The Raven Review interviews Dr. Kristin Woolever on her vision of Prescott College

By Rebecca Antsis
Staff Writer

With a new president, plans for dorms and 10-year strategic planning, Prescott College is changing before our eyes.

Anticipated changes at Prescott College, as presented by President Dr. Kristin Woolever:

Concrete changes

  • Dorm groundbreaking, May 2011; completion anticipated Fall 2012.
  • Increase in student health services, 24-hour minimum care, Fall 2012.
  • Two new Resident Masters’ Programs.
  • Fishbowl will receive new computers, 2012 (or earlier).
  • Study abroad program. Possible alliance with School for International Training, Spring 2012.
  • Increased involvement of Board of Trustees.
  • Changes in Independent Study requirements; possibly limiting I.S. advisers to college faculty.
  • Integration of passive and active solar energy technology.
  • Landscape design will include preservation of existing native trees, new native plants, courtyard spaces with fruit trees and edible gardens, irrigation from rainwater harvesting and screening structures to minimize visual impact on surrounding residents.
  • New website coming soon.
  • More opportunities to be involved with Karma Farms for PC students and the wider community will be available, since Karma Farms was gifted with a farmhouse.
  • Bookstore will move to the Hozoni building at 320 Grove Ave.
  • The Raven Review is working on extending publications to include summer and fall.
  • Governance Working Group will finalize a draft of the structural recommendations for the college, May 16.

Directional Changes

  • Double student body.
  • Re-evaluate faculty compensation in order to meet Accreditation standards.
  • Increase diversity.
  • Increase Hispanic presence.
  • Increase conversation and collaboration among RDP, ADP, Master of Arts and Ph.D. Programs.
  • Build better “town-gown” relations.
  • Improve student retention.

On the 10-year Strategic Plan:
The strategic plan will have a draft to the faculty [and students and staff] of the whole thing in September. It will come back to the committee, we’ll tinker with it and send it out. We hope to have the plan out by October. It has to go to the Board of Trustees for approval. Once [it’s] approved, we’ll immediately start implementing these things.

The change is across the board. It’s administration, faculty, staff, students. People are very into dreaming, and not just dreaming, but putting flesh on the dreams and serious plans. Which requires us to do things that in the past we would not have thought about doing because “we’ve always done it this way.”

On guiding principles for planning:
Diversity and sustainability run throughout. In fact, that’s part of the charge of every committee. … They have to include sustainability and diversity.

On increasing the Hispanic population:
We would love to be what’s known as a Hispanic-serving institution. In order to do that that, you have to have 25 percent of your student population Hispanic. That’s going to be hard, but we are really trying to move in that direction.

On faculty compensation:
One of [the Higher Learning Commission’s] strong suggestions was that faculty compensation needed to be attended to. Paul Burkhardt [Chief Academic Adviser] interviewed everybody on campus and [developed] a committee of faculty, staff, and students — and a trustee actually — [which] created a statement called the “Compensation Philosophy.” We need to be equitable. The faculty themselves have worked out another proposal and it is going to the full faculty at the next meeting, which I think is going to happen May 2. I think, if it is passed, it will change how we compensate faculty.

On maintaining an older demographic:
In some areas we are known as the “Hiking School” — that may appeal to a younger demographic. We want first-time students, [but] we want transfer students who are 25 [years old as well].

On increasing the size of the college:
It’s not going to happen overnight. It has to be on a step-by-step process. I’ve said this publicly so I’ll say it again: I’d like to double our size. We’re now about 1,100 students: 500 undergraduate residents, and the rest are distance students. I’d like to bring that number to 2,500 thereabouts. And that would be a mix of residential students and long-distance students.

The more students we have, because we are tuition driven, the more money we have to hire more staff, to build a new academic building, and that sort of thing. For a college to be viable and sustainable, you have to have about 1500 students, and we’re a little shy.

On student health services:
With the advent of Student Housing we’re going to have to beef up our services, because we’re going to have people living here 24 hours. So with the bond that we are seeking to fund construction, also part of that is going to be money for new hires. For student success and support, new facilities, etc. By Fall 2012, you will see a major difference in services offered for students. By next year, even maybe this summer.

On developing a graduate/undergraduate program:
We hope … that the two programs [RDP and Master of Arts Program] are connected so that it will be very easy to transition from one program into the other.

On fundraising:
We have re-organized our formerly called Development Office into the Office of Advancement. We now have a vice-president for advancement. Advancement means advancing the College with marketing and fundraising. And PR. And the whole enchilada.

We will be hiring direct under the vice-president a director of development whose sole job it will be go out and fund-raise. And there are several private conversations going on now about increasing the endowment as well. We’ve asked the Board of Trustees to help us really not fund-raise but “friend-raise.”

On the college’s relationship to Prescott:
One of my main goals is to build better bridges to the town. We have also developed a local advisory board — sought leaders in the quad-city area. We now have about 15 people and they meet with me and others at the college three or four times a year. Their job is to know everything about Prescott College and be advocates for the college in the community and if somebody says “Oh, there’s that hippie college,” they can say “Well, wait a minute did you know…” And they can work with students if they choose, on internships and that sort of thing.

On the college’s position in the changing world:
I see only blue sky for Prescott College. I think … we’re going to be much more visible, locally and regionally, nationally and internationally. We have here something that is a real gem, we need to grow … and carefully. We always want to be an intimate college but we have so much to offer the world.

On the patchwork of the college:
We operate by silos. We have Residential Degree Program students and faculty, the Adult Degree Program and the Masters of Arts program. In the past they haven’t really talked with each other — they have very different programs. We need to think of ourselves as one college, and have opportunities for faculty, staff, and students — particularly staff and students — to experience different modes. A student came to my office about three weeks after I was here, and we were talking about these issues. He said something that really struck me: “We have a lot of patches of excellence but we haven’t put them together into a quilt.” And that’s true. And we’re making the quilt right now.

This article appeared in the May 2011 print edition of The Raven Review.
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