Self-Study Report: Chapter Three
Responding to New Challenges
Calvin College has developed resources that lay the foundation for meeting future challenges. Through review and strategic planning, the many dynamic features of campus operations—new building construction and new technology; financial development; student, faculty, and staff recruiting; and program planning, development, and expansion— are all linked to the mission of the college. Appropriate structures exist for deciding how to allocate these resources in response to new challenges and opportunities.
Shaping the Future: Strategic Planning
Calvin College realistically prepares for a future shaped by multiple societal and economic trends. Institutional planning at Calvin is carried out on several levels by a number of faculty and administrative committees. Formal planning is the responsibility of the Planning and Priorities Committee (PPC) and the President's Cabinet. PPC is "concerned with the long-range direction of the college and with evaluating specific needs and priorities in light of the college's mission." In addition to being the principal body that does long-range planning for the college, PPC is responsible for the development and implementation of continuous and systematic planning processes and procedures.1 The President’s Cabinet, while it has no explicit power to make policy, exercises considerable initiative and influence on the budget that the president proposes to the Board of Trustees. Overall curricular planning at Calvin is done by the Educational Policy Committee,2 which also supervises the Core Curriculum Committee and the curricular planning of academic departments. Besides these bodies, significant planning initiatives bubble up from below in an entrepreneurial manner, originating with individual faculty and staff members, and from academic and administrative departments.
The Higher Learning Commission’s visiting team in 1994 identified institutional planning as one area in which Calvin’s full effectiveness was at some risk, wondering whether the college’s existing structures of institutional planning adequately positioned it to identify and respond to new challenges in fulfillment of its mission. Over the past ten years the college has addressed this issue by revising its processes of strategic planning and by creating a new Office of Institutional and Enrollment Research.
The Strategic Planning Process
The Planning and Priorities Committee, a faculty committee that was created in 1995 out of the existing Priorities Committee and given an expanded mandate, supervises strategic planning with guidance from the President’s Cabinet. Since the 1994 accreditation review the college has adopted a more dynamic planning process, a rolling planning model. The first strategic plan to issue from this new structure and method was based on the statements of vision, purpose, and commitment of the 1992 Expanded Statement of the Mission of Calvin College ( ESM), two years of planning efforts by all campus departments in 1993-1994, and an analysis of emerging trends to identify the salient challenges facing the college.3 The plan laid out goals and strategies in four areas. It aimed to (1) advance Calvin’s leadership in developing distinctively Christian patterns of teaching and learning; (2) establish Calvin as a major center for Christian thought and cultural creativity; (3) strengthen Calvin’s performance as a partner in ministry and community service and deepen the practice of community on its campus; and (4) improve Calvin’s competitive position as a provider of high-quality education at a reasonable cost.
Beginning in the fall of 1998, Provost Carpenter was mandated by PPC to conduct a midcourse review of the five-year strategic plan of 1997. PPC appointed a strategic plan subcommittee, which reviewed the plan in view of the imperatives spelled out in the ESM. The subcommittee identified intermediate tasks needed to meet the objectives of the plan and presented to Faculty Senate a detailed report on the college’s progress in March 1999. The subcommittee’s report proceeded point-by-point through the entire strategic plan, using a simple matrix to show in more than 70 tables which pieces of the plan had been “accomplished,” which were “in progress,” and which remained “to do.”4
Both the process and production of the current five-year plan grew out of the PPC review. At a March 2000 meeting of PPC, the question arose whether to revise the current plan in accord with the mid-course review just completed, or to conduct a new ground-up planning effort. The committee agreed to use the then-current plan (1997-2002) as the basis for a new plan. PPC appointed a task force that in 2000-2001 drew up a new five-year plan (2002-2007).5
The Current Five-Year Plan (2002-2007)
The current five-year strategic plan was passed by PPC, vetted by the faculty and other sectors at hearings in the fall of 2001,6 and approved by Faculty Senate in December 2001 and by the Board of Trustees at its meeting in February 2002.7 The current process of institutional selfstudy will feed the next mid-course review of the strategic plan.
Acknowledging that Calvin is a strong institution, well positioned to meet the needs of students and placed in a favorable regional environment, the current plan organized goals in response to what it identified as the college’s subtle and long-term challenges.8
First, the college needs to renew and advance its identity as a Reformed, Christian college in a new generation. As a college that “teaches both a coherent Christian value system and a principled respect for pluralism in public life,” Calvin “offers an alternative to the contending forces bent on either rebuilding the establishment” in American intellectual life or “fostering relativism.”9 Calvin also resists the trend for students to view higher education as a commodity and for colleges to “repackage their goods” accordingly. Calvin persists in a countercultural mission to “equip students for their calling as servants of God.” Nevertheless, both the college and its sponsoring denomination recognize that the Reformed Christian tradition encompasses many cultures; the college’s efforts to become a culturally more diverse community have raised a need for a fresh consideration of its Reformed identity. The need is more pressing in view of Calvin’s position of leadership in the larger Christian academic community in North America and around the world.
Second, the plan calls attention to the challenge of consolidating and sustaining the college’s engagement with the “revolutions in collegiate pedagogy, curriculum, and technology.” At Calvin, “[t]here is greater recognition than ever before that a well-taught course will use several approaches in order to bring the full range of cognitive and sensory tools to the task of learning.”10Keeping up with the rapid innovations in information technology in American higher education, while exhilarating, has its costs as well, in ongoing infrastructural and hardware renewal, new software, and support systems.
A third challenge identified in the five-year plan is to “understand and effectively connect with a changing constituency,” both locally and nationally, while advancing the college’s commitment to justice, reconciliation, and partnership “throughout society and across racial and cultural divides.” Recognizing its success in developing an important new constituency among American evangelical students and their families, schools, and churches, the college needs to better define and institutionally articulate these relationships while maintaining its fruitful efforts within the congregations of the Christian Reformed Church. Calvin does not fit easily into the standard categories of American higher education. It is lower priced and is not as “highly selective” as many private institutions, but it is academically rigorous and enjoys a strong reputation. It is distinctively Christian but does not emphasize typically conservative evangelical mores. In the Grand Rapids area, many members of the Calvin community are involved in service to their communities, yet the college still must combat a widely held public impression of isolation and aloofness. And renewed attention must be devoted to the meaning and practice of community within the confines of the Calvin campus and among students, administrative staff, and faculty. Finally, the college faces challenges in sustaining not only the programmatic improvements it has made in the last decade but also its support for excellence in teaching, research and scholarship, services, facilities, and staff. Having reached its enrollment cap, the college can no longer look to increased enrollment as a means of meeting the costs of new programs.
