Pacific University Plans Campus Upgrades, New Programs

The Board of Trustees has approved a bond refinance that will fund improvements on the Forest Grove Campus, as well as six new programs of study.

Last week, I had the pleasure of presenting the Pacific University strategic plan for 2020 to the Board of Trustees. I appreciate all the work and input you have contributed to the development of your college, department and unit plans, as well as to the university-wide plan they each support.

This work, which started with the feedback you provided on my 2009-2010 listening tour and continued through your comments online in the past month, is critical to helping us navigate the challenges and opportunities ahead.  We are pleased the board approved the university level plan. Now our implementation and vetting of each individual plan through our regular budget and planning processes will continue, as the schools, colleges, departments and units each work individually and collectively to prioritize next steps. 

Already, our work is underway. At its meeting last week, the board took important steps toward our goals, especially the overarching goal of growing enrollment to at least 2,000 undergraduate and 2,000 graduate students by the year 2020. Members approved the refinancing of our bond debt, which will allow us to build a new residence hall and begin other improvements on the Forest Grove Campus, and they approved seven new degree programs, advancing our strategic and purposeful approach to growth.

The refinance of the bond debt is a financial opportunity that we did not foresee even a year ago. Record-low interest rates allow us to refinance in order to build a new 400-bed capacity residence hall, begin the remodel of the Washburne University Center and improve the north entrance to the Forest Grove Campus by taking down Clark Hall and creating a clear and attractive entrance to the campus — all without increasing the net impact of revenue and debt service to our bottom line. These projects are important in helping us to attract and retain undergraduate students in an increasingly competitive market in order to meet the enrollment projections we strive to attain. This vital decision does not in any way change our philanthropic priorities, in particular to program, design and fund the third building on the Hillsboro campus, but also for future projects on the Forest Grove Campus. In fact, the refinancing allows us greater flexibility when the time comes to complete these projects once sufficient donor and other funds have been secured.

The new programs, meanwhile, reflect our commitment to reaching new prospective student populations and providing educational services where most needed in our communities. In the past several years, we have seen unprecedented growth of programs, from the additions of audiology and speech-language pathology in our graduate programs to the nine new undergraduate majors and minors brought online in the College of Arts & Sciences. We have a careful approach to adding programs: Each new program is vetted with a five-year financial business plan and must also show demand among prospective students and employers.

The programs approved by the board last week include the following.

  • Three graduate degrees in the new College of Business
  • The development of a curriculum for a master of social work in the College of Arts & Sciences
  • A new online bachelor’s degree in the College of Health Professions
  • A new bachelor’s degree targeting minority teaching candidates in the College of Education

The College of Business graduate programs are slated to open to students after the college itself formally launches July 1. The new college will offer a master of business administration and an executive master of business administration, both year-and-a-half, full-time programs for those seeking upper management positions or who are interested in managing their own businesses. The EMBA in particular will target those who are already experienced in business, government and nonprofits. The college also will offer a master of science in finance, a one-year program that will result in certification in financial planning.  The exact timing of the start for each program will depend upon the establishment of a sufficient number of students in each case.

The master of social work, meanwhile, represents the second graduate degree in the College of Arts & Sciences. Already, Pacific University offers one of just five accredited bachelor of social work programs in the state, all of which feed into a single master’s program at Portland State, which admits only 20 percent of its applicants. Pacific’s master’s program would open in 2014 and will be located first in Eugene to capitalize on the existing Pacific University facilities there and the proximity to students graduating from the University of Oregon’s undergraduate programs. It is expected to offer a two-year program with a one-year advanced track for top qualified students. Future links to the Hillsboro campus or the Portland area may also be feasible.

In the College of Health Professions, a new bachelor’s degree completion program in health science opening in 2014 will target working professionals in healthcare fields who have associate’s degrees and who want to pursue further career advancement or education in administrative or clinical positions. The innovative online program will help address workforce shortages in the health professions and also enhance the pool of applicants for the Pacific’s graduate programs, both clinical and administrative.

Finally, the new bachelor of education in elementary education and English language learning takes Pacific to new territory, offering a route to teacher certification particularly for minority teaching candidates. The College of Education will work closely with Chemeketa Community College, where students can complete an associate of arts for Oregon transfer degree then complete their degree in a community-based teacher preparation setting at Pacific’s Woodburn location.

Each of these new programs reflects Pacific University’s strategic commitment to retaining our identity as a place committed to personal, nurturing learning environments while also growing to meet the needs of future learners.

Our traditional pool of prospective students — 18-year-olds graduating from high school — is declining in numbers, and the rising costs of higher education makes it critical for us to be innovative and agile, to find new ways to serve diverse student populations and to find ways to deliver the highest value possible to our students and alumni.

As we look to 2020, we have several key goals in mind.

  • We will recruit 2,000 undergraduates and 2,000 graduate students each year by 2020
  • We will design and construct the third building on the Hillsboro campus
  • We will increase our endowment to $100 million in order to keep Pacific University economically sustainable
  • And, we will continue exploring and investing in new innovations and opportunities to make Pacific University among the best places to pursue a degree in the liberal arts and sciences, education, optometry, health professions or business

As I told the Board of Trustees last week, our strategic plan is not a re-imagining of our institution; it is an extension of the core values we have shared for more than 160 years. We are not changing what Pacific University stands for — we are ensuring that we can continue delivering the meaningful, nurturing and life-changing educational opportunities that have always been a part of our identity.

Also last week, the board approved several other operational items.

  • An update to the naming policy for campus facilities
  • A business conduct policy
  • The continuation of the risk management review process
  • The selection of KPMG as the university’s auditors for fiscal year 2013
  • Candidates for degrees, who graduated on Saturday

In addition, trustees inducted to their ranks new board members, celebrated retiring board members and elected officers for the coming year. I am pleased to welcome Dr. Dori Carlson ’88, ’89 as a trustee, Dr. Catherine Kim as a graduate faculty trustee, and Ms. Kailea Saplan as an undergraduate student trustee. Trustees with renewed terms include Ms. Julie Berglund Baker, Ms. Mindy Cameron, Mr. Richard Hanson and Mr. Tommy Thayer. Trustees receiving emeritus status include Mr. Tige Harris and Ms. Yvonne Katz.

I am excited to work with each of them, and each of you, as we pursue the many promising opportunities ahead, and I hope you will join me in celebrating and championing our work for the future of Pacific University students.

Warmest regards,

Lesley M. Hallick

Tuesday, May 21, 2013