Updates from the Board Chair
June 17, 2021 Update
Dear Albright College Community,
A June board meeting provides the opportunity to catch our breath, to reflect on the past year, and to look forward to the year ahead. It’s a time to reflect on our accomplishments and approve plans for the work that lies ahead for the college, all while maintaining a focus on advancing Albright towards its long-term strategic vision.
During the Board of Trustees meeting last week (June 10-11), we heard a variety of reports and engaged in strategic dialogue around our vision and goals. A key objective for our 2020-2021 academic year was to navigate a pandemic in a manner which kept our community safe, fully employed, and allowed students to take advantage of a residential learning experience. Confronting the pandemic changed the way everything on campus operated; at least for the short-term. This required complete collaboration across the college and demanded constant monitoring and adjustment.
Congratulations, Albright! You rose to the challenge! Despite the pandemic, student retention and success metrics improved, fundraising goals were exceeded, and financial performance was much better than budgeted, as well as improved over fiscal 2020 results. This forward momentum energizes us to continue the pursuit of our 2030 goal:
“A national reputation for closing the gap on education for all students of academic promise – for students who earn an affordable and high quality degree with a strong liberal arts foundation, who are prepared to enter the workforce, who experience significant socioeconomic mobility, and who are prepared to hold fulfilling jobs, across all student demographics (gender, racial, ethnic, first-generation).
This past academic year was also a year of progress towards our institutional priority of developing and supporting a thriving, supportive, equitable, and empowered community.
The work of CITE-C and the Task Force on Race Relations at Albright (TORRA), the engagement of the Society of Black Alumni, the Albright Excellence DEI series, our Racial Healing & Reconciliation panels, and the inaugural Empowering Albright Voices celebration were noted as accomplishments. A highlight was our Thursday evening networking event in which we learned about the impact that the Racial Healing & Reconciliation panels are having on the Albright College community. On behalf of the board of trustees, deepest appreciation to Shawn Barczynski, Chaplain Ibi Bangura, Janice Luck, and students Massiel Del Orbe and Jazer Willis for their leadership, their passion, and for taking time out of their Thursday evening to be with us.
Albright continues to be recognized for top quartile performance in social mobility rankings for national liberal arts colleges by US News & World Report, and at our meeting, we examined the ranking methodologies. The board remains committed to focusing on our mission and vision as the best path forward, which we believe will improve our ranking position over time.
We should all take a moment to recognize and celebrate these 2021 achievements! We are encouraged by the success (especially during a pandemic year), yet we also acknowledge that there is still much work to be done.
To that end, the Board of Trustees approved the college’s 2021-2022 goals, which continue to move us toward our 2030 vision. These goals are focused on:
- Building an inclusive, equitable and fully participating community
- Advancing our student success efforts
- Enhancing our existing revenue streams and developing alternative revenues
- Improving marketplace brand awareness
- Progressing on necessary capital improvement projects
The board also received an update on the preliminary 2022 fiscal budget and will take up final approval of the financial plan over the summer.
Additional highlights from our June 2021 virtual meeting include:
- Welcoming two new members to the board who bring great experience and expertise in a variety of fields: Kristine Hazzard ’83, principal consultant, Katalyst; and Deborah St. Clair Radwanski, executive vice president, Perrotto Builders, Ltd.
- Approval of an investment and operating lease in a warehouse located on Rockland Street to accommodate both long- and short-term storage needs associated with the college’s Student Success Commons and Library complex.
- Engaging in strategic conversations about the long-term sustainable financial model to understand the operational, capital and funding needs of the college over the next decade. This continues to be a work-in-process, but much progress has been made on the ability to incorporate new information into the forecast as results are achieved, new plans are developed and capital projects are integrated into the college’s modeling capabilities.
- Learning about mental health concerns relative to the pandemic by Brenda Ingram-Wallace, Ph.D., director of the counseling center and associate professor of psychology. The connection between access to counseling and academic success was a key point, and we are grateful for the work of Dr. Ingram-Wallace and the Counseling Center staff. It is a tremendous resource for the Albright community.
Best wishes for a summer of reflection and rejuvenation. We look forward to returning to campus and hopefully seeing many of you in-person in the fall.