In accordance with its evaluation of the challenges facing the college, the current five-year plan sets out five major goals:
To each major goal the plan attaches several subsidiary objectives, and each objective is followed by a number of concrete tasks.11
Several major themes cut across these goals and objectives. The plan puts a hopeful face on aspirations for continued improvement, but it also shows that the college understands its current capacity. It pledges the college to sharpen its systems of internal stewardship such as raising money, maintaining its facilities, and refining its enrollment systems. The plan has built into it a capital campaign, which should provide the means to respond to the external challenges identified in the plan, such as globalization, demographic changes, and technological innovations. The plan thus practices effective environmental scanning. As we have seen in chapter two of this study, the college has institutional governing structures that have enabled it to effect and manage substantial changes. As indicated in the section below, Calvin is committed to making further changes in order to navigate a diverse and multicultural North American culture while preserving and building upon the strengths found in its religious and intellectual heritage.
Planning and Diversity
Calvin’s planning documents show careful attention to the college’s place in a multicultural society. In addition to the sections in the strategic plan that are devoted to developing strategies to promote racial reconciliation and to recruit and retain minority students, faculty, and staff, 12 the college has an important new resource, From Every Nation: Revised Comprehensive Plan for Racial Justice, Reconciliation, and Cross-Cultural Engagement at Calvin College ( FEN), published in early 2004. FEN is a statement of the goals and objectives of the college regarding racial and ethnic diversity. One of its central provisions is to strengthen the mandate of the Multicultural Affairs Committee (MAC), to make it “the principal agent of the college in the development and maintenance of a genuinely multicultural educational community.” 13 Working with other committees, departments, and divisions, MAC reviews and develops policies and procedures to ensure that relations across racial and cultural lines are just, reconciling, and conducive of genuine fellowship and partnership.
Several other important planning efforts have been completed over the past decade and receive periodic updating. The campus master plan, completed in 1998 and updated periodically, shows routine attention to architectural and space planning for the needs of students, faculty, and staff.14 A plan for continuing to meet the specific needs of persons with disabilities has been done with input from the director of services to students with disabilities in the Office of Student Academic Services and the administrative Campus Accessibility Advisory Committee, which is chaired by the director of Student Academic Services and includes the college architect, director of physical plant, and assistant director of technology integration services. A special consultant from the Grand Rapids Center for Independent Living advises the committee.15
Planning within the College Divisions Calvin’s institution-wide planning processes are strong and are becoming systematic and routine, thanks to the installation of a rolling strategic planning cycle. Across the divisions of the college, however, and in the individual units that make up each division, processes of evaluation, planning, and feedback are functioning well for annual operations, but are at various stages of development when it comes to longer-range planning.
In the Academic Affairs Division, departments are required to file annual “ State of the Department” reports that are structured in ways that prompt annual and longer-term planning. These feed the review and planning cycle within the Academic Affairs Division. This cycle features a two-day planning retreat each July involving the five academic deans, registrar, and provost. The participants conduct a review of the past year’s goals and operations, evaluate the objectives achieved in the current strategic plan, and entertain some discussion of how the current self-study could inform the college’s move into the next phase of the “rolling” strategic planning process. The meeting concludes with some goal-setting and task-assigning for the coming year.16
In the Administration and Finance Division, the most significant planning cycle is the budget planning process. This is an annual process in the context of a rolling five-year budget planning cycle, which bases year-to-year changes in revenues and salaries on the annual change in the Consumer Price Index.17 In the fall the Financial Services Office produces projected revenue and expense models that are reviewed by individual budget offices. The proposed budget is then reviewed by the President’s Cabinet and the Planning and Priorities Committee before submission to the Board of Trustees for approval and for determination of the tuition and room and board rate for the subsequent year.
The Information Services Division used the analysis and report of outside consultants in 1996 to develop an initial long-range plan.18 The division uses a rolling planning process that includes an annual review of a long list of possible projects. This list is prioritized for each year based on faculty input, pedagogical necessity, technological feasibility, organizational capacity, and available funds. This project list, along with a proposal for the performance standards needed for common desktop computing on campus and a replacement cycle for desktop computers, is then presented to the Information Services Committee for review. The effectiveness of this planning activity for producing major growth and innovation in services has been documented in a recent case study by the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research.19
The Enrollment and External Relations Division draws its goals from the ESM and successive strategic plans, and does its planning in a variety of ways:
In the spring of 2004, the Enrollment and External Relations Division engaged Maguire Associates, a higher education consulting firm, not only to conduct an enrollment data analysis based on the division’s regular data gathering, but also to expand the scope of the review to include the whole division beyond the enrollment-related offices. While the division has yet to fully implement or even respond to all of the Maguire study’s recommendations, division leaders are currently engaged in using these recommendations and directional changes in order to make appropriate adjustments to the operation and organization of the division. This study is giving significant direction to the planning in all of the offices of the division in the current year’s planning cycle.22
The Student Life Division built its long-range plan directly out of the college-wide core curriculum review and revision. The Student Life Division has not conducted a division-wide strategic planning process in some time, but individual units within the division have attended to their own planning and review annually, using data and statistics collected throughout the year. In addition, as part of the division’s professional development cycle, each unit generates a year-end document of challenges, accomplishments, and goals for the upcoming year. These goals are reviewed again in the fall by the entire division and become part of the fall Board of Trustees report.23
Each year, the Development Division sets forth a number of very concrete “dollars and donors” goals for fundraising in a variety of categories—notably, scholarships, planned giving, research and programmatic grants, major gifts, and the Calvin (annual unrestricted) Fund. The division has developed a corresponding set of standards by which to verify accomplishments and highlight weaknesses to be addressed. The official, overarching goals for the Development Division are presented to the president and the cabinet for review and approval, but the implementation strategies, such as expanding the donor base and improving the effectiveness of volunteers, are designed by the division in an annual planning cycle.24 The Development Division had a seat on the strategic plan task force in 2000-2001, and it takes its marching orders from the plan’s major fundraising items and categories as it moves into the upcoming capital campaign. In preparing for such campaigns, the division regularly seeks perspective from external consultants. For the current campaign, the Development Division sought a survey in 2003 from Crane MetaMarketing, an educational consulting firm that had performed important work for the Enrollment and External Relations Division two years earlier. The Crane survey targeted a variety of groups: parents of current students, parents of former students, alumni, pastors, school leaders, and current students.25 The resulting report, which focused on how constituents perceive the college and the challenges facing it, helped shape the Development Division’s campaign prospectus, which is the direction-setter for all campaign materials.26 A new emphasis on evaluation and planning thus has permeated the divisions of the college over the past ten years. These efforts have become fairly systematic on the level of annual operations and have been beefed up when special occasions—such as an impending capital campaign—warrant more careful, multi-year planning. There is plenty of room for improvement, however, in engaging in annual operations research and assessment in ways that anticipate the needs of longer- range planning. The college has created a large body of survey and operational data, but this research needs to be regularly analyzed and packaged for planners’ use. As the planning cycle turns toward the next strategic plan, each division should identify several salient questions it wants to address from these studies and generate reports based on the data already in hand.
Building for the Future: The Resource Base
Calvin’s resource base—its people, facilities, finances, and services—effectively supports its growing educational programs and its plans for strengthening programmatic quality in the future. Over the past decade, while the college has been adding academic and co-curricular initiatives and increasing student services, it has maintained a lean ratio of administrators to teaching faculty. At the same time, it has been gradually whittling down the student-to-faculty ratio and average course enrollment size. Total compensation patterns have remained strong— especially support for health care, education, and retirement—and measures have been taken to increase faculty salaries in order to keep pace with peer institutions.
