State of the College

Monday, September 10, 2001

The following is the State of the College address Saint Martin's College President David Spangler, Ph.D., delivered at 4 p.m. on Sept. 5 at the Worthington Conference Center.

The rule of Saint Benedict begins with the term "hearken" or "listen." For over 15 years, we have been listening and developing the plans needed to provide us a pathway to the future. I believe this academic year is a great confluence of good past planning and listening-and future opportunities to build on that history.

With an underlying foundation of sound financial execution, we have planned for and achieved several of our past goals: 

1. A strong enrollment management program that has resulted in an unprecedented growth in our freshman class for the past two years 
2. Physical planning that has developed a master plan and several new buildings including the Worthington Center, Kreielsheimer Arts Building, and the beautiful new O'Grady library 
3. Improvement in our athletic facilities 
4. One renovation of Old Main and a complete utility infrastructure conversion 
5. A tripling of our endowment and a string of positive financial results at the end of each year 
6. An academic expansion of programs in both undergraduate and graduate sectors along with many individual and group academic accomplishments 
7. A strategic plan that has given us much guidance in the past several years and which has, in great measure, been accomplished 
8. A new mission statement that reaffirmed our commitment to the traditional values of Saint Martin's and our Benedictine heritage 
9. The retention of a commitment to a unique educational experience that provides all who come here with a support that allows for growth and development of each individual's God-given abilities.

Having reached this point, we must look to the future as challenges and opportunities abound. For almost 100 years, we were the only academic institution in Southwest Washington that offered a wide range of programs. That is no longer the case. We have long been looked to as a place for transfer students to attend for their program's completion. Many are now choosing other avenues for completion of degrees. For-profit and state institutional expansions are apparent in a variety of forms.

What do I see for our future? I believe there is much opportunity to build on our Benedictine foundation and century old history. Society is coming, albeit slowly, to a realization that the shallow, value-less recent decades leave much to be desired. Even though technology has prompted many to select on-line academic offerings, there is an increasing awareness that such an approach may offer information, but not a complete education. Developing individuals into thinking, caring, aware graduates who can thoughtfully contribute to our society requires more than the gathering of knowledge. It is a personalized experience that best occurs in a face-to-face environment that is also enriched by the co-curricular elements of campus life. I see an opportunity for our historic strength based on community to be a beacon of education as it should be.

To accomplish this, a vision is being developed that has some essential components I would like to address. They are academic, social, physical, enrollment and endowment.

Academically-We must reinforce our commitment to the principles set forth in our mission. Such elements as incorporation of our Benedictine values into the curriculum, attention to a holistic educational education, use of our abilities in the service of others all need to be included in our program. I am most pleased with the faculty initiative in our general educational planning that can significantly accomplish these needs. The combining of sound academic expectations with our Benedictine heritage is an outstanding means to achieve the holistic goal an educated person should expect. At the same time, I believe we must develop common expectations for our graduate programs as well as find ways to expand on the excellent international educational opportunities we have begun.

Socially-An essential part of our educational program resides in the community spirit that supports everyone who comes to the campus. Our Benedictine heritage welcomes everyone in a spirit that recognizes God in each person. The learning of how to treat others with civility and respect, no matter their race, religion, nationality, physical characteristics, gender, or other distinguishing features is a significant part of becoming an educated person. We cannot in our speech or writing minimize the inherent dignity each person in our community deserves.

Physically-The major upsurge in freshmen will mandate an expansion of our residence hall facilities, the design of which is already underway. In fact, today the committee charged with this planning met again with a goal of developing the program needs for a new residence hall by the end of this calendar year.

In addition, the traditional age population as well as spatial limitations are a catalyst for the building of a new student center designed to incorporate many of the student service functions, ASSMC (Associated Students of Saint Martin's College) offices, bookstore, dining, and activity locations such as meeting rooms. Clearly, this will be a major undertaking and will require us to find the resources to finance it, but such a center is an essential part of a vibrant, expanded campus life. We have already received a $300,000 grant from the Saint Martin's monastic community that will allow us to begin planning for that facility immediately, again with a goal of having a draft plan before January. We owe thanks to the Monastic community for their support. Our science facilities have been in need of improvement for many years. Coupled with the expanding engineering population and space requirements for those programs, I have asked for planning of a joint science-engineering facility to allow us to begin fundraising as soon as possible. Academically, we have a significant need in these areas to provide modern, supportive places for our faculty and students to pursue knowledge.

As you already know, the upgrade of Old Main will keep our attention this year and I ask your understanding of the noise and dislocation required to improve our seismic condition. For those of you who rode out the Ash Wednesday Earthquake, we hope the next shake will be less of a thrill. I wish I could provide a better timetable for the work, but city permits are controlling what we do and when it will occur. We hope to be done by the beginning of the next academic year. We also plan to expand the cafeteria to allow for better food service and seating. Some other physical changes may occur on campus such as the potential movement of our maintenance facilities out of the heart of the institution.

This summer we received a $1.8 million federal grant, called Title III, to upgrade our administrative and academic computer infrastructure and to provide for academic support through learning centers and the incorporation of technological resources to aid the educational process. This is a five year program designed to phase in changes that affect all of us. † Enrollment-We must continue the excellent work that has raised our incoming freshmen numbers as we work toward a goal of 1,500 FTE (Full Time Equivalency) undergraduate students (at the Lacey campus), a graduate population that is roughly one-third the size of the undergraduate program and a continued growth of the number of students who live on campus. Additionally, we intend to retain our commitment to the military bases where we have provided outstanding educational offerings for over 25 years. While we have achieved the enrollment increases expected for the freshman class, the students transferring in from other places have declined significantly in number. Some of this was expected because of changing demographics, but the reduced numbers are more significant than forecasted. I believe Saint Martins should continue to serve the transfer students as always, but as I mentioned earlier, the changing academic environment in this state and the country will challenge us as we make connections to the broad spectrum of society desiring education. † Endowment-Much of our previous planning has positioned us to begin developing a major endowment increase. If we are to keep the cost of an education as affordable as possible, we must have significant resources set aside to keep up with rising costs. Otherwise, the full burden of the expense for this education falls on the students, and that is not desirable. We are beginning a major thrust to connect with alumni and friends to develop the endowment through a variety of deferred giving plans that can benefit the donor as well as the College. Our development office has been establishing the policies and training to allow us to move ahead on this front this fall and in the future.

There is much to be done to move us forward over the next several years. Growth of enrollment and fundraising, some building and academic enrichment and, above all, a continuing commitment to the wonderful nature of this 106-year-old institution that was founded by the Benedictine monks to be a resource for this region. Whether we call ourselves Saint Martin's College or Saint Martin's University, at no time in our future should we abandon our commitment to the students, our belief in the personalized approach to education, the values inherent in our founders 1,500-year history, or the belief that each of us deserves the opportunity to realize our full potential and purpose on God's earth.

I look forward to a wonderful academic year filled with learning, accomplishments and growth.

For more information:
Christina Ramírez-Milhoan, communications specialist
Saint Martin's College Office of Communication
360-438-4541 or cramirez@stmartin.edu