With Lion Pride,
Ron Scheese ’83
A week ago today we convened our February 2021 board meeting via Zoom. A year ago, February 2020, was the last time the board gathered for an in-person meeting. Since that time we have continued to meet virtually because we, too, are committed to upholding Albright’s Community Care Compact, and in prioritizing community health and safety. Albright College has been extremely successful in its ability to navigate the challenges of the pandemic and we can achieve this again in the spring if we all continue to do our part to care for ourselves and others in our community.
When we met a year ago, the trustees endorsed Albright’s Strategic Vision, which serves to guide the college in defining and building a sustainable financial model that focuses on understanding its students and their needs, and the thriving well-being of our entire community. Little did we anticipate then the challenges that a global pandemic would present. But over the course of the past 12 months, through many meetings, plans, discussions, changes to plans, more dialogue, steps forward and steps back, the entire Albright community has embodied our values – curiosity, connection, resilience, integrity – in each step forward. This message rang loud and true and was intertwined in each and every discussion at our meeting last week.
Our future is energized by the strengths of Albright as a community of the whole. During our recent meeting, one of our board members noted, “COVID can’t stop Albright! There’s momentum towards hopeful change.” Throughout our sessions, we all sensed that spirit and energy. I’m proud of the college’s valiant response to the pandemic and extremely pleased to report that Albright has also made solid progress towards its long-term vision.
Allow me to share some highlights from our February 2021 virtual meeting:
- Our board includes alumni and community leaders who bring great experience in a variety of fields and sectors. We welcomed three new members to the board: Michael H. Reese ’86, retired, City of Reading; Nancy G. Shores, J.D., vice president global real estate, construction and deputy general counsel, The Bountiful Company; and Peter D. Stanislawczyk, senior vice president of sales, East Penn Manufacturing Company.
- We reviewed reports from across campus regarding improvements in student success metrics, retention rates, advancement efforts, enrollment trends, investment returns and actual financial results as compared to our 2021 budget.
- We engaged in several strategic conversations with regards to the intersection of campus planning, fundraising and financing with a lens toward our goal of what it means to be a truly inclusive and fully participating community.
- In a session led by Adelle Schade, dean of pre-college and summer programs, we learned about Albright’s Science Research Institute (SRI), of which she is director. It was fascinating to learn the many ways in which Albright contributes to the Berks County community through SRI. Many of the programs we discussed emerged because of needs in education brought on in response to COVID-19 challenges.
- And we shared time with the members of the Society of Black Alumni (SOBA) as we virtually journeyed together to learn about Albright’s many efforts and programs to develop a supportive, thriving, well, equitable and empowered community. Deepest appreciation to Jacque Fetrow, Kami Fletcher, Brenda Ingram-Wallace, Beth Kiester, Jeff Lentz, Katy Mangold, A.J. Merlino, Ted Ogaldez, Ann Thompson, Ralia Vardaxis, and Keith Walls for their preparation, taking time out of their Friday night schedule to be with us, but more importantly, for their passion and efforts to move Albright towards realizing its vision.
Curiosity, connection, resilience, integrity – these are Albright College’s core values and these were reflected in every conversation during the course of our meeting time. As I reflected on this over the last week, I gained an even greater appreciation for the Albright community. In order for these core values to be reflected in presentation, they must come from each and every individual – the students, faculty and staff who comprise the Albright community. Thank you all for living our values and for your efforts to navigate the daily challenges of the pandemic while keeping an eye towards our 2030 vision.
Best wishes for a successful spring semester.
Ron Scheese ’83
Dear Albright College community,
Greetings from your board of trustees! Though we wished we could have been on our beautiful campus last week for the October meeting of the board, the health and safety of the Albright community remains a priority, so we again conducted our meeting virtually.
On behalf of the board, I just wanted to say how deeply grateful we are to the students, faculty, staff and administration for continuing to exemplify Albright’s core values and for the can-do, resilient spirit that makes this community such a special place. Through the extraordinary leadership of the Pandemic Task Force, Albright College modeled its COVID-19 response plan within a framework that prioritized the health and safety of our community; honored the importance of the residential learning experience; optimized facility capacity and usage aligned with social distancing and sanitation guidance; and retained employment of all faculty and staff throughout the crisis. And each one of you made a personal commitment to health and safety through the Community Care Compact.