The college has engaged in a major build-out since 1995, undertaking both the construction of new facilities and the expansion and renovation of older buildings. Of the various services in support of the educational program, those engaging information and communications technology have experienced the most dramatic advance. And in order to finance it all, the Development Division has been raising more money in the years since the capital campaign of 1991 to 1996 than in the years during it. Even so, since the college has decided to limit the size of its student body, it has become clear that it cannot finance its ambitious programs off of the margin created by enrollment growth, as it did through the 1990s. The challenge going forward is to remain creative and dynamic while getting more particular about priorities.
Calvin College has been steadily increasing its faculty and staff. In the fall of 2003 the total full-time staff at Calvin numbered 657 people. This figure included:
As the following table shows, both of these groups have reached an all-time high; there are more faculty and staff here now than at the end of the 1980s, when the college’s enrollment was at its historic peak.
Table 3.1 Calvin College Number of Students, Faculty, and Staff, 1987-2003
*Source: Calvin College Fall Day Ten Reports **Source: IPEDS Fall Staff and Faculty Salary Surveys
The build-out of faculty and staff has been fairly balanced as well, with neither side building its complement at the expense of the other. Calvin College has also maintained its comparatively very lean administrative support staff, with the non-faculty to faculty ratio now standing at 1.18 to 1, which is well below both the national average and the ratios among its institutional comparison group.28
Table 3.2 Calvin College’s Faculty-Staff Ratio Compared with Other Institutions, 2003
The part-time staff reported in the IPEDS figures totaled 151. This figure included:
Part-time employees often fill critical roles for the college, teaching specialty courses (e.g., Business Law or Family Issues in Psychological Counseling) that the full-time faculty cannot cover, or providing critical administrative support for teaching departments during the heart of the teaching day and the two main semesters. Yet Calvin has resisted national trends toward turning over large portions of undergraduate instruction and administrative support to part-time employees.
The following table shows the composition of the Calvin faculty, using Calvin’s IPEDS staff survey from the fall of 2003:
Table 3.3 Characteristics of Calvin Full-Time Faculty
Of the full-time faculty, 82 percent hold the doctorate, first professional, or other terminal degree in their fields. Over half (159, or 52.6 percent) are tenured. This group of tenured faculty members includes 131 males (62.4 percent of the total male faculty) and 28 females (30 percent of the total females on the faculty). Of the 19 full-time faculty members (6.3 percent) who belong to North American minority groups, 7 (37 percent) are tenured.
Of the 79 part-time faculty members, roughly half (41) are women, and 5 (6.3 percent) belong to minority groups. Fourteen of these (17.7 percent) hold the terminal degree. Only 12 percent of the college’s instruction is in the hands of part-time teachers.
In chapters four and five, much more will be said about the scope and quality of the faculty’s work in teaching and learning, but suffice it to say here that the college has assembled and deployed a more-than-adequate force of teacher-scholars to conduct its academic work, and has in fact been building its teaching capacity faster than it has been growing in enrollment.
Of the 355 full-time administrative staff, 191 (54 percent) are women and 164 (46 percent) are men. Twenty (5.6 percent) are members of North American minority groups.29 In addition, 72 part-time staff fill out the employee roster. Staff numbers by position, full- or part-time status, and gender are provided in Table 3.4 below.
Table 3.4 Calvin Full-Time and Part-Time Administrative Staff by Gender and Position
Faculty and Staff Compensation
The faculty compensation policy, including pay and benefits and budget structure, is governed by the compensation subcommittee of the Planning and Priorities Committee ( PPC). Calvin’s faculty salary is traditionally based on a uniform salary scale rather than on disciplinary, market, or merit models. Commitment to the uniform-salary-scale concept is broad at Calvin. Although it raises serious challenges for recruiting in certain fields and disciplines, it also brings important institutional benefits, notably in the remarkably egalitarian professional ethos that prevails among the faculty across the campus.
The base faculty salary ( assistant professor, step 1) at Calvin in 2003-2004 was $38,860. The top of the faculty salary step scale ( professor, step 15) was $68,140, or 175 percent of the base. Stepped increases are steeper near the bottom of the scale than at the top. PPC has made addressing the comparatively low salaries at Calvin a matter of priority. By the mid-1990s, more than 50 percent of the faculty had reached the top of the pay scale. PPC discussion resulted in a modification in 1999 in which five steps were added to the top of the pay scale.
In recent years Calvin has created some flexibility in the nature of faculty appointments in order to attract and retain younger faculty with child-rearing responsibilities. Twelve professors hold tenure-track reduced-load appointments, a feature that is unusual in American higher education but especially beneficial to faculty members with families. As the Chronicle of Higher Education noted, although Calvin has no on-campus child care facility, the college is “unusual in allowing faculty parents at all ranks to work half or three-quarters time.”30 The college was honored for this and other family- and female-friendly employment policies in 2000 with an Employer Recognition Award from the Women’s Resource Center of Grand Rapids, which praised the college’s contributions to the success of women in the workplace.31
As Table 3.5 below shows, Calvin’s faculty scale is more competitive at the assistant professor ranks than at the more senior ranks. It places fifteenth in average salary for all ranks among its peer group, but when total compensation is used for comparison, Calvin’s excellent benefits pull it up to seventh.
Table 3.5 Calvin and Peer Institutions
2003 Average Faculty Salary by Rank and Average Compensation (1,000s)
Source: ACADEME, March-April 2003, AAUP Faculty Salary Survey
In 2003 PPC’s compensation subcommittee responded to the faculty compensation situation by continuing its strong support for a favorable benefits program and planning for a 1 percent additional increase, beyond cost-of-living and step increases, for the next four years. This plan is contingent, however, on continued strong enrollments and a successful capital campaign to offset other budgetary pressures.32
Structures and processes for determining administrative salaries used to reflect much less unity and regularity than the faculty system did. By the mid-1990s a variety of disparities and anomalies in pay and rank existed, and it was becoming difficult for office managers and Human Resources staff to arrive at clear decisions about placing individual employees and classes of jobs on the scale. Soon after the arrival of James Kraai as vice president for finance and administration in 1997,33 the college began a three-phase project to review and update the compensation and classification system for all employee job descriptions, excluding faculty. The first phase was a salary study that developed a new 11-stage broad-banded salary scale that was calibrated for external salary equity by the use of a number of benchmark job positions. The second phase of the project included the development of a new classification system for job descriptions with a reduced number of job families, fewer job titles, and a clear job evaluation scheme to determine job classification based on objective point-based rating of several position characteristics. The final phase of the program was a revised performance evaluation program, which focused more on forward-looking staff development than solely on retrospective job performance.34
Faculty and staff at Calvin receive a generous package of pension, health, and other insurance benefits. These benefits have not been reduced despite rising health care costs. In the early 1990s the college had for the first time been forced to require an employee contribution to health care premiums. The 10 percent figure established at that time has gone unchanged since its inception, in spite of continued significant increases in the cost of health care. The college also doubled the life insurance benefit paid for each faculty member, from the equivalent of annual salary (maximum $50,000), to twice the annual salary (maximum $100,000).35 Health care coverage has been maintained for retirees with at least 20 years of service.
