President Mark Heckler called on the Valparaiso University campus community to focus on quality, value, and financial sustainability with his State of the University Address on Tuesday, Jan. 11, in the Harre Union Ballroom.
As the University begins the implementation of an ambitious strategic plan that will that will lead Valpo to its most desired future, Heckler spoke of the many recent success stories across campus, highlighting the 166 “Big Ideas” being advanced by University planners, the performance of the team in enrollment management, the progress made with the institutional image, and the ongoing work of Valpo’s faculty and staff.
“Valpo is exceptionally well positioned for future success in a rapidly changing external environment,” Heckler said.
Heckler said the University must respond to the challenges facing the American higher education system.
“Valparaiso University ought to fully embrace the opportunity that such times present—the opportunity to advance and ascend while others hunker down or retrench; the opportunity to collaborate and unite while others struggle with factions and infighting; the opportunity to bring greater clarity and focus to our work while others splinter and struggle to make sense of things,” Heckler said. “This is an extraordinary moment of opportunity in the history of this University, and together we can make the most of it.”
Even with an articulated vision and an ambitious plan before the University, Heckler said it is easy to fill time with activities and initiatives while losing focus as an institution. In his address, Heckler spoke of ways to bring greater clarity and focus to the work of faculty and staff.
“Through our collective efforts, we must raise the quality of Valparaiso University,” Heckler said. “We must grow the value of the Valpo experience in the minds of students, parents, alumni, and donors. And we must do both while steadily lowering the cost.”
Heckler said quality starts with the people.
“First and foremost, we must recruit and keep people of quality at Valparaiso University—faculty, students, administrators, and support staff,” Heckler said. “Second, we must deliver excellent programs and services. Third, we must provide quality facilities for our students, faculty, and staff.”
Along with quality, Heckler said the perceived value of what Valpo offers brings better students and more families willing to commit to the University.
“It is incumbent upon us, then, to leverage our institutional strengths and the distinctive capabilities we have developed over time and not downplay them,” Heckler said. “These strengths and distinctive capabilities, along with institutional quality, are what increase the value of the University to students, alumni and parents.”
Heckler pointed to Valpo’s Lutheran tradition and the ethos of scholarship, freedom, and faith as bringing both distinction and distinctiveness to the University. In addition, he spoke of internationalization and the need to retain students and faculty from a variety of cultures, communities, and countries. Heckler also addressed academic initiatives, the student experience, and Valpo’s sense of a caring and engaged community.
To ensure long-term sustainable success, Heckler said the University must focus on the substantial growth of its endowment, the development of attractive degree programs, new educational delivery models, and robust institutional partnerships.
“Together, we must give serious consideration to these and other innovations that are emerging during these times of uncertainty and economic distress,” Heckler said. “Only through ongoing and significant discussions among faculty, staff, and administrative leaders will we arrive at the best set of innovations for Valpo—innovations that will increase quality, grow value, and lower cost.”
In his closing, Heckler called on the campus community to commit to collaboration, mutual care and respect, transparency, and inclusiveness.
“Our capacity to manage change together, as friends and colleagues, and our complete trust in God to guide us in our deliberations and decision-making, will enable us to do more than we ever thought possible,” Heckler said.
A memorial service is set for Wednesday, Jan. 19, to honor Dr. William "Bill" Marion Jr., professor of mathematics and computer science, who passed away on Nov. 21.
The service is taking the place of morning prayer in the Chapel of the Resurrection, and will begin at 11:10 a.m. and continue through 11:45 a.m.
President Heckler will speak at the service, along with colleagues and friends of Dr. Marion, including Dr. Dan Arkkellin, Dr. Sarah DeMaris, Jim Caristi and Jane Bello-Brunson.
Activities of the Valparaiso University Education Department's Professional Educators' Partnership (PEP) have attracted a combined total of 610 participants to campus for three of their events during the fall semester. Among those in attendance were teachers, counselors, superintendents, and a few university students who came from both public and private schools in the northern third of Indiana.
The Fall PEP Meeting in September featured Anna Shults and John Wolf, Indiana Department of Education literacy specialists, who spoke about state reading framework, House Bill 1367. This bill is Indiana's plan to insure student literacy by the end of third grade.
In October, the Partnership hosted 310 elementary educators at its 6th Annual Literacy Workshop. The keynote speaker was the nationally known and highly regarded Dr. Lester Laminack, Professor Emeritus at Western Carolina University, who is a full-time writer and consultant working with schools throughout the United States. His topics were "Reading Aloud Across the Curriculum" and "Reading Aloud to Inspire, Invest, and Instruct."
Early in December, the Partnership held its 2nd Annual Professional Learning Communities Workshop which was attended by 250 high school teachers and administrators. The theme for the workshop was "Assessment, Accountability, and Rigor in the High School Curriculum." The keynote speaker was Wes Bruce, Chief Assessment Officer of the Indiana Department of Education. Bruce holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from Rice University and a graduate degree in Computer Science from the University of Charleston. His topics were "Update of the End of Course Assessments (ECA): Development and Process" and "Using Data to Drive Your Curriculum." Those in attendance were welcomed to the campus by Coach Homer Drew, and due to a late cancellation by a primary presenter, he also spoke on the importance of teamwork and motivation in education. A variety of breakout sessions were also held in the morning and afternoon.
The 7th Middle School Conference will be held in February with David Shephard of the National Middle School Association, addressing the theme, "The Magical Madness of Middle School."