Many colleges have not survived this challenging time, let alone continued to thrive. This truly is an exceptional pride of Albright Lions! Thank you for your commitment and perseverance.
Below, I am delighted to share with you some of the highlights from our robust and exciting virtual board meeting, held October 16-17.
- First, we are pleased to have welcomed new trustee Suzanne E. Anderson, M.Ed., P.C.C., principal of Collaborations Group, Inc. (CGI), located near Washington, D.C., to the board. Suzanne has over 25 years of experience as an executive coach, facilitator, and organizational analyst and has been working with Albright College for the last two years in support of our work to develop and support a thriving, equitable and empowered community.
- An Academic Spotlight featured the transition to virtual learning, presented by Brian Gall, assistant dean of online & digital learning; Dorothy Hoerr, instructional designer; Karen Rodgers, instructional designer; and Laura DePue, director of teaching and learning, Title II Grant. Though many businesses pivoted to a work-from-anywhere environment when the pandemic hit, for a college to transform its methods of instruction and learning, faculty and students must adopt an entirely different approach and paradigm. Thank to you this talented, dedicated team for successfully guiding the Albright College community through this transition.
- A typical board meeting balances fiduciary duties with strategic and long-term discussions. Much of our time was spent discussing the college’s ambitious goal for 2030, as expressed in the Strategic Vision Paper, which was endorsed by the faculty and trustees in early 2020. There was much energy and excitement in the Zoom room as we talked about closing the gap between the Albright of 2020 and the Albright we envision in 2030, and it was heartening to hear about some of the progress the college continues to make toward that objective. It’s also important to recognize that a ten-year plan can’t be accomplished quickly, nor can it be done alone. As they say, “It take a village.” I encourage you to ask yourself what you can do to help Albright College reach its 2030 goal.
- Continuing the conversation about Albright’s Strategic Vision, the board talked about building a truly inclusive and fully participating community, focusing on the challenges and implications of what having “a national reputation for closing the gap on education for all students of academic promise,” as stated in our ambitious goal for 2030, truly means. This is a compelling challenge and will require engagement across the entire Albright community. To appreciate the magnitude of the ambition to which we strive, I highly recommend reading The Merit Myth: How our colleges favor the rich and divide America by Anthony P. Carnevale, Peter Schmidt, and Jeff Strohl.
- Our time together was made more special with a virtual student networking opportunity on the evening of Friday, Oct. 16, in which 23 students engaged with trustees and staff. We shared one-minute elevator pitches and answered questions about career and life after Albright. Virtual meetings sometimes hinder relationship building, but I believe the connections we made will last longer than the time we spent in a Zoom breakout room. My message to all the students was to take advantage of the college’s career planning resources, as well as the faculty and alumni relationships and connections established during their time at Albright.
In addition, the board approved the following at its October meeting:
- The 2020-2021 operating budget
- The college’s 2020-2021 goals to advance the institutional priorities and themes in the Strategic Vision Paper.
- December 2020 candidates for graduation as approved by the faculty and subject to meeting all criteria necessary to graduate. In order to graduate, each student must meet the requirements for their respective degree, be in good standing, and be approved by the faculty and board of trustees.
- Extension of the partnership agreement with Aramark Educational Services for food services to include an upgrade and renovation to Jake’s Place scheduled for 2021.
- A comprehensive policy to streamline and improve the college’s contracting process review and signing authority was adopted.
To the entire Albright community, I wish you much success as you finish the semester strong. Remain healthy, safe, positive, optimistic, diligent, resilient, and encourage other friends and colleagues to remain so as well.
Ron Scheese ’83
Chair, Board of Trustees
Dear Albright College community,
Greetings from the board of trustees! I write to you today in what I hope establishes a new tradition at Albright – an update from the board chair following each of our meetings. Given our current situation and our priority to ensure the health of all members of the Albright community, our most recent meeting on June 18 and 19 was held via video conference.