Two substantial new benefits have been added for faculty and staff. A twenty percent subsidy of K-12 tuition at the Christian grade schools began in 1999; an additional need-based grant-in-aid program has also been established. In addition, an increase in the tuition reduction for faculty and staff children who attend Calvin College was phased in beginning in 1997 and currently stands at 80 percent for children of members who have been at Calvin for at least five years. The cost of this Calvin tuition subsidy alone amounts to $1.568 million annually, greater than 10 percent of the total employee benefits package.36
In sum, it has been a challenge to keep the college competitive in its compensation at a time when health care insurance costs in particular have skyrocketed and Calvin’s academic reputation has invited comparisons with institutions at which faculty pay is higher. Meanwhile, the college struggles to match the salary increases of even its small-college neighbors, whose tuitions have risen faster than Calvin’s has. Even so, the college has managed to recruit and retain a very strong faculty and staff, and it continues to address pay structures to stay in line with its peers.
Calvin’s financial resources are adequate to support the high-quality Christian education the college provides, and the resources are used efficiently. The college has established a long record of prudent financial management and has matured rapidly in its ability to raise funds for its work.
The overall annual operating budget of the college in 2003-2004 was $75 million, including $17.5 million of financial aid. About 85 percent of the funds to meet the annual budget are raised through tuition and room and board dollars. Calvin has two other major non-tuition revenue sources for the purposes of meeting the annual operating budget. Another $3 million is raised annually by the college through unrestricted gifts, especially the annual fund, called the Calvin Fund. And a distinctive feature of Calvin’s budget continues to be the $2.8 million provided annually to the college through denominational ministry shares of the Christian Reformed Church. This latter figure has remained fairly constant over time, and has not increased to keep pace with the rising costs of higher education. At the time of Calvin’s last accreditation review in 1993-1994, church ministry shares to Calvin accounted for $2.8 million, but Calvin’s annual operating budget at the time was under $40 million.37
Figure 3.1 Calvin College Budgeted Revenues, 2003-2004
Calvin’s tuition is comparatively low, at $16,775 for the 2003-2004 academic year. This cost ranks 27th in the 110-member Coalition for Christian Colleges and Universities, and is the third lowest among neighboring colleges of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA).38 The discount rate is 25 percent. For a comparison of Calvin’s tuition with that of some of its peers and regional and national norms, see Table 3.6. Having reached its enrollment cap of 4,100 FTE traditional undergraduates, the college no longer has access to increased revenues brought by an expanding student base. The college continues to consider the optimum relationship between tuition and financial aid levels.
Table 3.6 Calvin Tuition and Fees, 2003-2004
Compared with Peer Groups and Regional and National Norms
Calvin Fund revenues have increased since the conclusion of the Campaign for Calvin College. Before 1991 about $1.2 million was raised annually through the Calvin Fund. During the campaign (1991-1996), this increased to about $2 million annually. Each year since 1996, more money has been raised through the Calvin Fund than was raised in any year during the campaign.39
Figure 3.2 Monies Raised through the Calvin Fund, 1995-2004
In addition to the Calvin Fund, the Development Division regularly raises funds for the endowment, for capital construction, and for other non-capital, current restricted funds, including scholarships and programs.
Figure 3.3 Calvin College Annual Gifts, 1994-2004
In recent years the Development Office has focused on improving donor relations and administrative resources in order to broaden the capacity for its capital campaign. The Development Office’s primary goals are to meet or exceed the fundraising goals set by the college, to expand the donor base, to communicate Calvin more effectively, to enhance overall stewardship through improved communication with donors, and to strengthen processes and structures of internal analysis, planning, and implementation. The Development Office’s priorities are to increase the Calvin Fund from its current level of $3 million to $4.5 million over the next five years and to focus its fundraising efforts on major gifts to meet the facilities, endowment (i.e., scholarships, chairs, programs, and operating fund), and currently funded programs as identified in the strategic plan. In addition, the Development Office is placing greater emphasis on the planned giving program of the college, establishing a deferred giving society and increasing staff in the Office of Planned Giving.
Endowed Scholarships and Programs
The size of Calvin’s endowment currently stands at nearly $61 million. Calvin’s investment profile is managed by the Investment Committee, a subcommittee of the Board of Trustees’ Administration and Finance Committee, which oversees investment activities, procedures, and policies.40 The majority of the college’s endowment revenue comes in the form of endowed scholarships, in accordance with the college’s intention to soften the impact on the annual budget of student financial aid, as noted in the 1994 institutional self-study.41
Calvin made scholarships and student financial aid a priority during its first comprehensive campaign (1991-1996). When the campaign began, the college had 93 named scholarships. By the end of the campaign, that number had doubled to 195. The Development Office has continued to raise funds for merit scholarships and need-based aid, finding that many donors are attracted to the idea that they can make a key difference in keeping a Calvin education affordable for students. By the spring of 2004, the number of scholarships doubled again to 390, with the college raising approximately $1.5 million in endowment for scholarships and financial aid during each of the previous five years. The total endowment for scholarships now stands at $28 million, approximately half of the college’s total endowment. As Calvin plans for the future through its current campaign, No Greater Task, it will dedicate significant effort to raising $22 million in additional endowment for student financial aid.42
Focused support for program development in teaching and research has enabled Calvin to establish four endowed chairs that have brought prominent Christian scholars to the Calvin faculty. The first endowed chair at Calvin College, the William Spoelhof Chair in Teaching and Scholarship, was established in 1995. In addition to the Spoelhof Chair, three more chairs have been established with donor commitments and are in the process of funding: the Gary and Henrietta Byker Chair in Christian Perspectives on Political, Social, and Economic Thought; the Paul B. Henry Chair for the Study of Christianity and Politics; and the Arthur H. DeKruyter Chair in Faith and Communication.
Endowments also support academic programs. Several new research and programmatic centers have been founded since 1994. One is the Paul B. Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics, named after the late Calvin professor of political science and United States Congressman Paul B. Henry. Another is the Spoelhof Family Institute for Christian Leadership in Business, which hosts conferences and funds both student internships in business and a faculty externship program. The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, founded in 1998, is a significant new channel both of funding for research and scholarship and of outreach at the regional and national levels through its programs, publications, grants, and conferences, including the annual Calvin Symposium on Worship and the Arts. The recently endowed Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning is devoted to the study and promotion of pedagogy, learning, and education leadership from an integrally Christian perspective.
