Dear University of the West Community:
In these unprecedented times of a devastating global pandemic, economic meltdowns, nationwide protest for racial justice and social discourse, educational institutions around the country have seen declining enrollment figures for the Fall among domestic and international student populations. Students are facing economic struggles, emotional stress, and uncertainty about their future. At UWest, our enrollment numbers have been on the decline for the last three years and our student body are experiencing similar challenges.
Based on the recent report on June 25, 2020 title, “Student Experiences During the Pandemic Pivot”, students from Colleges and University around the country expressed concerns on:
● Balancing school, work, and home responsibilities. Unexpectedly having to pivot to online learning and finding quiet space to complete work also proved especially difficult.
● Students found collaborative, technical, and specialized assignments to be the most difficult to complete. Assignments that were completed most frequently were ones with which they experienced the least difficulty and were already familiar with.
● Students lacked a sense of belonging and connection to others at their institution. While they felt somewhat connected to their instructors, few reported feeling very connected to other students.
● Concerns regarding physical and mental health—especially amongst historically underserved and marginalized student groups—were present for approximately half of students even while they reported high levels of awareness of how to be safe during the pandemic.
● Roughly one in three students reported some concern regarding their food or housing security. Those who reported the greatest concerns were, unfortunately, relatively less likely to know where to go to find emergency aid resources.
Over the weekend and in the spirit of defining the University of the West, I re-examine the catalog and was particularly draw to the introduction,
“Situated at the center of the cultural, spiritual, and intellectual exchange, UWest intergrade liberal arts traditions with a global perspective to provide a unique student-centered educational experience informed by humanistic Buddhist values. UWest is deeply committed to the interaction of diverse cultures and international perspectives. Students and faculty come together as a community of scholars participation in an ongoing dialogue to advance knowledge and address societal and cultural issues.”
I found the emphasis of humanistic Buddhist values, participation on social justice issues, and student-centered education are unique to U West’s identity. These values are attractive to many young people and our community in times of crisis. As your new leader, I believe this is the moment for us to reflect on these values and explore how we can best live up to these ideals for our students and our community.
This is an opportunity for faculty, staff and administrators to work together and create a brand strategy, an achievable enrollment management and retention plans based on the relationships that we have cultivated in the last 29 years. We need to collaborate on a plan that stabilizes the future of our university, and ensures its continued success. In the spirit of collaboration and openness, I want to explore three questions with you so that we can go on to create a stable and prosperous future for our university. I hope that you will give the questions some thought, and email me your responses within one week. The first step for me to do for this community is to listen, and I want to hear your voices.
1. What is the University of the West known for and what do you love about UWest?
2. What are our major challenges?
3. What could you do to help?
Thank you and have a wonderful and safe weekend!
Cheer! Together in the UWest community spirit!