The board of trustees, which provides leadership and oversight to the mission, values and strategic direction of the college, is responsible for asking the hard questions about strategic direction; questions that may have implications decades from now. Board meetings provide regular opportunities for trustees to engage on the key issues and challenges facing the college. In February this year, we endorsed the Strategic Vision Paper, which lays out a strategic vision for Albright College. This strategic vision is a commitment to build a sustainable financial model that focuses on students and their needs, and the thriving well-being of our entire community. There is plenty of work to do to realize our collective vision.
When a global health crisis impacts every element of the college’s operations and threatens the ability to carry out the mission, it is no small task to respond in a timely and decisive manner. First and foremost, the health and safety of the entire campus community has been and continues to be Albright’s number one priority. Discovering ways to serve those students who have entrusted their education to Albright and simultaneously caring for the faculty and employees whose professional lives and livelihoods have been disrupted required much creativity and innovation.
For the past several months, the board of trustees regularly engaged with the administration through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic to carry out the college’s mission in pursuit of its vision. During our board meeting, we examined a multitude of actions, heard numerous heart-warming stories, reviewed financial relief package requirements and discussed considerations and alternatives for a return to campus in the fall.
The board is deeply grateful to the students, faculty, essential workers, staff and administration for coming together and exemplifying the values and can-do spirit of the Albright community under extraordinary circumstances. Despite the challenges, your character and commitment to our values and foundational purpose were unwavering. Attached to this message is a motion approved by the board expressing appreciation and recognition for the college community. We hope you feel a sense of pride in that which you have been able to accomplish. You have our admiration and gratitude.
While the college navigated the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Albright also made strides towards its long-term vision. Listed below are some events and actions discussed at our board meeting:
- Approved a new co-major in public policy and administration and a new minor in music production.
- Adopted a capital budget for fiscal ’20-’21 and approved a spending authorization allowing the college to operate during the summer while a final ’20-’21 operating budget is completed, evaluated and approved. A significant number of unknowns remain as plans for next year continue to emerge. The college will continue to be conservative with its financial projections as we navigate these times.
- Welcomed three new members to the board: Dawn Anuszkiewicz, chief operating officer of Reading Hospital; Dr. Karen A. Marrongelle ’95, head of the Directorate for Education and Human Resources at the National Science Foundation; and Michael D. Scales, associate vice president, Office of Business Services, at Temple University. We are grateful for all of our board members who bring great experience in a variety of fields and sectors – all with a passion for higher education and for Albright.
- Recognized Alumni Board Chair Kat Crossley ’11, Faculty Chair Jon Bekken, Student Government President Faith Guzzo ’20 and Board Member Jeanette Roberts ’79 for their service to the college. The board welcomed and heard updates from new representatives Sean Crossley ’11, Alumni Board chair; Ian Rhile, faculty chair; and Dylan Cope ’21, Student Government president.
- Affirmed actions taken to convert Rockland Hall from a management agreement model to a lease model offering the college greater flexibility and control of the residential property.
- Approved ’20-’21 goals for administration to advance the institutional priorities and themes in alignment with the Strategic Vision White Paper. These goals include, among others, commitments to inclusivity and equity; library and other facility planning; and retention and student success objectives.
- Defined the college’s 2020-2021 strategic conversation focus on building a truly inclusive and fully participating community. The board wishes to ensure progress is achieved in our commitment to developing and supporting a thriving, well, equitable and empowered community as expressed in the college’s Strategic Vision. In addition, a board task force on equity and inclusion was created to collaborate with administration and provide expertise, generative thinking and advice.
- Heard an informative, exciting and inspiring presentation about The Science Research Institute at Albright College by Adelle Schade, dean of pre-college and summer programs; Kris Jackson and Jason Morris, co-founders of Cross-Trainer Mixed Reality; A.J. Merlino, director of music industry studies; and Doreen Burdalski, chair of the fashion department.
If you were to ask trustees what they enjoy most about board meetings, I am certain many would highlight the opportunity to interact with the Albright community – faculty, staff, fellow trustees and perhaps most importantly, students. And while the structure of a virtual meeting limits these opportunities for relationship building, I can attest we came away from our meeting energized and inspired by the entire community’s dedication and support for one another during this time. We eagerly anticipate the opportunity to again gather on campus to celebrate with you and work collaboratively to pursue our strategic vision.
Stay healthy, safe, positive, optimistic and resilient!
Ron Scheese ’83
Chair, Board of Trustees