The Science Division Equipment Endowment, created in the early 1990s, consists of two funds established with challenge grants from the Kresge Foundation. Kresge recognized that institutions such as Calvin needed to build endowments if they were to have sufficient resources to purchase and maintain increasingly expensive science equipment. The foundation offered challenge grants to give colleges incentives to go to donors for science endowment projects. Calvin was the first college in the nation to seek and successfully obtain a second grant through this program. The first endowment, called the Doc DeVries Fund (currently $1.3 million), supports the purchase of new equipment for the Science Division and is used strategically to provide matching funds for NSF grants. The second endowment, called the Kresge Fund (currently $1.17 million), supports key renovations and upgrades of the college’s science instrumentation. For example, in 2002 Calvin became the recipient of a used 400 MHz FT-NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) spectrometer (a $400,000 instrument if purchased new) from the Pfizer Corporation. The instrument required some modifications, and the Kresge Fund provided the financial resources to make the necessary changes.
In the mid-1990s, the Science Division also recognized the growing importance of student-faculty research for preparing students for graduate school. Initially supported by a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, student summer research fellowships are increasingly supported by faculty grants and named endowments. Calvin’s current goal is to build a $1.5 million supporting endowment for this work. The Development Office has raised $660,000 toward this goal.
Other restricted endowments support Calvin Research Fellowships for faculty, library acquisitions, and the work of the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship. The college is also setting up supporting endowments for each new building constructed, to ensure operating funds and future maintenance. Fundraising for the Hekman Library, DeVries Hall, DeVos Communication Center, and the new Bunker Interpretive Center has focused on securing funds for operating endowments as well as for construction costs.
The college made a deliberate decision in the early 1990s, during its first campaign, to pursue grant funding as a way to support a number of college priorities, including faculty research, student scholarships, science equipment, new programs, and capital projects. Since hiring a director of foundation relations to coordinate this effort and work with faculty to obtain external funding, Calvin has secured significant revenue that contributes to the intellectual vigor of the college, its programming, and its outreach to the community.
These grants—from foundations, corporations, and governmental agencies—have provided funding from revenue sources outside of student tuition and church support, a pattern the college expects to continue. Indeed, this so-called soft funding has become critical to the college’s ability to venture out into new fields and to expand its research and programmatic capacity. Once these externally funded projects move toward an ongoing existence, the college is faced with the prospect of diminishing returns from foundations who tend to fund new initiatives rather than support existing programs. Increasingly, the college must decide which programs should continue to seek external funding and which will be absorbed into the regular college budget.
The Physical Plant
New Plans, New Facilities
The completion of major capital projects makes Calvin College in many ways a different place than it was ten years ago. Its campus has undergone significant growth. New land acquisitions have added seven parcels totaling 28 acres and several houses adjacent to the campus. Several new buildings have been constructed, major renovations have been completed on others, and a significant expansion has been made east of East Beltline Avenue.
Plans for this growth were laid when Calvin established the Master Plan Advisory Committee (MPAC) and contracted with the architectural firm URS Greiner to draw up the campus master plan in 1997. Although there had always been a notional campus master plan ever since the original development of the Knollcrest Campus in the 1960s, the idea of resurrecting a planning committee and hiring a campus architect arose out of discussions concerning the construction of additional science facilities during the early 1990s. At that time Calvin became involved in discussions with local hospitals about a proposed regional animal care facility. Gordon Van Harn, then Calvin’s provost, linked the decision to locate the West Michigan Regional Laboratory at Calvin to ongoing discussions within Calvin’s Science Division of the need for renovation of the Science Building and the need for more space to accommodate the expansion of programs that had taken place since the 1970s.
The Facility Planning Committee of the Science Division presented a proposal in 1996 for the renovation of the current Science Building and the construction of a new laboratory facility adjoining it as a joint venture with the West Michigan Regional Laboratory. The work of the Facility Planning Committee underscored the desirability of an overall vision for campus expansion and construction, rather than a piecemeal approach informed by specific needs, and the Planning and Priorities Committee formed MPAC in 1997 to accomplish this task. MPAC surveyed various academic and other college departments to determine their space needs. Studies were produced concerning the related issues of traffic—both foot traffic and motor traffic—and parking on campus, campus housing, food service, performing arts needs, on-campus recreation needs, the problems presented by the East Beltline, and the use of Calvin-owned property along East Paris Avenue at Burton Street.43 The committee also was concerned with measuring the overall environmental impact of renovation and new campus construction. In biologist Randall VanDragt, the committee had representation specifically chosen to guard environmental concerns.
Meanwhile, URS Greiner engaged in a comprehensive review of the existing campus, which was presented to MPAC in June 1997.44 Discussions surrounding MPAC’s adoption of the campus master plan recognized the plan’s two-fold purpose. One purpose was to use the plan as the basis for addressing zoning issues before municipal zoning boards; the second purpose was to support issues in strategic planning, based on available funding. The committee also agreed that “the plan should give guidance in responding to gift opportunities.”45 Potential projects were prioritized for inclusion in the campus master plan, and it was agreed that the list of these prioritized potential projects would be kept current.46 During the following year Frank Gorman of URS Greiner was hired by the college on a subcontracting basis to be the college architect. The campus master plan was completed and presented in April 1999.47
Since that time several new buildings have been constructed, and major renovations have been completed in others, according to the priorities established in the master plan. The first project completed was the DeVries Hall of Science in 1999, which brought new facilities for the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, the Biology Department, and the West Michigan Regional Laboratory. The renovation of the Science Building, having incurred cost overruns in asbestos removal and a new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, is about two-thirds complete, with renovation of the remaining floor to be finished by the fall of 2004. During the planning of DeVries Hall, it became clear that the Engineering Department needed facilities for student teams to work on projects, and funding was also secured for the construction of the Engineering Design and Projects Center, which took place at the same time as the construction of DeVries Hall.
The other new building construction projected in the campus master plan took place across the East Beltline from the main campus, in an area adjacent to the Calvin Ecosystem Preserve. The athletic fields that had occupied this site were relocated to a newly landscaped section of the main Knollcrest campus adjacent to the baseball diamond. In their place, two new buildings were constructed: a home for the rapidly growing Communication Arts and Sciences Department and a conference center. In 1999 two $10 million gifts—one from the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation and one from the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation—made possible the DeVos Communication Center and the Prince Conference Center. These two facilities were placed in service during the fall of 2002. To make them easily accessible from the main campus, a 380-foot enclosed pedestrian bridge had been completed the preceding spring.
The DeVos Communication Center is a cutting-edge educational venue that integrates traditional and technological modes of learning in the context of community life, with an open classroom in the atrium and with production facilities that have windows to hallways, inviting the entire campus to be involved in what is being produced. The Communication Arts and Sciences Department has on its faculty two professional filmmakers, and its curriculum includes a course on video production. Here as elsewhere, “ smart classrooms” aim to use technology unobtrusively, as support for the essential academic purpose rather than as a central focus. These new facilities afford many new opportunities. Community hearing tests are done in a speech pathology facility, and the existing stroke rehabilitation clinic has been expanded.
