One of the best parts of being president of Westminster is the opportunity to work closely with many of our students. They are doing amazing things in the classroom, in performing on one of our many athletic and academic teams, in developing their artistic passion in our theaters and concert halls, or by their service and civic engagement activities in the community. They give me great hope that our future is in good hands, and they demonstrate our strong commitment to student success.
Diversity & Community
Last weekend, I had the privilege of speaking at two events that brought together Westminster and the Hispanic communities of Salt Lake. The first was a Latinos in Action Family Day, hosted by our Admissions team and held on campus. Latinos in Action is a club for high school students that aims to prepare them for college and careers, and I was thrilled to welcome over 100 of them last Saturday to invite them to apply to Westminster.
The second event was the annual Somos Foundation Gala, at which Westminster received a prestigious award for providing strong educational support to Hispanic youth. Since 2009, Westminster has given one full-ride scholarship each year to a highly-qualified Hispanic student through Somos, and the foundation honored us with their Education Award, saying that our scholarships are "helping students do the impossible."
Environmental Center Recognition
This past Monday, Governor Gary Herbert announced that, for the seventh year in a row, November is Alternative Fuel Vehicle Awareness month, and he made this declaration on Westminster's campus in our very own Environmental Center. Westminster was specifically chosen as the location for his announcement for our dedication to conservation and sustainability efforts, including our EV charging spaces, our reserved parking for "green" vehicles, the bicycle collective, and our free transit passes for students, staff, and faculty. I am so proud that when people in our broader community think of sustainability, they think of Westminster! Congratulations to Kerry Case and Monica Ferreira and their team of students and volunteers that are leading Westminster on our environmental initiatives.
November Board Meeting
The Board of Trustees met last week for their fall meeting. The trustees reviewed this year's financial results and budget and discussed a longer-term financial sustainability model for the college. This year's budget planning discussion focused on solutions to current enrollment challenges as well long-term planning strategies that can lead the college into the future. Enrollment, retention, tuition rates, and new program development were at the heart of many of the discussions. The board also heard presentations on our innovative and competency-based programs, the campus culture project, survey results on Why Westminster?, and place-based programming initiatives. We also welcomed four new trustees to their first board meeting, and Key Bank CEO Terry Grant was approved for trusteeship. Annalisa Holcombe was appointed to serve as Secretary to the Board.
At the board meeting, we also announced the selection of the branding and marketing firm Struck who will work with us over the next several months on new branding initiatives. Struck will be working with the Office of Marketing and Communications and the entire college to help redefine and refresh our Westminster brand. Struck has extensive and unique experience branding and messaging the Utah experience as evidenced by their work on the Utah Office of Tourism's "Life Elevated" brand. As this process unfolds, there will be many opportunities for campus participation.
Staff and Faculty Development and Changes
We have reintroduced new employee orientations though the Office of Human Resources, one in the fall and one in the spring. These orientations are organized to make sure those who join the Westminster community get a good start and a deeper understanding of our campus culture and priorities. We had 24 new staff members attend the fall orientation.
With the recent departure of our general counsel, Melissa Flores, I have asked Jason Sweat, currently our risk management coordinator, to expand his role and to serve as interim legal counsel while we search for a new general counsel. We have also retained an outside legal firm to supplement and help with more complicated legal matters as they arise.
Title IX Update
As a follow up to the recent OCR visit, our Title IX Director, Jason Schwartz-Johnson, will now report directly to the president. This will provide me a closer look into our Title IX efforts and provide a level of independence and accountability that the OCR recommends. Other changes in our Title IX program will unfold over the next few months that will continue to strengthen our efforts.
My favorite holiday each year is Thanksgiving because it's all about family, and not just our immediate families but our extended families too, meaning friends and associates we work with and the various organizations and communities we are proud to be part of. With all of the recent turmoil in France and other parts of our nation and world, I feel enormously grateful to be at Westminster. While we have our challenges and disagreements, our common resolve to make our homes and communities stronger and more inclusive, and our commitment to helping the next generation make our world even better, is what makes me thankful to be part of Westminster.