Focusing on What We Do Best
by Dr. Jeff Hall, vice president for academic affairs
Our lives have become increasingly busy, possibly frenetic, over the past years. There never seems to be a lack of good things to do or of increasing expectations to meet. The challenge of setting boundaries and focusing our energies is one we face both personally and institutionally. There is a great temptation to take on more and more for the sake of “the Kingdom” and for “the Lord’s work,” but by extending our resources too thinly, we can do a disservice to primary callings. We need to be intentional about concentrating our attention and resources on what is essential and important. Covenant College faces those same challenges and is in a time of purposefully adjusting its programs and structures to fortify its primary mission of providing a Christ-centered education to traditional residential students.
We have taken steps in the last few years to focus on what Covenant does best. By optimizing operations, reorganizing our structure and strengthening the resources of our undergraduate residential program, we have been able to give full attention to our primary work.
The first step was an institutional inventory assuring that College resources were stewarded to best serve the College mission. Over the last three years, resources have been reduced in some areas and increased in others, as we designed a plan to live within our means for a sustainable future.
The two most notable changes have been our transferring of our adult degree-completion program Quest to Belhaven University and the separate incorporation of the Chalmers Center. Although the campuses we added and the students that were served over the years of the Quest program at Covenant College were an asset in many ways, we came to believe that it would be best for the primary work of residential undergraduate education to transfer the program to Belhaven, and we are delighted that they can give it a home. This transfer has allowed us to focus on one campus rather than several and on a standard schedule of semesters rather than many overlapping registrations and distributions of financial aid as well as other institutional demands.
The incorporation of the Chalmers Center for Economic Development at Covenant College has allowed a double benefit of a strong organizational structure for the Center and greater institutional clarity regarding resources and work. The College and the Center continue to be partners with a charter that links the two institutions. A separate incorporation and board allows the Center to flourish. In the former structure, the Center reported through the academic administration to the board of the College. Although we love the Center, we could not give it the board-type of leadership support it needed. The new structure promotes a healthy partnership of the College and Center with appropriate freedoms and accountabilities.
With a renewed focus on its primary mission, Covenant can become stronger at what it does best, traditional undergraduate, residential education. To that end we have added programs according to a curricular plan. For 2010-2011, professors in marketing and design were added to the faculty. In the two subsequent years, we will add professors in political studies, engineering and film. All the while, we remain committed to offering a strong core of general education courses as foundation to well-developed majors.
A dear friend used to talk about God-serving education as giving students roots and wings – roots in the foundations that transcend the changes of time and wings that take Gospel-informed service to the ends of the earth. As we strengthen our primary focus, we will be reaching out beyond the campus. We continue to establish relationships through our Center for Calling & Career and through our experiential studies programs that connect us to study-abroad options for our students. We have grown our study-abroad programs and professor-led May terms to include venues in Thailand, Indonesia, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, France, Germany and New York City. In addition, we are making important connections to establish internships and create career paths for our graduates. With a strong foundation in what we do best, it is possible to support those initiatives that grow out of our mission and reach across cultures and careers. By God’s grace we trust that our current course continues to provide deep roots in the foundations of our faith and wings that soar in loving service throughout all walks of life for the students of Covenant College.