The Prince Conference Center is actually two buildings. One is a meeting facility with a variety of rooms designed to accommodate as few as a dozen people or as many as 400, with service from a full banquet kitchen. The other is a 69-room conference lodge with many amenities. A conference center was identified in the 1999 campus master plan as a salient need, given the gradually growing trade in conferences and small meetings that the college was doing with external clients and the rapidly growing calendar of conferences that the college itself was developing. Early evidence from the first two years of operation of this attractive new facility seems to prove the adage, “If you build it, they will come.”
The development of the eastern half of the college’s property enhances access to Calvin’s Ecosystem Preserve and encourages its use. The Bunker Interpretive Center, adjacent to the preserve, opened in the fall of 2004. This new center will greatly enhance the increasing amount of teaching that the preserve staff does with visitors from area schools and clubs.
In each of these cases, planning for the facility assumed that the new building should be constructed without incurring long-term debt, and that an endowment should also be raised to fund maintenance. For example, the $10 million gift for the DeVos Communication Center was supplemented by $2 million raised for technology for the center, $3 million to endow the Arthur H. DeKruyter Chair in Communication Arts and Sciences, and $3 million for the operating endowment. The Prince Conference Center was an exception to this new rule, since as a revenue-producing facility, it is expected to cover its own operating costs and maintenance.
New Plans for Older Facilities
The buildings of the main Calvin campus, constructed during the 1960s and 1970s as “one-hundred-year” buildings, are now facing their first full round of renovations. The annual budget includes approximately $500,000 for scheduled renovations, and additional year-end balances also go into the Plant Fund for the renovation and maintenance of facilities. Annual scheduled renovations in the residence halls and in the Knollcrest East Apartments are funded from room and board charges. Major recent renovations have included the work on the Science Building mentioned above and substantial work in the Spoelhof College Center, including construction of new academic and administrative offices and meeting rooms, and the creation of the new Spoelhof Coffee Shop on the ground floor. Renovations to the library in 1995-1996 included constructing an additional floor and creating space for a large student computer laboratory and computer classrooms as well as offices for Calvin Information Technology. Renovation of the Meeter Center for Calvin Studies in 2002-2003 made room for the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. One academic department was relocated from the library basement to an additional floor built atop Hiemenga Hall in 1996-1997.
The Art Department has been the most recent unit to begin planning for renovation. Faced with growing core curriculum offerings (e.g., visual culture and art history classes), increasingly untenable conditions in ventilation, and other inadequacies in 30-year-old ground-floor facilities, the Art Department has been raising the campus consciousness of its needs. Department members, one of the academic deans, and the college architect have collaborated to identify needs and suggest solutions. Particular needs include (1) safe and productive classroom space (which calls for extensive renovation of the ventilation system), (2) additional office space, (3) additional studio space and equipment (for students and faculty), (4) a dedicated art history classroom, (5) natural light for the painting classroom, (6) improved storage and air quality for the gallery, and (7) gallery space to display student work. Negotiations are underway for the possible development of faculty studios and a student gallery in a planned arts community in downtown Grand Rapids, but even if these plans come to fruition, the on-campus renovation needs will remain.
Table 3.7 Building Project Cost Summary, 1995-2004
bldg. cost includes: sitework (ltd.), A/E fees, FG fee; bldg. cost excludes: furn./fixt./eqpmt.
Campus renovations have provided the occasion for technological improvements as well. After an outside review in 1996 indicated the need for an improved information technology infrastructure, a 1.9 percent tuition increase was earmarked for additional technology in fiscal year 1998, and installation of new technology was also built into the renovation cycles.48
Most of this construction, as well as the ongoing remodeling and maintenance of these existing facilities, is done by full-time, internal staff rather than seasonal, part-time labor or outside contractors. Calvin’s Physical Plant staff includes such trades as carpet laying, carpentry, plumbing, HVAC, and installation of electrical and telecommunications systems. The key to economies in this work has been the college’s ability to keep its highly skilled tradespeople busy with a full and continuing schedule of renovation and new construction.
Environmental concerns have been a component of the design and construction of new facilities on the campus throughout the planning process. Planning has included conserving trees and green spaces, preparing proper drainage, maintaining a safe distance from the Ecosystem Preserve in new construction east of the East Beltline, installing state-of-the-art ventilation, and the like. A more coherent landscape design has employed the intentional use of local motifs including, for example, plantings of species native to Michigan.
Faculty members teaching in the Calvin Environmental Assessment Program (CEAP) have participated in the planning of new buildings and have monitored practices during construction as well. The new Bunker Interpretive Center in the Ecosystem Preserve has earned a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. 49 CEAP members and the campus architect do not always perfectly agree on the trade-offs involved in environmentally sensitive building and renovation, but they have developed a cordial working relationship.50
After an intensive decade construction of new facilities and some major renovation of older buildings, sustaining cordiality has been a challenge sometimes, not only with those who are concerned with protecting the campus’s natural environment, but also with those who seek to minimize the disruption to ordinary campus routines of teaching, research, and service. It is difficult to engage first-year students with Kant under ideal conditions, much less with the demolition of interior walls happening downstairs. A summer’s worth of planned research with sensitively calibrated equipment can be jeopardized by water from above during asbestos abatement. Yet for the most part the collective patience and good humor of the campus has remained intact. The campus has received an enormous upgrade in instructional facilities, even if, as one faculty member observed, we now have a new species nesting on campus—the building crane.
Campus planning has given guidance to nearly all of the projects mentioned above, and the campus master plan calls for two sets of needs to be met. The first is attention to facilities that will serve students in their out-of-classroom activities—notably, dining, exercise, and student organizations. The second is the continuing care of existing facilities, for which, the director of physical plant estimates, some $11.5 million must be spent over the next decade in major maintenance and renovation. So while a huge amount has been accomplished, there is much that remains to be done. The new capital campaign, just getting underway, could not be more timely.
Preparing for the Future: Institutional Evaluation and Assessment
The last accreditation review prompted the college to increase and systematize its efforts in institutional research and assessment. The rise of Calvin’s Office of Institutional and Enrollment Research since the late 1990s marks the college’s efforts to move from informal, intuitive processes of evaluation to formal and regular institutional assessment and feedback. Although some institutional research has always been a part of the mission of Calvin’s Center for Social Research (CSR), which is now more than 30 years old, the research carried out by CSR tends to involve program-related surveys and other work on behalf of students, faculty, alumni, and other groups on a case-by-case, contractual basis.51 In view of the need for greater attention to institutional research of an ongoing character, Calvin created the Office of Institutional and Enrollment Research in the mid-1990s to take up more college-wide, mission-related research.
These institutional research tasks were initially tied directly to enrollment research. Until the mid-1990s, enrollment research at Calvin had been part of the job description of the associate director of admissions and financial aid. In 1994 the Office of Institutional and Enrollment Research was created. As the title indicates, the focus of the institutional research at that time was on enrollment, and the data being analyzed came chiefly from the offices of Admissions, Financial Aid, and the Registrar. Beginning in 1997, this office was placed under the new Division of Enrollment and External Relations. In 1998 Calvin hired Tom Van Eck to fill a full-time position in the Office of Institutional and Enrollment Research. Over the five years of the office’s existence, its enrollment-research focus has broadened as its role in strategic institutional research has grown. With its director serving the Assessment Committee, the ad hoc Strategic Planning Committee, and the Accreditation Self-Study Committee, this office has taken on more responsibility for college surveys, data collection, and analysis. Non–enrollment-related institutional research now constitutes about 40 percent of the work of the office.
