By Will Jones
Beginning next summer and next fall, we will be reexamining all of our future plans for the school. Firstly, we want to make sure we maintain our mission and our motto, that we retain the things that are important to us. The second reason is that the country is facing an upheaval in higher education, so we want to be aware and proactive so that nothing takes us by surprise. The third reason is that we will have come through our SACSCOC reaffirmation process. We will retain parts of 20/20, but we may also see some changes.
1. What has been the single greatest challenge to continued school growth over the last year?
The economy, absolutely. Expenses are up but parent incomes are not.
2. Have there been any long-term changes in Vision 20/20 as a result of the budget cuts this year? Are there any more proposed cuts?
The most visible is that we have placed further development of the Bryan Center for Critical Thought and Practice on hold. We don’t have any more anticipated cuts, but everything rises and falls, of course, on enrollment. Our endowment is up, and we are thankful for that. Our debt is down, and we are thankful for that. Those two things are very significant. But everything at this point depends on enrollment in 2014, and I cannot predict that now with any kind of certainty.
3. Are there any plans to bring in new faculty or staff or to expand Bryan College academic programs over the next seven years?
One of the main changes is the Bryan Journey. Our first year program for Freshmen has been revamped, and that is honestly largely due to the reaccreditation process. Students seemed to have appreciated the new Foundations CLF, and I thought it was great that faculty and staff agreed to let students use their homes as classrooms.
This summer, we are rolling out a new Masters of Arts in Education program. So many of our Bryan graduates are teachers, and many of these teachers work locally. We would like to allow them to pursue an advanced degree at Bryan.
One thing that is exciting and that we have not yet announced is a new Masters degree for those who want to enter into Parachurch organizations. We would be the only ones that have it, and it would be focused on Human Trafficking. We already have an MBA and a Masters in Christian Studies, so we will probably incorporate elements from both programs, of course. But we would also be partnering with organizations like IJM to see what they would like us to include in our program, to ask those in the field what would best equip potential future leaders.
4. What specifically is your vision for Bryan’s continued spiritual development? Are there any additional plans for community and national outreach?
Many students sense a great spiritual energy this semester. You see that audibly and visually in chapel, and I think some of that is because of our new Worship Arts major. We are continuing the conversation with Fred Sorrells [President of International Institute of SPORT] and possibly will have the Haitian amputee soccer team up this spring.
This year’s Luke 14 event was a wonderful community outreach. I still have people in the community tell me about how meaningful it was to them. As we follow God’s heart, he expands our own.
5. Are there any plans to boost student enrollment? Are there any plans to boost Bryan College’s name recognition?
I think the new Bryan Life will help with name recognition. It will bring a personal touch to our alumni about what has been going on in our campus. We’ll have more stories for our people and others. We need to get the word out about what we do. Sometimes we have a hard time talking about stuff because it feels like we are boasting.
Compared to the nation
This year, we have more students than ever. Our overall enrollment continues to grow, even as our traditional enrollment fell for the second year. This is consistent with national figures. There is a smaller pool of high school graduates and less money. Last year, there were 500,000 fewer students enrolled in traditional schools nationwide. For us, the challenge is to create new modalities, new portals of education. What that means is we have to be open to change.
Get through college faster
Whereas before, you could count on mostly four-year education plans, some students have to switch to a three year education plan. With our Winter and Summer sessions, students are moving through their college classes faster. We are emphasizing home school dual enrollment. We have to be open to change so that students can afford to come to Bryan, so that students, regardless of their station in life, can have an opportunity at a Bryan education.
What we do not want to do is change who we are. We are not opening up all the filters. We could buy more students if we wanted. But what we want are the students who will benefit from being at Bryan and will carry on the Bryan ideals. I do not know what next fall is going to look like, but I do know that our adult and graduate studies and dual enrollment is continuing to grow. These programs give visibility to Bryan and with that comes name recognition and hopefully more students.
6. What is one thing you would like students to understand about the administration and Bryan’s long-term vision? What are ways students can participate in this vision now?
Everything we do is to enhance our mission and our motto. That’s our test for everything we do. If we don’t do that, we will be like everybody else. What I want students to understand is that everything we do has the focus “Christ above all.”
Secondly, we want to be a strong school for the next generation, and a better school, in every capacity.
I think students are our greatest recruiting tool. They need to talk up the college, they need to be excited about being here at Bryan. This really helps the faculty and staff. We can continue to pray in every aspect for our students and our faculty and our staff members. If we spread the word, if we pray, if we support and encourage our faculty and staff, we will do well.
Our athletic teams have won five of seven possible titles, which is incredible. The fact that we are able to come together as a small school and do so well is such a testimony to our school. Our conference commissioner tells me every time he sees me, “You know, your school is really different.” Our athletes and our coaches have the deportment of respect and of joy, and that is a tribute to our coaches and our students. It is a powerful testimony to do well at something with integrity. It adds to on-campus spirit. Any times our teams go to nationals, I want to be there and show support. It is tough to be an athlete and a student, and those men and women work at it to represent our school.
I have been very pleased with our music program. The showcase was phenomenal. I know Dr. Luther [Professor of Music David Luther] had told me last spring that he was concerned we were losing sopranos. In terms of the quality and the character of our musicians, the theatre pieces and the performances, all of it has been unbelievably good. We have a lot to be thankful for and a lot to tell our friends about.
I’ve just had a blast this semester; it’s been a great semester in so many ways. I’m thrilled to be here.