPA in the College’s history (3.68). He also recapped some of the College’s recent rankings in national publications.
Next, Melanie Matson (VPR) and Audra Boden Kenny (Academic Advising) led attendees in an icebreaker activity. Attendees were asked to chat with their neighbors about their favorite summer memory or pastime and what they were most excited about this fall, and some attendees shared their answers with everyone.
Sylvia Spears (Diversity and Inclusion) and Ruthanne Madsen (Enrollment Management) led a discussion about the incoming class of students. They introduced the topic by playing this video produced by Beloit College. Since 1998, Beloit has published a “Mindset List,” which notes the cultural touchstones of first-year college students. Most students in the Class of 2020, deemed “The Right Now Generation,” were born in 1998, which means, for example:
- The United States has always been at war.
- They have never had to watch or listen to programs at a scheduled time.
- There has always been a digital swap meet called eBay.
See the complete Mindset List here.
Madsen provide a demographic snapshot of the incoming class. She shared the number of applications (9,149), the acceptance rate (48.1%), and the number of first-year matriculants (885). About half of the students are from Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and California. International students are from 19 countries, the largest number being from China (39). Twenty-three percent identify as multicultural, 11 percent identify as Hispanic, 8 percent identify as international, and 4 percent identify as African American. Not surprisingly, more than half of the students are VMA and Performing Arts majors, and only 20 first-year students are undeclared. Sixty percent of the 160 transfer students came from four-year institutions and 40 percent came from two-year institutions. Attendees were asked to discuss at their tables what information from the presentation they found most surprising and how the information informs their work.
Next on the agenda was a drawing for six prizes from local businesses, including ArtsEmerson. Rhea Becker (Communications) and Jonathan Pearsall (Financial Affairs) called the lucky winners and gave them their prizes.
Bonnie Baggesen, Wayne McWorter, and Ramona Ostrowski (Office of the Arts) reminded staff of the Office of the Arts structure and staff benefits. Baggesen explained that the Office of the Arts comprises four main areas for its work: internal events, external events, ArtsEmerson, and HowlRound.
The office supports a number of internal events every year for academic departments, administrative departments, and student organizations. Over the years, a number of external organizations have developed partnerships with Emerson and host their events in its venues, including the New England Conservatory and WGBH’s Christmas Celtic Sojourn.
McWorter gave a brief historical view of the leadership of ArtsEmerson. He then screened a brief trailer of the 2016–2017 season. He shared the season listing and highlighted upcoming events, such as Here All Night and Mala. He also reminded staff of ArtsEmerson’s film and concert screenings. He encouraged staff to take advantage of their benefits: every staff and faculty member can get one free ticket to a performance, screening, or concert two hours prior to the event start time (subject to availability). Staff and faculty can also buy two tickets for $10 each in advance online, and buy additional tickets for 30 percent off. Find more information here.
Ostrowski explained HowlRound’s mission. HowlRound is an open-source knowledge commons by and for the theater community. Its online journal publishes one or two new articles daily. It also hosts a live streaming TV network and is working on a new platform called the World Theater Map, which will feature a directory of theater events and artists around the world. Lastly, it organizes in-person convenings of theatermakers.
Sylvia Spears took to the podium again to lead a discussion on “Creating a Sense of Place at Emerson.” She highlighted all of the physical changes occurring on campus, including the new visitor center, the upcoming Little Building renovation, and the upcoming dining center at 122-124 Boylston, as well as the College’s increasing number of global programs. She asked attendees to brainstorm about how to create a sense of place. Livestreaming events in Boston, Kasteel Well, and ELA was mentioned as was creating a central place such as a student union and establishing opportunities for students in different locations to connect with each other.
Spears then invited attendees to spend a few minutes giving “shoutouts” of appreciation to fellow staff members before President Pelton gave his closing remarks. He elaborated on the creation of sense of place on campus and its neighborhood. When the College began its move from the Back Bay in 1990, there were hardly any residences in its new neighborhood. Today, there are 7,000 residential units in Downtown Crossing and the Theatre District—half of them being built in the last three years. When the new construction and renovations on campus are done by 2019, Boylston Street will be full of vitality and a sense of place will be created. Pelton closed the forum by reading a creative writing exercise about a future Emerson and solicited staff’s opinions. In the story, young people from different cities around the world would study at Emerson remotely and also spend time on campus in Boston, working together to create positive change in the world. Pelton ended by saying, “I want to talk more about moving Emerson into the future.”
Nancy Howell (Communications)