Perhaps the most important enrollment-based data analysis done in the Office of Institutional and Enrollment Research comes in the form of the annual “ Day Ten Report.” This is a snapshot, taken on the tenth day of the fall semester, of Calvin’s continuously changing, live administrative data system. This report combines what initially began as the annual “ Opening Fall Report” on enrollment that had been prepared by the Office of the Registrar with faculty data as well.52 As a tool for institutional research, the Day Ten Report is valuable because it supports trend analysis over time. Day Ten data form the basis of reporting both to the federal government, through the annual IPEDS reports and, combined with other information brought together and coordinated by the vice president for enrollment and external relations, to national publications such as U.S. News and World Report.
The office has created a flexible retention database by downloading data from the college’s administrative system into SPSS, a statistics package that allows better trend analysis for specific applications. One recent example of its use was in a project analyzing award patterns for the Committee on Scholarships and Financial Aid. The retention database was able to track combinations of high school GPAs and test scores with Calvin student performance and retention, as a way of evaluating financial aid decision-making processes.53
Other elements of institutional research done specifically for enrollment include the “choice survey” conducted with each incoming class, which helps Calvin evaluate its financial aid awards, recruiting programs such as Fridays at Calvin, and relationships between prospective students and admissions counselors.54 It has been an effective feedback device, as has another survey, a kind of exit survey of non-returning students, begun in 2003. The plan is to work with Residence Life staff and the Registrar’s Office to distribute this survey to discontinuing students at the end of each semester.
Calvin participates in the Comprehensive Assessment Project, an initiative of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU). This project encourages participating schools to use a number of surveys, including the Student Satisfaction Inventory, a first-year student survey, a senior student survey, and a faculty survey. Questions explore subjects such as student and faculty personal development, personal satisfaction, goals and objectives, time distribution in various activities, and future plans. The institutional and enrollment research director writes a summary of this data and distributes it to some units of the college, including the Student Life Division, which has made good use of it over the last three years.55 But better use could be made of it with wider distribution and a broader awareness of its richness and implications for institutional planning and program development.
Calvin also administers a survey of college seniors sponsored by HERI at UCLA, funded by a FIPSE grant and coordinated through Calvin’s Center for Social Research. The results of this survey of seniors permit Calvin to track student development over four years, and to compare its students with age group cohorts at other CCCU schools and other private four-year colleges.56
In addition to these national surveys, three other surveys of Calvin students are worth mentioning here. The Center for Social Research has, for many years, administered a survey of recent graduates in order to gather feedback for various college offices on the activities of students after they graduate (e.g., employment and graduate school). In addition, the survey asks graduates to reflect on their college years by way of assessing growth in academic areas, satisfaction with various offices, and utilization of services, especially career services offered by the college. 57 For the first time in 2003, Calvin administered the National Survey of Student Engagement to students in order to help the college better assess its effectiveness in key areas of student engagement.58 As part of the Development Office’s planning for the college’s upcoming campaign, a major survey of students, parents of students, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of the college was carried out in 2003. The purpose of this survey was “(a) to seek messages and methods that would enhance and expand Calvin’s donor base, and (b) to better identify, document, and communicate how Calvin alumni exemplify the Reformed task of renewal.”59
Calvin has available an adequate body of survey data; indeed, there is something of a backlog of data to be analyzed and digested. Time and resources are needed—the office is small, with only a single full-time staff member and a student assistant. The institutional research program also needs to devote greater attention to closing feedback loops. One helpful recent application of the data is the development of comparisons with peer institutions regarding faculty salaries, tuition schedules, staff-faculty ratios, and the like. A “fact book” for the college was begun for this purpose in the late 1990s, but it has never been published as such. Part of the difficulty is that this comparative data raise analytical problems. Some of the data were collected from the surveys published by U.S. News and World Report and may be copyrighted. Some of the information is collected from federal government IPEDS, which until recently were subject to about a two-year publication lag. Now that these data are being published more quickly on the Internet, it may be possible to use them to replace the data from U.S. News. These data, although unpublished, are available on the Web site of the Office of Institutional and Enrollment Research in a number of comparative tables. They have wide-ranging potential uses including, for example, a role in institutional grant applications. This may be an area for which the investment of greater resources would pay handsome institutional dividends.
The Meaning of the Future: Planning and the Mission
At Calvin, the college’s capacity to fulfill its mission—to engage in vigorous liberal arts education that promotes lifelong Christian service—is enhanced by the degree of alignment between planning and the mission at all levels.
Budget Planning and Mission
The relationship between the annual process of drawing up the college’s operating budget and the college’s planning process is as complicated at Calvin as it is at most institutions of higher learning. The reality that Calvin College’s budget is heavily tuitiondriven means that the budgeting cycle and the strategic planning cycle overlap considerably but not completely. The precise parameters of Calvin’s annual operating budget are not fixed until the eve of the opening convocation each fall semester, and are not fully understood until the Day Ten enrollment data can be published and digested. On the basis of this data, initial budget assumptions for following years are established, and planning for the next year begins. Reliable enrollment data and projections, however, do not begin to come in until the early spring, by which time the Board of Trustees has already been forced to set the budget parameters for the fall. The table below shows how dependent the budgeting process is upon data that must come at varying points in the cycle.
Table 3.8 Budgeting Cycle, 2003-2004 (for 2004-2005)
Budget planning is influenced by numerous factors, some of which vary from year to year such as cost of living increases, the cost of energy, and the like. At Calvin, budget planning is particularly affected by two major factors. On the revenue side the main driver is projected enrollment. On the cost side are the projected teaching complement and the resulting estimate of the cost of faculty salaries and benefits. The largest expenditure at Calvin is for people (faculty and staff), and the largest source of revenue is tuition. But the consequence is that budget planning is an inexact science at Calvin.
There is a continual back-and-forth dialogue between the budget planning process and the stated goals of the strategic plan, as new buildings and programs are slated to come on line. These factors are budgetarily significant and will remain so just as Calvin continues to be a dynamic center of scholarly and programmatic activity. Ideas and projects that begin in faculty teaching and research bubble up in entrepreneurial fashion into the college’s programmatic and budgetary planning process. Thus an important current budgetary challenge identified in the strategic plan is the need to find permanent funding to sustain programs that were begun on external soft funding. Recent examples of successful soft-funded programs include the following:
These programs have become exceedingly valuable to the college, and over time decisions have been made to cover significant parts of their annual costs within the general operating budget. Yet every year the general budget is stretched and challenged by the impending end of cyclical funding interest on the part of external funders. This ongoing pressure to continue such programs is one of the greatest challenges to the college’s budget planning, for it always appears to be more urgent than dealing with the more ordinary pressures, such as faculty travel funds and other departmental operating costs, which have been subjected to several years of “no increase” budgeting.
