Monday, December 23, 2013

New president says college has returned to its values, will explore university status, cooperate with town

By Al Cross and Allan Ducker
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Midway College will explore university status as part of its new strategic plan and has returned to its faith-based values, new President John P. Marsden said after he was formally inaugurated as the school's 10th president on Nov. 8.

Marsden, who had been serving as president since Feb. 1, emphasized that university status is only something to be explored at this time, but "may more aptly capture the complexity of our mission and our intent to add additional graduate programs as well as to recruit faculty and students internationally."

He said becoming a university would not mean the college’s enrollment would balloon to 10,000, and “We would like to have about 1,700 students by 2017, with a balance of students in the Women’s College and the coeducational graduate and undergraduate programs. He said the college would also add more undergraduate programs, and he wants it to be recognized as “entrepreneurial and forward-thinking.”

The college is the largest employer and taxpayer in Midway. Marsden noted, “The relationship between the city of Midway and the college is a very important one.” He said the return to campus of Francisco’s Farm Arts Festival, announced a few months ago, “is one way to strengthen that relationship.” He said the college would like to consider “a project, maybe a building project, that would serve Midway College and the community of Midway.”

The college Board of Trustees selected Marsden after a six-month national search that ended in November 2012. He and his wife Margaret and son Will relocated from Wilson, N.C. where he served as provost and vice president of academic affairs at Barton College.

“John has proven time and time again that we made the right decision,” Donna Moore, chairman of the trustees, said as she introduced Marsden during the installation ceremony in Duthie Auditorium, attended by representatives from 20 colleges and universities and U.S. Rep. Andy Barr.

“He took over at a time of critical need for the college,” Moore said. “He has brought to the board an accurate picture of the institution, by analyzing data and asking the hard questions: Why are we here? Are we following our mission? And what is the vision for our future?”

Marsden succeeded Dr. William Drake, a former minister whom trustees asked to resign after the college’s plan for a pharmacy school in Paintsville ran aground, at considerable expense. Marsden laid off 26 faculty and staff during the summer, citing an 18 percent decline in enrollment, to 1,362.

Moore said Mardsen “has worked diligently to get our house in order” to balance the college’s budget and get it ready for reaccreditation in 2015. “There have been many long, tough days and nights since John arrived in February,” she said. “The institution has come to realize a lot of things about itself, and adjustments have been made. . . . Through all of this, he has been open and transparent.”

Marsden thanked several people, including Mira Ball, who served as interim chair of the trustees when Marsden was being considered. He joked that his first two calls to Ball came during a University of Kentucky basketball game: “I’m not originally from Kentucky, but I think we learned that you have to check the basketball schedule before you make any calls.” As the audience chuckled, Marsden added, “She did take my call, but it was halftime.” Ball is a UK trustee.

Marsden recognized several faculty, staff, and students to highlight why Midway College exists and the faith-based values on which it was founded. He said that in recent years, the college had “lost sight” of its values. “In the last few months, we have reintroduced those values,” he said, “because they should drive the culture of our organization.”

He cited a recent study showing that “faith-based institutions that emphasize their values” are more likely to promote civic engagement and service. Marsden said those values, and the new strategic plan, would shape the future of the college.

Marsden said that at the end of the day, the goal of Midway College is to “provide students with a foundation to grow and positively contribute to society as leaders and informed citizens.” 

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