Information Services and Mission
The story of how the information services sector of the college has been transformed is one of the most dramatic examples of the interrelationship among the college’s mission, strategic planning, and budgeting cycles.
A Major Upgrade in Computing
Shortly after arriving at Calvin in the fall of 1995, President Byker commissioned an outside review of information technology at Calvin. A review team from the Department of Computer Sciences at Purdue University was mandated “to assess the present and future application of information technology to the mission of Calvin.”61 The review team visited the campus, surveyed the faculty and staff, and conducted extensive interviews with faculty, students, and staff in early 1996. The review team’s report, delivered that spring, noted the enthusiastic commitment to the mission of the college among faculty, students, and staff, as well as Calvin’s rich history of work with information technologies. It found a growing but less than systematically designed campus infrastructure and the presence of strategic components of a sound information technology system for higher education in the student computer laboratories, a distance learning classroom, use of the World Wide Web, videoconferencing, collaborative software tools, and the like. But the team also found some serious structural problems. There was no consistent cycle for replacing basic desktop computing equipment. A variety of computer labs were funded through various gifts and grants, but with no provision for replacement. A great variety of basic desktop equipment and software were in use. To capitalize on Calvin’s strengths and overcome observed weaknesses, the review team made a number of recommendations. Among the most important were the following:
These and the other recommendations in the review team’s report formed the basis for development of a comprehensive strategy for information services at Calvin during the next two years. The position of vice president for information services was created and filled in 1997.63 A five-year information technology plan was ready for review by the Board of Trustees in its planning for the budget for academic year 1998-1999.64 The plan, the first of its kind at Calvin, tried to systematically anticipate, coordinate, and fund technology projects. It identified the major needs—replacing the college’s obsolete telephone switch (then 20 years old) and building in upgrades to the campus data network in such a way as to provide ubiquitous computing access in residence halls, classrooms, laboratories, and the library. The plan also called for permanently funding some hardware that had originally been purchased with grants, gifts, or other external dollars; and shortening the technology replacement cycle for desktop equipment in offices and public facilities from seven years to four—45 percent of desktop equipment at the college at the time was four years old or older. The replacement cycle has since been improved to three years.65 By the mid-1990s, information technology had become chronically underfunded in the college operating budget. In 1996, when academic departments alone had requested $660,000 in additional IT resources, only $245,000 was available to meet these needs.66
In order to accomplish these goals, the plan called for a one-time tuition increase of 1.9 percent, earmarked for technology, in addition to the projected 3.7 percent tuition increase slated to support the college’s operating budget that year.
These plans were embedded in a vision of information technology at Calvin that was founded on the college’s educational mission. The college developed a set of campus-wide standards with regard to the kind and quality of laptops and desktop computers to purchase, types of software to offer and support, the kind of networking infrastructure and capacity to build, and the like. Yet it avoided enforcing “universal adoption” decisions on all units, in recognition of the diverse needs of engineers, artists, mathematicians, text editors, and others. The college made a strategic decision to be “second wave” in technological innovation rather than cutting edge, and to emphasize robust, sturdy, reliable infrastructure, and integrated, technology-driven information services.
Today, Calvin Information Technology (CIT) stresses a teaching and service model in its relationship with faculty, staff, and students. The college’s philosophy has been to empower, equip, and support faculty pioneers and entrepreneurs, let them find the best ways to integrate technology in their teaching, and invite them to teach others who are interested. In coordination with the campus master plan, the college employs its own telecommunications wire puller, and pulls new wire in all dormitory, office, and classroom renovations. The college declined to supply all incoming students with a personal computer, or require that they bring one. For pedagogical reasons, it opted instead for requiring a one-hour core course in Research and Information Technology, and for constructing readily accessible ports and stations in dormitories and hallways of academic buildings. The college now owns more than 2,000 computers, with 1,400 located in student labs, dorms, and at hallway stations.67
A Digital Revolution in the Library
The development of information services in the Hekman Library further illustrates the point that technological innovation is driven by the changing educational and research needs of students, faculty, and other constituencies of the college. In 1997 the Hekman Library joined Calvin Information Technology and the Instructional Resource Center in the new Information Services Division. Not long after, the former digital resources librarian, Glenn Remelts, became the library director, following the former director’s retirement. Remelts and his professional staff quickly made digital resources a major priority for the library, while maintaining the traditional patterns of collection development.
In 2001 the library hired a full-time programmer to assist the digital resources librarian. The programmer’s responsibilities include maintaining and enhancing the library’s computer system and the Hekman Digital Library. Sirsi, the new Web-based library system, was installed in 2001 to replace the original 11-year-old text-based system. The Sirsi system has excellent functionality but requires the expertise and attention of a programmer. The Hekman Digital Library thus has become a sophisticated yet intuitive Web site that provides seamless access to all the print and Web-based research tools and services offered by the library.68 The digital resources librarian and the Web programmer provide the Calvin community with state-of-the-art access to Web-based research material.
As the table below makes clear, the Hekman Library staff have made enormous improvements in research capacity and documentary access for the college’s students and faculty.
In recognition of these major feats, Greg Sennema, digital resources librarian, and Jed Koops, library systems programmer, were honored as “Movers and Shakers” by the American Library Association at its annual meeting in 2004.69
Table 3.9 Library Innovations
Calvin College’s efforts to prepare for the future have been vigorous and multifaceted. There has been a qualitative change in the college’s engagement in planning, both operational and strategic. This work has been sustained by a major increase in institutional research. There is plenty of room for improvement, however, in digesting the wealth of data the college is now gathering and applying it more deliberately to the process of planning. Much of the planning has an opportunistic, entrepreneurial feel to it, but the college has devoted much time and effort to needs assessments in critical areas. Certainly, the dramatic upgrades in information services, both in the library and in the computing and telecommunications systems, result from such analysis. A major planning project for campus facilities and infrastructure in 1997-1998 also undergirded the enormous build-out of the campus physical plant since then. And in order to accomplish all that the college has determined to do, both the faculty and staff have grown. There have been efforts to determine a more consistent plan of staff ranking and compensation and to increase faculty salaries, but budgeting for this project and the many others remains an annual adventure. As noted in chapter two, one of the prime examples of faculty concern over its role in governance is the seemingly opaque process for making important budgeting decisions. A recently revised budgeting calendar, with structured-in opportunities for communication and consultation, should prove helpful. Even so, the college’s robust response in preparing for the future, with build-outs and upgrades in facilities and services, stands in contrast to the sense of limits and concerns about sustainability in the college’s major budgetary wheelhouse, driven by the fundamental forces of enrollment, tuition revenue, staffing, salaries, and benefits. While the college has achieved enormous success in raising funding for facilities, infrastructure, services, and new programs, it has yet to build some reserve capacity to sustain its fundamental operations.
Giving to Calvin
Majors & Minors
People at Calvin